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Employee Empowerment: Tips for Keeping Retail Employees Engaged

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The holiday season for retail workers mean one thing: busy, busy, busy.  With stores starting their Black Friday sale on Thanksgiving, more employees are needed to man the store. In fact, CareerBuilder’s Annual Survey concluded that 39% of hiring managers plan to hire workers this year, compared to 36% last year, and 29% in 2011.

Sure, when Black Friday comes along, fashionistas, technology gurus, and anyone who simply wants a good deal will be participating in this shopping spree day. But what about the employees who have to work during these ghastly hours, especially on Thanksgiving? Although store hours are opening in the evening to ensure retail employees have time to spend with their family and friends, it may be tough for any retail manager to motivate their staff (especially if copious amounts of food was consumed just hours before).  How will retail leaders prepare their staff for the infamous Black Friday sale in terms of customer service, team morale, and overall employee well-being?

Working in retail, customer service is essential. As a store associate, necessary steps are taken to achieve top quality service to customers—ask them how their day is going, ask them if they need any assistance finding items, provide insight when asked, be personable and approachable. Yes, folding clothes after what looked like a blizzard hit the section may be frustrating, but remember: providing superior customer service is a pivotal function of the job; not only does it reflect the company, it also reflects the employee.

Staying motivated during the busy season may be challenging, and customer complaints can make it tougher. When team morale seems to be lacking, it is both noticeable for both other staff members and customers. Remember to keep the staff engaged in their work and with their fellow customers by providing incentives such as these:

1)      Provide healthy snacks throughout the day in the break room to ensure employees are being well-nourished. Offering snacks, such as nuts, will reward employees with natural health benefits including long-lasting energy, brain health, and even reduce stress. 

2)      Employee holiday appreciation party. During or after the holiday season, plan a party for the employees to show them they are more than just bodies in the store. Thank them for all the hard work they have done for the company. Gather each employees’ insight (i.e., theme, food, activities) to ensure their voice and ideas are being heard by upper management.

3)      Appreciation in-store discounts or gift cards. Offer employees a generous discount, such as 60% off of sale items and 40% off of regular priced items. Another incentive may involve having a raffle drawing of gift cards to other places.

4)      Shorter shifts to alleviate stress. Dealing with customers amongst the constant hustle and bustle of the season may be demanding. Provide shorter shifts to ensure employees are not feeling burnt-out.

5)      Allow employees to change roles and/or departments during their shift. Employees may feel unmotivated (and most likely bored) repeating one tedious task for the entire shift. Change up the scenery by moving them around the store and allowing them to engage in other roles. This tactic may make the shifts more bearable and the hours go by quicker.

As managers and leaders, it is management’s job to ensure their employees’ needs are being met and frustrations alleviated. Empowering employees in turn empowers management which empowers the overall company.

*e-Ventexe is a full service human resource company dedicated to providing services catered to clients’ needs.

 

Retail HR 101: How to Survive the Holidays

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Crowds of people zooming past one another, baby strollers rested along racks of clothes as mothers and fathers shop, lines zigzagging throughout the store—the holiday season has crept up once again. The National Retail Federation’s 2012 survey confirmed more than 88 million consumers shopped in-stores and online on Black Friday. Amidst all the hustle and bustle, how are top retail leaders and managers planning to beat the “holiday burnout” in terms of keeping employee morale and productivity up during the holiday season? Long hours, employees calling in sick last minute, gift returns, etc., calls for copious amounts of stress. Although the feeling of being burnt-out can not be completely eliminated, here are some tips to help avoid becoming an overworked, overstressed Grinch at the workplace.

1)      Plan early! Plan months, weeks, or even days in advance. This can include plans for keeping the staff engaged with customer service, the number of store associates working for each shift, the number of hours for each shift, the number of employees stationed at each department, etcetera. By planning in advance, chaotic situations may be minimal which in turn alleviates stress levels for all parties.

2)      Always develop a strategy in case incidences happen unexpectedly. For example, if a customer spilled coffee all over the tiled floor in front of the Women’s clothing department, what actions would be taken? Who will take the initiative? Would it be the shift leader who was upstairs in the Men’s department when the spill happened? Or the sales associates who was standing 10 feet away from the spill? In simple incidences such as this, delegate a plan such as, whichever employee saw the spill first is responsible for cleaning the mess. If a customer notices the spill and informs an associate, have that associate take the initiative to ensure other holiday shoppers are not harmed. Take the appropriate measures to develop strategies (even if they are on the spot) to ensure a pleasant shopping experience for all customers and staff. In this incident, a lawsuit may have been avoided.

3)      Have a plan for employee absence and call-ins. It is inevitable; employees will call in or not show up for their shift. If an employee calls-in last minute because s/he can not work a shift, what would happen? Extend an employee’s shift who is currently working? Go through the call schedule? If you are unexpectedly short of staff, always begin recruiting within the store, and then reach out to employees’ who are not scheduled to work. The last minute call may make any shift leader want to pull his/her hair out, but there’s always someone looking to make more money. And better yet, if your store holds your employees to the highest degree, then they may willingly want to help the store when short-staff problems arise.

