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There’s an oft cited phrase that people don’t quit a bad job, they quit a bad manager. So with it harder to find staff than it’s ever been, and the costs and time it takes to recruit and train new staff, how do you become a better manager to build happy, committed and successful team who will stick with you though thick and thin? The short answer is, it’s not just about paying them more!
Retail is all about the experience you offer your customers and how you make them feel, and when your team feel engaged, inspired and valued, they will be much more willing to go above and beyond to create the best possible experience for your customers.
Building an engaged team begins with creating a connection and a community and a culture around a common purpose and values. This creates a sense of belonging and a commitment.
Culture is that mysterious thing, that is hard to put into words and you can only really understand by experiencing it. You can break it down into the the things you can see or have written down, in retail this includes things such as the uniform you might wear, the shop design (formal, informal, contemporary, traditional) and any written policies and manuals - but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The juicy bit is beneath the surface - they way you behave with each other, how you talk to customers, any rituals and routines you have - how you greet each other at the start of the day, how you communicate (formal meetings or casual chats) and any ceremonies you have - going out for a drink to celebrate or publicly rewarding staff for a significant achievement.
Beyond culture and community, there are several key facets of employee engagement. I suggest reviewing each of these - what do you do well, where are the gaps, is there anything that could be tweaked?
Do you have a positive culture? Are the purpose, values and aspiration of the business clearly communicated with everyone? How good is communication between management and staff?
Do people feel that staff are making a valuable contribution, have a manageable workload?
And do they get recognition for what they do? Do they have the right balance of support, autonomy and challenge?
Do people have the right resources and training to do their job?
Do people have the right work life balance for them and how do you support people’s wellbeing? Of course people have different needs and expectations and flexibility isn’t always possible in a retail environment, but be mindful of what else people have going on in their lives - whether it’s school runs, relatives to care for or exams to revise for.
Of course, competitive pay and benefits come in to it and security of income is important especially in the current economic climate. Do you also offer incentives for higher performance although this doesn’t have to be financial bonus, it could be a small gift for making a difference to a customer, or a voucher to spend with you (a bonus as it encourages them to get familiar with your products too).
What opportunities do you offer for personal growth and development? How do you support your staff to be the best they can be? This might be skills training for the job or mentoring from a colleague to develop soft skills, it might be just giving informal feedback to encourage them to push themselves forward or it could be knowing that there are opportunities for promotion.
Running through these questions will help you to identify any potential improvements you can make, but if you really want to know how engaged your team are, and what more they need - ask them. This could be through informal chats or perhaps a short questionnaire which can be completed anonymously.
This gives people the opportunity to show what they appreciate and voice any concerns. If you can respond to these and you’ll show you care about your people and they’ll reciprocate with their commitment.