Redefining Black Friday: How to Embrace Gratitude and Sustainability in the Holiday Rush

Few events match the intensity and pressure of Black Friday. It's a day that tests the limits of both businesses and their employees, laying bare the effectiveness of their engagement strategies and workplace cultures. 

How do some companies excel in creating an environment where employees feel genuinely valued and heard, while others struggle to maintain a semblance of order and satisfaction? 

Join us as we uncover insights and actionable strategies for businesses aiming to foster a more engaged and motivated workforce, not just on Black Friday but throughout the year.

REI’s Employee-Centric Black Friday Strategy

REI stands out in the sporting goods industry, not just for its products, but also for its groundbreaking approach to employee satisfaction, particularly evident during the Black Friday season. 

This co-op, known for its high employee engagement, presents an impressive statistic from its Employee Engagement Index: an overwhelming 92% of employees actively contribute beyond their basic responsibilities to support REI's success. Moreover, only 18% of employees consider leaving the company, a testament to the positive work environment REI fosters and its dedication to its workforce.

A key example of REI's employee-centric culture is evident during one of the retail industry’s busiest times: Black Friday. Breaking away from the usual retail practice, REI takes a bold stance by closing all its stores on this day. This decision, deeply rooted in valuing employee well-being over short-term sales, allows employees a stress-free holiday. 

They can spend time with family or enjoy the outdoors, activities that resonate with REI's core values. This practice is not only appreciated by employees but also sets a new precedent in the retail sector for prioritising staff happiness and work-life balance.

The lessons from REI’s approach are clear and universal: prioritizing employee satisfaction is not just a moral imperative but a strategic one. Both startups and established businesses can learn from REI's example, potentially increasing employee loyalty and productivity. The crucial lesson isn't merely about closing stores on Black Friday, but rather about the fundamental importance of truly caring for and listening to employees.

Here’s what you can do: 

  • You can start by establishing open lines of communication, ensuring that your employees at every level feel heard and appreciated. 
  • Implement regular feedback sessions, anonymous suggestion boxes, or even casual “campfire” discussions to make a significant difference. 
  • Try customising benefits to align with company values and employee interests to boost morale and reinforce a sense of belonging

When you embrace these principles, you nurture a motivated and dedicated workforce, ready to propel your business forward.

Macy’s Black Friday Challenges: A Lesson in Employee Wellbeing and Operational Management

Macy's approach during the COVID-19 pandemic offers a stark contrast to the positive example set by REI. In an effort to manage crowds and adhere to health guidelines, Macy's extended its Black Friday deals over several weeks. However, this strategy inadvertently led to sustained high traffic and chaos, as described by an employee in California: "The store traffic has been like Black Friday every day."

This approach, while well-intentioned, resulted in continuous stress for employees, who had to navigate the challenges of increased customer volume amidst health concerns. The situation highlights a crucial oversight in balancing operational decisions with employee well-being. 

The pressure felt by the employees, compelled to work for financial reasons in a high-risk environment, underscores the need for businesses to consider the broader implications of their strategies, especially during times of crisis.

The situation at Macy's serves as a cautionary tale for other businesses. To avoid similar pitfalls, here’s what you could try:

  • Prioritise employee safety and comfort. In crisis situations like a pandemic, employee safety should be at the forefront of any operational strategy. This includes not only adhering to health guidelines but also considering the mental and emotional well-being of the staff.
  • Establish open channels of communication where employees can voice their concerns and provide feedback on operational strategies.
  • Be flexible and adapt your strategies in response to unforeseen challenges. This might include re-evaluating sales strategies or store operations based on real-time feedback and changing circumstances.
  • Provide financial support and job security, especially during economic downturns, to alleviate the pressure on employees to work in conditions they find uncomfortable or unsafe.

Macy's approach during the pandemic highlights the importance of integrating employee well-being into operational planning. 

#ASimpleThanks: Recognising the Unsung Heroes of the Hourly Workforce

During intense events like Black Friday gratitude and recognition are becoming key themes. Celebrated on the last Sunday of November, Shift Worker Sunday honours the essential contributions of hourly workers — the unsung heroes who keep our communities running.

More than just a day, Shift Worker Sunday is part of a larger movement, #ASimpleThanks, aimed at showering gratitude on those who tirelessly support our daily lives. Everyone is invited to join in and celebrate those who exemplify commitment and resilience.

But what does this recognition mean for the workers? It's profound yet simple: "A simple thank you goes a long way". This sentiment, backed by the workforce management platform Deputy, reveals the power of a heartfelt thank you. #ASimpleThanks may be a small gesture, but it's a meaningful step towards appreciating those who work behind the scenes.

For businesses, embracing the ethos of #ASimpleThanks can translate into meaningful actions. Here are some ways you can genuinely show appreciation:

  • Foster a culture where saying “thank you” is routine, not an exception. This can be through daily interactions, team meetings, or company-wide communications.
  • Use platforms like social media or internal newsletters to highlight the contributions of hourly workers, giving them the visibility they deserve.
  • Understand individual preferences for recognition and tailoring appreciation accordingly to make a significant impact.
  • Show that you value their input by acting on feedback provided by hourly workers, demonstrating that their opinions are instrumental in shaping your workplace policies.

As businesses strive to navigate the complexities of employee engagement, especially in high-pressure retail environments, integrating a culture of appreciation and acknowledgment can be a transformative step towards building a more satisfied and motivated workforce.

Cultivating Gratitude and Wellbeing in Retail

As we conclude our exploration of employee engagement, particularly in the high-pressure settings of retail events, it's clear that the journey is as complex as it is critical. But what does this mean for the future of workplace culture? 

How can your business continue to evolve and adapt its strategies to not only meet but exceed the expectations of your workforce? And most importantly, how can you ensure that these strategies are sustainable and beneficial in the long run?

We invite you to reflect on these questions and consider how your business can implement these insights to create a more engaging and rewarding work environment. Remember, the path to a thriving business starts with a satisfied and motivated workforce.