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Best Workplaces™ in Retail & Hospitality - The People You Work With Make All the Difference

Best Workplaces™ in Retail & Hospitality - The People You Work With Make All the Difference

What makes work enjoyable? Managers and Human Resource departments often list things like interesting assignments, opportunities to learn and grow, and flexible work options and benefits as keys to a good workplace. And these are all very important in the broad scheme of workplace satisfaction, but when it comes right down to it, the people you work with can make all the difference

When you have a manager who is always checking in to make sure you are on task, or you work with a colleague who answers condescendingly anytime you ask a question – these are the day-to-day experiences that make work a drag. They are what you complain about when chatting with friends and family and they are what make it hard to get out the door and go to work everyday. People interactions form an enduring impression of our workplace satisfaction and when you work in a people-forward industry, like retail or hospitality, having great teammates around you that you know will support and encourage you is paramount.

People come to retail and hospitality from a wide range of backgrounds and for many reasons; the environment is diverse, fun and exciting, full of new faces and personalities. The work is fast paced, customer interactions require patience and flexibility, and workers rely on their teammates to make it through the day. It’s not surprising then that at the Best Workplaces™ in Retail and Hospitality, employees overwhelmingly agree their managers and teammates contribute to a positive workplace experience.

“I can be myself with my team.”

90% of employees agree

“My manager is approachable and easy to talk to.”

89% of employees agree

Positive workplace experiences like this don’t just happen. They are carefully cultivated and nurtured through practices that encourage a strong and healthy culture – one that is based on the value of people and that recognizes how important each individual person is to the strength of the team.

Hire the right people.

First and foremost, you want to get the right people in the right positions. That often means hiring for attitude versus skills. It’s far easier to teach skills than it is to change a person’s attitude. We hear the word “fit” bandied about and it’s been criticized for leading to homogenous teams that limit diversity. If you think about ‘fit’ in terms of values and how people interact with others, that’s the type of attitude-fit that leads to strong teams. Empathy, emotional intelligence, warmth, and kindness are the traits that will enhance any team. Combine that with conscientiousness and a willingness to learn and you have a winning combination for almost any position. For optimum results:

  • Include team members in the hiring process. For team-orientated positions, it’s important the entire team feels they have a say when new people are added.
  • Emulate the behaviours you are seeking in the interview process. Be warm and inclusive. Demonstrate empathy. Encourage lots of questions and get to know the person underneath the ‘interview nerves’.
  • Think about what is best for the team and the candidate. Try not to rush into hiring someone because you need a body – take the time to find the right person to eliminate future frustration for the new hire and disruption within the current team.
  • Hire with an eye toward development. While not all new employees entering retail and hospitality want a long-term career in the industry, they still want opportunities to learn and grow. And if you provide a great workplace you never know how their career will develop.

Make new people feel welcome.

Joining any new team is intimidating and this can be even more difficult in the fast paced retail and hospitality sectors when the team is already well established and working like a well-oiled machine. For a new person to fit right into the rhythm while learning new skills and new processes, the current team needs to be very open and welcoming. At the Best Workplaces on our list this is an area that received great support.

“When you join the organization, you are made to feel welcome.”

92% of employees agree

Some tips for creating a great welcoming experience:

  • Engage with new employees before their first day. Help them understand the organization and introduce them to a wide range of people before they start. This encourages familiarity with the day-to-day processes, gives them a chance to ask questions related to pay and benefits, and helps them understand your expectations.
  • Be prepared. Treat the new employee’s first day as an important day for them and the whole team. Help them to feel special and wanted by having logistics worked out before they arrive (ID cards, passwords, nametags, lockers, etc…). Encourage some celebration and recognition when a new person joins.
  • Encourage social engagement. Help the new employee establish relationships within the team. Have a team lunch the first day and consider a buddy system to help build a trusted relationship from the start.
  • Follow up to make sure things are going well. It’s important to address potential issues before they become actual problems. Maybe they need a bit more training or are having trouble connecting with people. These are the sorts of issues that can be addressed with regular contact.

Create unity and connection.

Strong relationships are the cornerstone of effective teams. Without good relationships, the workplace culture won't be healthy and people will feel disconnected with each other and potentially with the organization’s mission and vision. Much of this connection comes from caring about people and being open to their humanness and what makes them unique and special. We talk a lot about inclusiveness and making sure workplaces are open and accepting of all types of people and this comes down to simply caring about people and wanting the best for everyone. This is highly evident at the Best Workplaces in Retail and Hospitality with their responses to the following statement:

“People care about each other here.”

86% of employees agree

“My manager shows a sincere interest in me as a person, not just an employee.”

86% of employees agree

When you think of the diversity of the teams in these industries, these are impressive findings. Here are some ideas to promote connections and caring:

  • To create unity and to strengthen teamwork, start with defining your values. When employees have a shared purpose and understand how they are expected to deliver on the purpose, they are motivated to come together. That might mean pitching in to help one another when it’s busy, providing support during a customer interaction, or noticing when someone is struggling to complete their workload.
  • Encourage open, honest communication. Remind each other to think before reacting and to listen actively when their teammates are talking. Talk about accepting constructive criticism. Make time for conflict resolution and help employees talk it out and move on.
  • Use teambuilding exercises. Help your people get to know each other on a personal level. Encourage people from different departments to get together and foster a larger sense of community.
  • Build appreciation for people’s unique skills and aptitudes and recognize them. Not only does this make the employee feel special, it helps their teammates appreciate how everyone’s unique qualities combine to create a strong, effective team.

Develop respectful management practices.

Strong teams are the result of effective managers. In the retail and hospitality sectors this is critically important because front-end managers are very hands-on and they set the tone for the team each and every day. This tone needs to be based on a foundation of trust. When people know they are trusted they feel respected and this allows them to do their best work. Trust isn’t the easiest quality to demonstrate because it means relinquishing control, allowing people to make decisions, and also acknowledging that mistakes will be made. With trust and respect at the core of the relationship though, better decisions will be made, fewer mistakes will happen and the workplace will flourish. The Best Workplaces in Retail and Hospitality are doing a great job with this:

“My manager trusts people to do a good job without watching over their shoulders.”

89% of employees agree

“My manager recognizes honest mistakes as part of doing business.”

89% of employees agree

To establish trust-based relationships you can start with the following:

  • Lead by example. Show trust and respect with all of your interactions and your people will see that this is how business is done. This allows them to see that you mean what you say and they won’t be as guarded and hesitant to be themselves and bring the best of themselves to work everyday.
  • Stop micromanaging. No one wants to feel someone is watching and waiting to point out mistakes or have their decisions questioned. Trust you have trained them, know they have the skills and provide them freedom to act and support when they need it.
  • Get to know your people on a personal level. Ask about their interests outside of work. Understand hardships they are experiencing. Offer support and caring as appropriate and let them know you are a trusted source of information or help as needed.
  • Be appreciative. Say ‘thank-you’ often! Notice when your people do the small things consistently and not just when they do something noteworthy. This helps them understand what you want to see more of on a day-to-day basis.

No man is an island, and neither is a workplace. We need each other to get the work done and when you bring together a great group of people and bring out the best in each and every one of them, there is no limit to what can be accomplished.

If you want to get clear insight on how employees are experiencing your workplace culture, we are here to help. Reach out to us about how our survey and culture management platform can help you measure your team’s effectiveness.


About Great Place to Work®
Great Place to Work® makes it easy to survey your employees, uncover actionable insights and get recognized for your great company culture. Clients apply our insights, advice, and tools to fuel the vision, decisions and actions that drive business performance. 

Learn more about Great Place to Work Certification.


Nancy Fonseca