People: The shopkeepers of today
Select any retail business, and you are most likely to discover a culture of colleague collaboration, trust and respect. However, retail has a chequered history of human resource management and interpersonal approaches, to say the least. Even in the best run businesses today there is still plenty of scope for further innovation and disruption to the traditional personnel models.
Overall, there is a growing appreciation of colleagues at every level of organisations, being driven by the new wave of retailers who have a different outlook on how to manage their employees, to nurture loyalty and productivity. And from the evolution of many HR departments who are now introducing different cultures into the traditional retail sector.
An appreciation of the shop floor employee
Regarding shop personnel there is also a new awareness of the importance of human interactions with the customer. The outpouring of warmth towards ‘key workers’ and those essential to the fabric of society during the COVID crisis, has been echoed to various degrees by retail boards, and their reaction towards their own ‘key-workers.’ Those colleagues who kept shops open and stocked in the most difficult of circumstances, and those who kept the brand light shining, even in the most desperate of corporate environments.
For some retailers, the current bar for shop colleague management is set very low, the practices a product of years of personnel neglect and cost-cutting. This does mean, however, that significant gains can be made just from firstly re-establishing good levels of communication with teams and individuals. The setting up of feedback sessions, team building workshops and individual mentoring can go along way to achieving normal relations.
The best solution to gain the most from the skills and experience of shop managers is to support them, and retain them, where they matter most – in shops, and to reward them with higher wages and benefits. Reward them for being in shops, not being in offices!
For the business, it is much better to create and develop shop expertise and to keep it there. Embrace shop managers and their teams. Help them to become better at what they want to do, and where they want to do it. In the shop.
Keeping shop managers in shops does not mean that they cannot engage and participate fully in head office initiatives to improve the business in general. The important thing is to develop clear communication and feedback conduits and mechanics.
A higher renumeration and better rewards for shop teams may not seem so out-of-line with comparable levels for office workers, if the shop colleagues’ wider contribution to shops and the business as a whole is recognized and communicated effectively within the business.
Spiraling into control
Career progression within the shop, or retail hub, should be meaningful and rewarding.
Meaningful in terms of having a real impact in all aspects of the retail hub from operational responsibilities, management duties, product assortment involvement, inputs into the running and the strategy of the shop, and a progression from building customer relationships into evolving and developing the community involvement of the shop.
The career progression will also mean increasing involvement at a regional level, liaising with regional managers and other shop managers, and then to direct integration with head office activities and executives. Increased integration into the total business is an essential part of the career development process.
Naturally, appropriate training will follow the career development at every stage. Local people with expertise and experience who can progress their skills and have career paths within the retail hub and remain local.
Career progression should not be just linear, about the present, a blinkered approach with no beginning or end. As shop colleagues progress, they should remain in touch with their experiences and the knowledge they have gained and be able to perceive clearly the path ahead of them by learning from those who have made the same journey. They should also have the opportunity to train those below them, on the same learning cycle they have previously experienced.
The progression must be seasonal and annual, spiraling into new responsibilities, skill sets and ways to benefit the customer, the shop, and the wider business. Cyclical shop colleague progression, in tune with the dynamics of ‘shop-life.’
The new role of governance
Beyond the role of HR , the balance and equality within the organisational structure are key to instilling a successful ‘people culture.’ It is important that every function and team, at every level, are valued as part of the wider corporate approach. What is believed and demonstrated at the top table, for better or worse, usually sets the standards further down the business. The board must be enlightened as to the importance of diversity within the employees of a business.
The improved engagement and mutual appreciation is of course a two-way process. But it is rarely the case that a genuine and considered investment in people is not returned with a positive impact on productivity and profit. It is rare for colleague focused initiatives, at individual and team levels, not to contribute to a happier working environment. This is always a good place to start for efficiency and productivity.
Your ‘retail people strategy’ project…
If you want to start the ‘retail people strategy’ ball rolling, please get in touch. I would be happy to share with you some typical project templates, schedules, costs, and case studies.
Please get in touch to discuss further your particular needs.