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People Skills – The Rest of the Story

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So we’ve got the “Processes” thing down. We’re working on and maybe even doing a good job with “Customer Experience”, “Customer Satisfaction”, and “Customers For Life”. We’re all done and can expect things to be good – right? Maybe not. Here’s the rest of the story, and it concerns the people that work with us, but also report to us. Our “Store Teams”.

In order to get the above stuff put in place, we’ve already had to train some processes and some skills. If this wasn’t happening, we probably didn’t get all of the above in place and aren’t yet happy with the results of all our efforts. However, let’s assume for a minute that we did get it all in place, we’re happy with our people, and happy with the results we’re currently getting. What comes next? Keeping it that way! There are some details that we HAVE to consider if we want it to stay that way.

Our reports are our tools, not for just getting the right practices in place, but in maintaining those practices. In order for us to have gotten all these practices in place, we must have had the right tools (people) in place. In order for the tools to keep being the right tools for the job, and keep performing well, we have to “maintain them”. Just like our hand tools or power tools, if we don’t take good care of them, they’ll get rusty, dented, bent, out of alignment, nicked or scratched. Many times, if we’re not taking good care of them, we’ll lose them. It’s pretty aggravating when you need to get something done and you don’t have the right tools!

Just like hand tools and power tools, our store tools (people) can fall into several categories. We need to figure out which category each of our tools (people) fall into, and plan on using and maintaining them in the proper fashion. Some of our people will be “management capable” tools. These are the folks who are capable of leading others into the right practices and mind-sets. Many of them know they’re capable, and probably even want the opportunity to be used in that fashion. This is where our skills in training, cross-training, mentoring and succession planning come into pay. We need them to know that we recognize their capabilities, are going to help them hone their skills along these lines, and are going to have them in mind as opportunities arise. This is what they need for job satisfaction. It helps us to maintain and even improve their performance. And, it helps us not to lose them.

Our next category is the set of people out there who either aren’t capable of, or simply aren’t interested in the “management capable” category. This is the “great associates” category. There are more people like this than you might think, especially if they aren’t kids who are just getting started with their lives. There are plenty of people who just want to be very good store associates, don’t want to take on the stress of management, would like to be recognized as good store associates, and their biggest concern is job stability. We need this category of tools just as much as we need the “management capable” category. Having enough of these people in place means we can very much reduce turn-over, keep the store performing well, and take a lot of the “staff replacement” issues off our plate. This is obviously a big deal to our managers as well. To maintain these tools, we still need training and cross-training for both processes and people skills. However, we need to make them aware of how much we appreciate their part in the performance of the store, how impressed we are that they’re doing good things, and how much the store needs people just like them (as much as we need the “management capable” folks). We actually need more of these tools (people) than we need of the “management capable” tools (people).

Unfortunately, there is another category of tools – “need replaced”. These are the folks who are only concerned with where their next paycheck is coming from, but have no real concern with how they get that paycheck. I really hate when companies or managers consider people a “commodity”. However, we’re going to end up going through some people like this as if they were. What we have to remember is that we’re always hoping our next hire will fit into one of the first two categories. When we’re interviewing for our next hire, what we’re really trying to figure out is how will they fit our needs and which category are they going to fit into properly. We don’t want just bodies. We will always need a few people who fit into the “management capable” category, and we will always need even more that will fit into the “great associates” category.

As a last word on all of the above, let’s put into perspective. We first need to hire only folks who we feel confident are going to fit into one of the above categories. That’s only fair to us, to our managers, and to all of our folks in the “great associates” category. Realize that it’s only fair to the “need replaced” people, also. They will also need, at some point, job satisfaction. If they don’t fit into one of our first two categories of tools, they won’t be satisfied with their job. We need to help them move on, and eventually find job satisfaction. Following the hire, we must make sure that we provide everyone in our store with the tools to do well in their category, as well as, remove all the obstacles in our control to remove. And last but not least, we need to perform continuing maintenance of every one of our tools (people) that is appropriate to the category they fit into. THAT, is “The Rest of the Story”!

Retail How-To Consultant: Edward Fox

TAGS: retail, customer service, management, work in retail, career,
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