Creative Diversions by Bored Retail Associates

Employee of the Month stillDid you see this movie?

It is called Employee of the Month (2006) . Here’s the plot summary from imdb:

Vince Downey (Dax Shepard) is the head cashier and winner of 17 consecutive Employee of the Month awards at Super Club. If he wins one more Employee of the Month, he will be put in the Super Club’s Hall of Fame and win a new car. Zack Bradley (Dane Cook), who is the ultimate slacker, has been working at the Super Club for 10 years, and is still at the bottom job, working as a box boy. Then Amy (Jessica Simpson) enters the picture; she is a new cashier transferring in from another Super Club store. Amy has a reputation of dating men who have won Employee of the Month at the other store, so Vince and Zack want to date Amy. The fight is on to win Employee of the Month! Douglas Young (the-movie-guy)

Spoiler alert: It’s not a great movie. Imdb readers rated it 5.3 out of 10.

But, for us retail-lifers, it is an entertaining look at some of the more subversive things that may go on behind the scenes (wink wink) at many of our stores. Personally I loved the man cave the guys built in the upper storage pallet racks as their own private break room.

The reason I bring this up is that for the most part, the young associates that we employ at our stores are bright, engaging and wired 24/7 to a fast moving and sophisticated network of people, places and things. And then we give them some of the most dumbed down jobs on the planet.

No wonder that they are disengaged in their work. No wonder that they look to invent creative diversions to get them through the day. And if you need any reminder of how creative our associates can be, check out “Employee of the Month.”

How do we address this lack of engagement?

How do we focus our associates’ energy on the great team challenge of winning at retail? As an industry, we do a number of things. We rely on great store managers. Sometimes we run contests. Sometimes we reward sales with commissions. Yet still, our customers continue to be frustrated with trying to buy our offerings from disinterested sales associates (just last week I stomped out of an electronics store after a particularly bad experience with an unhelpful associate – and I’m never going back).

There is another tool that store managers can use in their arsenal. Games. Using game structures we can create challenges, provide immediate feedback, reward achievements and provide opportunities to level-up status. It is a paradigm that millions of people learned from playing millions of hours of video and computer games daily.

Until the time comes when all shopping will be done by bots on the internet, the work at our stores will still be the work that needs to be done. However, we can change the context within which we work. We can better engage our associates and please our customers by making the work feel more like playing a game.

Stuart Silverman

About The Author

Stuart Silverman has designed, installed and marketed the full spectrum of systems used to provide competitive edge for retail organizations.

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