Giving Belonging

Here we tread down slippery ground, one of the most difficult aspects of management to juggle, particularly in retail. We must get to know our employees on a personal level without befriending them.  But we must understand who they are to inspire them and to motivate them.  We must know what they need us to communicate to them.  One of the most eye opening articles I read in college was from the wise words of WSU professor Richard Sagor, A Lesson From Skateboarders.  As individuals we have innate desires within us:


To truly motivate the employee must feel as if they belong with the store.  They must feel a sense of ownership, and a sense of acceptance from fellow staff members and yourself.  In my experience it was employees that did not participate in team endeavors that typically didn’t stick around, nor did they have the motivation to succeed for the store.

In 2010 I switched stores, and unlike the store from which I had been promoted, the staff I had hired were a group of complete strangers.  My new team didn’t have the bond the old one did, and that one was sadly fostered by the need to overpower a common enemy, so building team spirit was not something I was accustomed to having to actually do.  My staff got along fine, but there were those common goals and motives missing.  The inspiration to strive was not as strong, and I felt our lack in teamwork had a large part to play in it.  So I decided to ask them about the team.  I came up with a list of 6 questions about or team such as, “what do you feel is our teams strengths as a hole?”  “What do you think is our teams goal?”  I met with each team member over the course of a week in a 15 minute one on one meeting having them share their thoughts and opinions on the team, and I was amazed how all over the board the answers were.

I collected the questionnaires and held a team “dinner” at TGI Fridays after store closing on a Sunday night.  At 28k a year with no bonuses form a non performing store I couldn’t afford much more than appetizers and sodas, but the staff paid even less than I appreciated it all the same.  I put the most common answers in a bowl and had each employee draw an answer.  They opened it and read the question and the most common answers.  They offered their responses and reactions to these and had to offer one further question for discussion.  In the end I asked the team for their common goals and listed them on a chart which we later hung on the announcement board.  Knowing we had come to these ideas as a consensus the goals and expectations were more than just words on a paper, but our common motives as a whole team.

More ways to foster a sense of belonging:

  • Monthly team meetings
  • Reminding individuals that if the entire staff isn’t succeeding the store isn’t succeeding, encouraging them to help employees in need
  • Have a quote a week on teamwork on the announcement board
  • Assign tasks to be completed as partners or teams
  • Hold bi-monthly team outings that build a closer bond
  • Make sure to not only compliment the efforts of an individual but of the team as a whole
  • For more in depth ideas feel free to visit a this past blog

4 thoughts on “Giving Belonging

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