In the high-service window coverings business, contact between the salesperson and the customer can make or break the bond between your store and your customers. Many retailers, however, don't recognize how important that connection is.
The retailer who fails to develop his or her employee's potential sees a general lack of motivation and poor customer relations -- as well as a high rate of employee turnover.
Highly trained and motivated employees produce. Untrained workers are more interested in coffee breaks and quitting time than in helping customers.
Take the Test
You may not experience severe problems in your store, but there may still be room for improvement. Here's a short quiz you can take to help uncover any hidden problems you might have with employee relations.
As honestly as you can, answer each question "Yes" or "No." If all your answers are "Yes," keep up the good work! Any negative responses show you where you can improve.
Top 10 Priorities
How important are the factors mentioned in the quiz to your employees? Very important, according to nearly every study of employee attitudes we've seen. When it comes to employee satisfaction, emotional rewards frequently rank highest. Money follows, but remains near the top of the list.
Here is the way we rank the top 10:
1. Expressed appreciation for work well done.
2. Knowledge of what's going on, and of the owner's goals for the store.
3. Management's understanding of employees' personal needs.
4. Job security.
5. Good wages and benefits.
6. Interesting, challenging work.
7. Opportunity for growth in responsibilities and compensation.
8. Management's loyalty to employees.
9. Good working conditions.
10. Tactful discipline.
Compare these employee priorities to your test answers. Do you see where you can improve employee relations and, as a result, sales and profit performance?
While improving employee relations helps morale and motivation, it won't ensure that your employees reach their full potential.
A Marketing News survey asked several thousand salespeople, "What do you need to do a better job?" The three most common answers were: specific methods for improving their sales presentations; basic sales-technique training; and brief, readable training literature.
In most stores, training sessions consist of showing new employees how to punch the time clock, how to run the cash register and where to take breaks. Employees who master these skills are pretty much on their own. But to be as effective as they can be, your employees need much more.
They must thoroughly understand the products they're expected to sell. They need to know basic sales techniques and details about their targeted customers. And they need to know the principles of good human relations.
They require ongoing training, helping them to reach full potential as retail salespeople. As they improve in their jobs, more training is needed, not less. We compare salespeople to athletes who receive increasingly better coaching as they go from high school to college, then on to the professional ranks. At each stage of development, skillful training fine-tunes the skills they learned at the previous level.
In the same way, training helps salespeople develop the attitudes, skills, confidence and habits they need to fine-tune their abilities.
Check the Results
Look back at the quiz and the information on employee job satisfaction. Do you see how you can improve relations with your employees? Make a commitment now to change your management practices wherever you can, based on what you recognize from the quiz.
And now, we urge you to give the same quiz to your employees. Their perceptions often are markedly different from yours. They might conceal ill feelings and misunderstandings for fear of losing their jobs.
If their answers don't match yours, find out why. Any dissatisfaction they feel, no matter how hard they try to hide it, will surface when they talk to customers. That is when it will hurt you and your business most -- at the point of sale.
After implementing your improvements, check your sales and profit results in a few months to see if the commitment was worth the effort. We predict you will find sizable rewards for your efforts -- in your staff's morale as well as in your sales and profit figures.
Employee Management Quiz 1. Do your employees know exactly what you expect of them? Do written job descriptions clearly explain their responsibilities? Do you routinely give them constructive criticism and encouragement?
2. Do you use at least one of the following employee-employer communication methods:
Regular, private individual conferences?
Regular, informal on-the-job discussions?
Formal ways for employees to make suggestions?
Formal meetings for open discussion of issues your employees want to raise?
3. Do you recognize and reward outstanding performance?
4. Do you have on-going training in sales techniques, merchandise knowledge and care, design and customer relations?
5. Is your employee benefits program competitive? Do your employees understand their benefits thoroughly so they can take maximum advantage of them?
6. Do you pay competitive wages?
7. Do you follow a formal system of pay raises? Do your employees understand what they have to do to earn raises?
8. How about a formal system of promotion? Do your employees understand the basis of promotion?
9. Did any of your supervisors or managers start at entry-level jobs in your business?
10. Do you try to discover each of your employees' strengths and allow each to contribute as much as possible from those strengths?
11. Is your store a bright and cheerful place to work?
12. Are your employees generally happy working for your business?
13. Do you employees know your long-range goals? Do you tell them how their performance measures against those goals?
14. Do you offer a formal profit sharing program?
Five Critical Management Tactics Communicate expectations, evaluations, appreciation, goals and paths to career success. Conduct training appropriate to your worker's needs. Create a positive working environment. Compensate fairly and competitively. Commit to continually improving your management skills. When it comes to employee satisfaction, emotional rewards frequently rank highest.
Richard F. Outcalt and Patricia M. Johnson, Certified Management Cons-ultants, are principals of Outcalt & Johnson: Retail Strategists. A Seattle, WA-based consulting/speaking team. They provide an array of strategic retailing services to owners and presidents of retail businesses. For more information, call (206) 623-3974.