Friday, December 15, 2006

Retail Sales Training - Be Kind to Your Team

I came across this article in the Globe and Mail (A national newspaper in Canada).

Retailers better watch out, because they could find themselves crying if they alienate their staff this holiday season, a survey warns. Santa could find even his most loyal elves walking out of the workroom when he needs them most unless he cuts them some slack in this high-stress time of year, according to the poll of 1,000 hourly retail employees conducted by Harris Interactive for employee management software developer Kronos Systems Inc.

It found that 46 per cent of retail employees said the way they are treated could cause them to quit over the holidays. But the findings speak to the stresses facing employees in the holiday season in all industries, from factories to offices, says Toronto-based Spiros Paleologos, vice-president of operations for Kronos in Canada.

This trend has become more pronounced in the past few years, he says. "Companies need to understand that the drive to create more efficiency, lower expenses and raise shareholder value has not been accompanied by taking the needs of employees into account."

That is especially true for younger workers, who have different priorities than their parents, Mr. Paleologos says. "They rate their personal lives and preferences as at least as important if not more so than their professional priorities." In previous generations, there were always more young people looking for work around the holidays than there were jobs. "An employer could just post a schedule and people were expected to accept what you got. If you turned it down, the employer had no problem filling the slot with someone else."

But there are fewer young people in the work force today and that means companies are competing for workers more than in the past, he says. When retail employees were asked what would cause them to quit their job over the holidays, 32 per cent said they'd bail out if the boss wasn't treating them with respect, 19 per cent said it would be the result of being overworked because there are not enough employees to do the job, and 14 per cent said they'd leave if their request for time off was rejected.

The survey also found that 43 per cent of retail employees said that, if they ask for a day off but are scheduled anyway, it has a negative effect on their job performance. Nearly all of them selected three ways an employer's lack of empathy with their needs would affect them: They are likely to be less motivated at work; they may call in sick; and they may arrive late or leave early.

Employers who ignore these findings could see customer service suffer, Mr. Paleologos says.
The survey also found a troubling number of employees willing to take revenge for alleged slights: 29 per cent said they have witnessed a disgruntled fellow employee stealing from their current or past employer. So what can managers do about it?

Mr. Paleologos says the following tips for keeping employees happy during the holiday crunch will go a long way toward keep them loyal year-round:

- Maintain appropriate staffing levels and mix of skills to reduce the stress that comes with being overworked.
- Identify training needs and provide the right opportunities for staff to develop effectiveness. The investment will benefit employees' careers and improve the operation in the process.
- Ensure you have the right employee at the right place at the right time to supply staff with the resources they need.
- Measure performance and productivity and identify areas that need improvement as well as acknowledging strengths.
- Allow employees to provide input on work preferences and availability, as well as vacation and leave time. This encourages them to plan for time off rather than having to fake an illness to get a needed day away.
- Set up an online system to make it easy for tech-savvy young employees to review their scheduling.
- Provide rewards -- a little thanks goes a long way for employee morale.

"Managers who don't understand their employees' preferences and work with their abilities will end up finding the workshop is empty when the elves are needed the most," Mr. Paleologos suggests. But keeping those employees happy throughout the year, he says, means they will be more prone to go that extra mile when required.

The lesson here is obvious. Take care of your staff and they will take care your business.


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