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In the world of retail, good management is everything, especially when it comes to your workforce. From store managers to sales associates, your employees are one of your most valuable assets because they have the power to take an ordinary customer experience and make it extraordinary. In fact, there’s a direct correlation between employee engagement and customer experience. According to customer experience expert Blake Morgan, “companies that lead in customer experience have 60% more engaged employees.”
“Companies that lead in customer experience have 60% more engaged employees.”
— Blake Morgan, Customer Experience Futurist
Given the stakes, implementing strong employee management strategies that lead to higher rates of employee engagement is vital to the longevity of any retail business. Creating those strategies, however, is often easier said than done, especially when dealing with employees with varying levels of experience from different backgrounds.
So, what’s the secret to great employee management in the retail industry? That’s the question we’re going to attempt to answer in this article.
(Hint: A lot of it has to do with technology.)
Top 10 Employee Management Best Practices
Every employee management strategy requires a solid foundation on which to build. To develop such a foundation, try implementing the following best practices:
- Create a Welcoming Workplace Environment Retailers are often so focused on creating an inviting and inspiring atmosphere for their customers that they sometimes forget to do the same for their own employees — often to their own detriment. Research from the Harvard Business Review shows that a “positive environment [leads] to dramatic benefits for employees, employees, and the bottom line.” And although workplace perks such as free gym memberships or daily free lunches are likely out of the question, retailers can still foster a positive environment in smaller, more meaningful ways, such as encouraging social connections and making sure staff members feel comfortable approaching management with problems.
- Set Achievable Goals It’s impossible for your employees to live up to expectations if those expectations were never defined in the first place. Be specific about what you’re looking for in terms of individual employee performance and what you hope to achieve in terms of store performance. Don’t be afraid to set high standards, but make sure your goals are realistic and attainable. By clearly articulating your goals and objectives — and, even better, making sure they’re quantifiable — you can provide your workforce with a better understanding of what to work toward.
- Communicate Clearly & