Spring 2010
How do you get your staff to be as invested in your business as you are?

Do you have staff just lounging around at the RMU? Are they making the most out of every sales opportunity that passes them by? Here’s how to get your employees enthusiastic about making sales.

Jill E. Donnelly, CMD, VP, Customer Experience Management

Jill E. Donnelly, CMD, VP, Customer Experience Management

Many owner/managers find themselves in a position where they feel like they are babysitting their staff and their staff is merely babysitting their business. Here are some ways to ensure your staff is invested in the success of the business:

Set clear expectations and hold staff members (and yourself) accountable. Be clear in your expectations of operational and behavioral standards. Model this behavior and point out when others do as well. For example, if your standard is to respect the customer’s time, then do not employ a refund policy that makes the customer wait to get supervisor’s approval on the refund.

Choose the right people. Engaging in behavioral vs. traditional interviewing will yield better results when selecting people for your team. Behavioral questioning (i.e.: Describe a time when you had to use your best judgment to resolve a customer situation) allows candidates to talk about how they operate. Traditional questioning (i.e.: Have you ever waited tables before? If so, where and for how long?) allows the candidate to discuss where and when he worked. Develop behavioral questions based on the operational and behavioral standards that were set in #1 to ensure the people you are hiring can perform based on your standards.

Share information. Employees can make better decisions during “moments of truth” when they are equipped with pertinent information about the business. This will enable them to project the effect of their actions and also analyze the causes of certain situations.

Make your people part of the solution. Delegate responsibilities, treat them as partners; ask for their opinions and feedback. All of these actions show that you trust them and value their contribution. This investment will, in turn, result in staff investment in your (collective) business.

Share the profit. If profits are shared among the team, then each staff member will be more motivated, invested and engaged in working hard for the business.

Anita Blackford, Senior VP Mall Operations with Feldman Mall Properties

Anita Blackford, Senior VP Mall Operations with Feldman Mall Properties

Enthusiasm is contagious and the owner(s) of retail businesses must relay the passion they have for their business to their employees. Inspiring employees starts during the interview process where job requirements are clearly defined and continues with adequate and regular training outlining the business goals/vision. The business owner needs to work closely with employees and always be the role model for selling techniques and proper customer service.

Owners/managers who show genuine interest in their business’s success and who share the fruits of their success through incentives for well-performing employees, will generally inspire employees to also be invested in the business.

Also, open communication is key. I have always found that given the opportunity, most employees want to be involved in the business and will give great suggestions.

Brad Boa, President of Where it’s @, Inc.

Brad Boa, President of Where it’s @, Inc.

From my experience you can usually tell what kind of management a retail enterprise has by the tone and actions of their employees. It is often a direct mirror of the enthusiasm, attitude and experience (or lack thereof) of the front line’s management. The money factor—profit margins and the ability to pay adequate wages—comes into play but as someone once said “Unless the job means more than money, it’ll never mean more money.” It is the employer’s responsibility and certainly in his/her self-interest to create that higher meaning. There are several ways this can be done.

Employers who invest the most work and time into finding the right employees up front, yield the best results from those efforts.  That’s fairly obvious, of course, but it’s amazing how many companies don’t do this. Many don’t determine exactly what kind of person they want, nor do they create a set of metrics to articulate, identify and measure those characteristics.

Secondly, most small retailers simply don’t invest enough time and thought to set the right foundation for the new hire to grow and flourish. Job expectations, beyond the obvious (i.e., “be at work at 9 am”, etc.) are often fuzzy and unclear and the mission vague.  There is little or no formal training period and certainly no training manual.   

Real training about the brand, the product, the customer, and the mission must be backed up with a real employee manual and training guide and reinforced by everyone in the company from the owner on down.

Jeff L. Gregerson, Vice President, Specialty Retail at CBL & Associates Prop., Inc.

Jeff L. Gregerson, Vice President, Specialty Retail at CBL & Associates Prop., Inc.

It is very important for retailers to let staff share in the success or profitability of the business. This could be accomplished through an incentive plan based on different levels of profitability. There should also be strict and clear guidelines in order to establish expectations. If the expectations are not clearly stated then there is room for excuses. Some of the expectations should be: dress code, sales training, availability, etc.

There should also be clear daily goals established and the staff needs to be held accountable in a positive and fun way. I believe the more you keep your employees informed regarding the success of your business, the more they will buy into feeling some type of ownership.

Jasmine Battle of Karma Native American Art Gallery at Franklin Mills Mall

Jasmine Battle of Karma Native American Art Gallery at Franklin Mills Mall

First and foremost, during the interview process, you should only consider candidates who identify with your product, your vision and your customer base. For example, if your customer base is 40 plus, you should take that factor into consideration if a candidate is only 18 with no real customer service experience. Customers in this age range look for attentive service. Words to the wise: “Never hire in desperation.”

Second, a carefully written employee policy manual sets the “rules of employment” so you and your employees can get on with the business of taking care of business. Next, systematic training should be conducted so that employees understand the product, the customer base and the employer’s expectations.

Once all these factors are in place, it is up to the employer to continually train and motivate the employee in all aspects of customer service, merchandising, product packaging and product knowledge so that the employee feels that he/she is an integral part of the business.

Jim Stasiowski, President & CEO of Loco-Motives LLC

Jim Stasiowski, President & CEO of Loco-Motives LLC

Our business revolves around children—making it very important for our staff to be as enthusiastic about the product as we are. To ensure that our customers have a positive experience every time they visit one of our trains, we make sure our employees feel as important as our customers. We view our staff and employees more like a family than anything else and that has always made the difference for us. Happy employees spread their positivity and truly care about the customer experience without having to be convinced or told to do so. The happiness of our team directly correlates with the success of our business, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Duffy C. Weir

Duffy Weir is the former vice president and director of specialty retail and marketing at The Rouse Company of Columbia, MD. Now an independent retail marketing and sponsorship consultant and writer, Weir travels the world searching for what she says "makes marketplaces tick." She can be reached at Duffyllc@comcast.net or 410.252.8885.
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