A Little Bit of Praise Goes a Long Way

September 19th 2019

by Mark Mulcahy, Consultant – Organic Options

Most of us would love it if our new and part-time employees would stick around and be a positive part of our crew for a long time. It saves us time and money, can create a better shopping environment and is definitely better for morale. In fact, those who really like working at our store often become our next round of managers.

There are several things you can do to keep them around—apart from the obvious things like running a thorough training program, providing solid job descriptions, good shift guidelines and of course clear expectations with accountability. Here is another great tool that I have seen to make a big difference in retaining good, productive and happy staff.

Give praise. As a rule, many of us don’t give or get enough praise in our lives and this is especially true in many natural food retail operations. This lack of praise has dramatic effects on how retail employees feel about and perform in their jobs.

All sorts of bad things happen when people don’t feel appreciated. They whine. They complain. They bring others down with them. And then they leave their jobs or worse they stay and pollute the store environment. Research shows that

  • Negative employees can scare off good customers they speak with.
  • A major reason people leave their jobs: They don’t feel appreciated.

Where does your store or department stand?


Praise can be a very powerful leadership strategy

Those who do receive praise show tangible benefits. Many studies show that people who give and get praise:

  • Increase both individual and group productivity
  • Are more likely to stay with their current organization
  • Receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from their customers
  • Have better safety records and fewer accidents on the job.

Research also indicated that workplaces were more productive when the ratio of positive to negative interactions was 3-1.

Keep it real. If you want people to understand the value of their contributions and that they are important, the recognition and praise you provide must have meaning that is specific to each individual. So the praise has to be real and genuine—not just that occasional “good job with the wet rack this morning” remark you say in passing, but, like “Wow, the greens section looks fantastic this morning, Jane. The way you arranged the greens really shows off the color and texture of each bunch. I think your eye for display is really getting better by the day. And it’s showing up in our sales, the kale and chard sales have increased by 15% since you started setting this section up. Keep this up and you could be training others to do this in the future.” Can you see how someone would react differently to the second more specific praise?

If praise isn’t a regular part of your routine or culture it may not be so easy to start, so start by paying attention to the little things staff do to make your business better each day. You can start with small praises given once a week. When you get more comfortable work up to the more specific praises and regularity they are given. Anything will make a difference and you’ll be surprised how giving regular praise can pay huge dividends. So much that everyone who works and shops at your store will notice and believe me it can actually change a workplace for the better.

Mark Mulcahy is a produce and management consultant at Organic Options and Columinate and radio host of An Organic Conversation radio show www.anorganicconversation.com.

Contact him at markmpassion4produce@gmail.com or visit his website at www.organicoptionsconsulting.com.