Here we tread down slippery ground, one of the most difficult aspects of management to juggle, particularly in retail. We must get to know our employees on a personal level without befriending them. But we must understand who they are to inspire them and to motivate them. We must know what they need us to communicate to them. One of the most eye opening articles I read in college was from the wise words of WSU professor Richard Sagor, A Lesson From Skateboarders. As individuals we have innate desires within us:
the need to feel Competent
Today we will focus on Competency:
I will never forget my first true termination was the weekend before Christmas when an employee named Liz, struggling to wrap a fragile item quickly and adequately to keep up with the quick pace of the holiday bustle, broke down in tears from behind the register screaming out, “You know I can’t do this!” This being the last of a series of public meltdowns I went ahead and fired her for insubordination. But how could this have been prevented? I should have built up her esteem with simpler tasks by focusing on what she could do. All employees will have varied capacities for mastering different tasks, and it is our jobs as managers to gauge these indivdual strengths and weaknesses.
After Liz I found my notes from Sagor’s article and reconsidered my approach. I knew each employee not only trained differently, but they also achieved on different levels. It would take more effort from me their manager to really sit down and analyze each and every strength and weakness and solve the cases as to why, but that was what I found necessary for the growth and success my team. I began scheduling a monthly one on one 15 minute meeting with every last one of my employees. At these talks I would remove them from the store, or take them somewhere secluded where we could really converse and focus. I would present them with the stats (from over the course of 3 months) that were looked at by the company, but not compared to the standards held by the company. Instead we measured progress of growth. I asked for individual struggles or questions. Sometimes I’d go as far as to print out days worth of receipts to show in highlighter missed opportunities for sales. I would offer loads of praise and encouragement over any improvements and construct with them new obtainable goals and game plans on how to achieve them. I would let them know that I (and I did) reported their great feats to my boss, and how proud I was, and how I projected them to continue to grow. Once this monthly meeting was in motion the rate of failing employees nearly ceased (aside from the one or two employees that just were determined to fail).
If an employee is struggling in one aspect:
- give them a little positive reinforcement by focusing on their strengths when offering instructions.
- let them take smaller bites
- never let them claim defeat; that will not be part of their vocabulary
- Offer personal one on one assistance
- Offer incentives for small feats
- Offer alternate approaches to tasks
If an employee seems bored (or unmotivated) with an aspect, shake it up:
- Change the date the task is assigned
- Offer a new approach to the task
- Offer a more in-depth analysis of how vital the task is
- Commend them for a great job followed by a challenge for improvement “Wow you made the top of the store in sales, now I want you to beat store B’s top player next week!”
- Offer a fresh perspective on the task
What are some other methods that will aid in fostering competency with our staff?