4)      Communicate with the entire team daily. Set up regular short meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page. This will make sure all staff (in all departments) is in sync with the latest news, changes, etc., which ultimately eliminates confusion. This may also increase an employee’s sense of self-worth; it promotes productivity and gives the employee a sense of belonging and importance in the company because the supervisor(s) allotted time to check up on him/her.

5)      When on the sales floor, always pay attention to surroundings. Step in when needed to ensure the store runs smoothly. After all, the more chaotic the store, the more stressed managers feel. For example, if a cashier is having difficulty with ringing up an item, don’t feel pressured to “hurry up the line” and push the employee out of the way—this will show the employee management does not care, or worst, think s/he is a nuisance or a useless body. Instead managers should greet their cashier first then solve the issue collectively; this will show the employee that store leaders regard them as a human-being and it also promotes team work and problem solving strategies.

Follow these 5 tips and celebrate the holidays with ease.

*e-VentExe is a full service human resource consulting company in Northern California specializing in training & development, recruitment & retention, and outsourcing & compliance. Our consultants collectively have over 60 years of professional experience in HR, 30 years specializing in retail. e-VentExe is dedicated to meeting and exceeding clients’ needs.

 

 

Powerhouse Ladies Who Are a Force to be Reckoned With: Super-Career Women Series Cont.

For the next several months, e-VentExe will be spotlighting one “Super-Career” woman every month, allowing her to tell her story about how she entered the corporate work world. Read about the struggles, sacrifices, highlights, and rewards these women faced while climbing the ladder towards success. This month, with our focus on retail, we continue our series with Joni Enders, who is currently a retiree devoting her time as a volunteer for Call Kurtis, a CBS Sacramento program. 

25 years ago, a successful career woman had to figure out how to compete in a male-dominated world. Women couldn’t show any signs of weakness; they were constantly putting on their “game face” to show men they could do anything as good, if not better.  They dressed the part to be at the boardroom, i.e., suits and ties.  The Super-Career woman had to balance her personal life with her work life—at the workplace, dresses were replaced with slacks, femininity replaced with sternness all in order to strive to the top. The strenuous struggle to rise the corporate ladder may have seemed daunting, but to these “Super-Career” women, who lived double lives, it was the norm. Now, as young females are entering the workplace, what advice can these “Super-Career” women give to the younger generation?  The world for woman today is different, however mistakes can still be made as a women rises to the top of a competitive workplace.

Joni, who has always been a personable individual and had a knack for fashion began her career in retail as a student working part-time as a store associate at the department store, JCPenney. Although she loved clothing and interacting with others, Joni was first interested in law and contemplated continuing her studies in legal issues while working.  However, Joni saw great potential and opportunities with JCPenney and continued her career in retail stating it was where she belonged. Joni was a part of JCPenney for nearly 40 years, retiring merely two years prior; what once started as a simple part-time gig spiraled into something much greater: the dream career of overseeing several JCPenney stores.

With Joni’s go-getter attitude, she moved up the ranks and did not recall ever reaching a glass ceiling. She considers all the opportunities she was given a learning experience. Although she had the chance to fulfill higher career roles (district manager), she was content with being a store manager in Wichita, KS. and then in Sacramento, CA.

In terms of balancing both her work and personal life, Joni delegated her time to each. She decided which one was going to require more of her time. Joni recalls that for the holiday season, her family knew she would be busy so she devoted a great amount of time to her work; it was her job and her family was aware. However, Joni believes one must always reserve time for personal life matters as well, stating that communication is necessary.

Jonie, who is extremely happy with her career outcome at JCPenney states she does not have any regrets. She was fortunate to have great positions and mentors who supported her early in her career. The only mistake she recalls is giving employees too much opportunity in order to succeed within the company; she had a tendency to allow people to work longer even though the job was not cut out for them. Joni recalls that in the end, it did not benefit the company or the individuals involved.

From her experience, Joni has a few pieces of advice for those who are new to the workforce. She states that one must find a career that is incredibly rewarding and fulfill one’s needs. Joni believes mentorships are very important; she believes a mentor provides support and acts as a confidant. Not only should one seek a mentor, one should also be a mentor. She also believes one must find a way to stand out from the crowd. Joni stresses that knowing one’s audience is vital because one must know who and how to speak to specific individuals. By knowing one’s audience, there is a greater potential of acknowledgement.

For a detailed Q and A about Joni, read below:

1)      How long did it take you to reach to the top of the corporate ladder?

It took me about 29 years [to be a store manager]. I was on the District Staff where I was a District Market Merchandiser in both San Diego and Hawaii. For Hawaii, I was in charge of deciding what Moo Moo dresses we would sell in the stores. From the color, print, style, etc.

2)      Did you change yourself to fit into the career world?

Yes, you have to. You have to know your audience. As a leader, I made sure my presence was appropriate. I asked a lot of questions. Internally, you’re always the same person, but you have to change yourself depending on who you’re dealing with and what position you have.

3)      If you could do it all over again, would you do the same thing?

That’s a tough one, I don’t know that I would change anything, I grew to become the person who I am now and I am extremely happy with the outcome. Jcpenney provided me with great opportunities and learning experiences. Not sure if I would be happy in law compared to retail. With my go-getter attitude, retail was perfect because there was always something new.