Creating a Culture that Keeps Retail Employees Happy

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By Published On: July 29, 20190 Comments

All retailers want is to create a happy workplace culture, that positively reflects into a great customer experience. Here are a few tips to follow to create a great workplace culture.

A dry cleaner in Australia was prosecuted in court for denigrating, humiliating and verbally abusing his employees. He called them demeaning names, threatening to dissolve them in acid and to set the dogs on to them. He imposed fines for all sorts of heinous infractions, such as $6.00 for not replacing the toilet roll holder, $24.00 for using a mobile phone, increasing to $200.00 for just saying ‘sorry’. Just imagine the unhappiness of staff under this regime and the diabolical effect on business. The better way for any retailer is, most definitely, to nurture a vibrant workplace culture.

What is workplace culture?

Workplace culture is ‘the vibe in the air’. It is what is at the heart and soul of a business. It is how it ticks. You can see it, hear it and experience it, all because it is real. Workplace culture evolves over time from the behaviours, conduct, attitudes, words, principles, choices, experiences, relationships, principles, choices and incidents that exist or happen within any given workplace.

When a workplace has a vibrant culture, there will be harmony and maturity of relationships, everyone will be fully engaged, motivated and purposeful, leadership will be highly effective and respected, happiness and even joy will abound, behaviours will be ethical and proper, high performance will be delivered so that customers will be delighted, and product and efficiency will increase together with revenue and profits (as a matter of usual course).

On the other hand, a toxic and dysfunctional workplace, like that of the dry-cleaning business above, will evidence conflict, disengagement, low productivity, poor results, low financial outcomes, unethical and even unlawful behaviours, increased customer complaints, poor conduct and lamentable service. Even a lackadaisical approach to workplace culture, without it being necessarily toxic or dysfunctional, will inhibit the growth and jeopardise business success.

Creating a vibrant workplace culture

When creating culture, there are five overall questions to be considered by the leadership and team members, namely: What is our workplace culture like today? What do we want it to become? What changes can we make immediately? What changes can we make in the long-term? What outcomes do we want to see from making these changes?

These questions are to be applied to each of the critical aspects of the business, such as Team, Customers, Products and services, Leadership and management, Future strategic direction and planning, Location and premises, Equipment and infrastructure, and any other essential aspects particular to the business and the retail sector.

The business leaders should do this exercise first, followed by brainstorming with the full team to give a rounded, honest, big picture about what is right and wrong with any given workplace culture. Consider current weaknesses and concerns and, together, dream a dream of how much better culture can become moving forward. Write down the outcomes of what the culture will be like with respect to each of the above key aspects of the business.

Tips for maintaining and embracing a vibrant workplace culture

A dynamic workplace culture does not just fall into place or hang in the air. Over time, it has to be intentionally shaped, embraced and, indeed, inculcated into the very heart and soul of the business. For doing so, consider the following:

  1. Leaders must drive such culture and give it direction. They must be vigilant and directive in holding team members accountable for words, actions, behaviour, conduct, decision-making and relationships.
  2. Leaders can be guided by a written leadership charter which sets out, point by point and using positive words, agreed standards as to what they promise to say and do in the workplace. They will be held accountable by the team for compliance with the charter.
  3. Team members must intentionally build the workplace culture, day in, day out, in all they say and do. They are also to be guided by a separate, written team charter.
  4. A written customer charter can also be introduced outlining the standards expected of all team members when delivering product and service to customers.
  5. Workplace culture can be an agenda item at all leadership and team meetings, with everyone working on culture together through regular review, discussion and improvement.
  6. When recruiting new team members, focus on whether they conform with, and will add to, workplace culture.
  7. Ensure a quick exit for those team members who disrupt, or act inconsistently with workplace culture.
  8. Monitor, measure and reward team members for their role in enhancing a vibrant workplace culture.

A toxic, dysfunctional or lacklustre workplace culture may suppress growth or even destroy a retail business. On the other hand, a vibrant workplace culture will increase the engagement and happiness of team members, leaders and customers alike, and will help the business to really soar.

David Sharrock is the Managing Principal of Sharrock Pitman Legal, a Melbourne based, boutique commercial law practice. He is an accredited Business Law Specialist, an accredited Mediator, public speaker, and author of a new business workbook titled Fighting for Enterprise Success: through the eye of the tiger (for further detail go to                               

About the Author: Power Retail

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