Thursday, February 22, 2007

When is "late" actually late?

At a recent workshop I conducted for retail managers, I asked how many people had to deal with employees who were consistently late for their shifts. Hands shot up all around the room and I was met with groans and moans.
As we continued the conversation, I was struck by how FEW managers actually did anything about this behaviour when it occurred. Excuses ranged from, "I'm too busy" to "I'm short-staffed so I can't afford to lose them" to "I've got more pressing issues to deal with." Some people also said that being a few minutes late was no big deal, even though they did express their frustration.
My opinion is that late is late. It doesn't matter if it's five minutes or fifty-minutes. If an employee is scheduled for a specific time then he/she is expected to arrive and be on the floor ready to go at that time.
However, how you, the retail owner or manager, handles this makes the difference. If you accept tardiness, people will continue to be late. If you nip it the bud, it will seldom become an issue in your store. This starts with you clarifying your expectations and communicating these expectations to your team.
When I managed restaurants, I made it very clear when an employee was first hired that punctuality was a non-negotiable standard. While I certainly made occassional allowances for extenuating circumstance such as weather or unexpected traffic, everyone who worked in our store knew that lateness was not acceptable. And, employees also knew--some from personal experience--that we would take disciplinary action if they were late. As a result, this was seldom a problem we had to deal with.
Decide now what your policy is for lateness. Communicate it to your team. Lead by example. And take action when employees breach this standard. You will be surprised how quickly tardiness disappears.
**If you manage a chain of stores or have a large store with several managers AND you would like them to learn how to deal with employee performance, contact me at 905-633-7750 or by email and we can discuss a program that addresses your particular situation.

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