Five ways to rev up your retail staff
Perhaps the biggest challenge retailers face is finding good people to staff their stores. In today's environment, it's hard to find skilled people who are willing to work for the wages and during the hours that the sector demands. It doesn't help that the industry still carries a stigma—however unwarranted—as one in which you don't want to spend a career.
But the reality is that retail is a people-based business; no matter how much technology takes hold, personal connection still plays a major part in customer experience. As a retailer, you need good, talented, engaged employees to bring your business to the next level. After all, you can't be on the sales floor yourself (at least, not 100 percent of the time).
Good retail employees have the same attributes as star staffers in other sectors. They love what they do; they aren't clock-watchers. They follow through consistently. They express their thoughts and ideas clearly, and have good listening skills. They share with their colleagues, and are keen to lend a hand. They're open to change, supportive and respectful. When problems come up, they don't ignore them or pass them on to others.
Imagine a situation where your shop floor is filled with such employees. Think of the effect on not only your customer service, but on your sales. What a concept!
The good news is, it is possible to draw amazing talent to careers in retail. But it takes focus and hard work. Here are the five things you have to do better in order to attract (and keep!) excellent retail employees:
1. Hire better
Don't conduct cookie-cutter job interviews (or, worse, hire based on a form application). While meeting with a candidate, you should talk about more than stocking shelves or ringing through transactions. You should share your vision for the business with the candidate (which lets them know it's more than a joe-job) while asking probing questions about their backgrounds (which demonstrates that you're interested in getting to know who they are as people). This all reinforces the "you're more than a number" feeling great employees look for.
2. Train smarter
It's business 101 that training is essential to the success of a company, as it leads to better employees who work more effectively. But too often, retailers focus their staff-training efforts on upgrading product knowledge. That's important, but it's equally (if not more) important to provide training in customer service and selling. It's as important to upgrade product knowledge skills, as it is customer service and selling skills.
3. Lay out what you expect
Too many entrepreneurs assume their staff know what is expected of them. If you haven't explicitly shared that information with them, they probably don't. Be clear and be detailed about what you want them to achieve, whether it's related to sales quotas or throughput or error rates. In most cases, your staff will appreciate the clarity and will do their best to meet your standards.
4. Tell them how they're doing
No matter how strong your staff, there will be times when someone will underperform. They won't be able to correct their behavior if you haven't called them on it. Such feedback doesn't have to mean an uncomfortable confrontation. Be frank and straightforward, whether the feedback is positive or negative. Take the emotion out of it. And no one likes to be made an example of anyone in front of their peers; take cue from the old saying: "Praise in public, correct in private."
5. Consider yourself motivator-in-chief
As the boss, you should consider yourself not just driver that sets goals and wills them to happen, but also as the person who roots on your employees in their efforts to execute your plan. Become a cheerleader. By accepting the role of motivator-in-chief, you'll equip your employees to do their very best work.
Never underestimate how much your direct input can boost morale. A few extra steps on your part can make a world of difference in the on-the-job experience of your employees—and, in turn, dramatically increase the quality of the work they do.
Barbara Crowhurst Barbara Crowhurst is North America's #1 Retail Business Coach. She is also a writer, international speaker and trainer. Her comprehensive and detailed approach to retail comes from years of working in the industry. Her career has taken her from working with some of the largest corporate retailers in North America to consulting with thousands of independent retail specialty stores. www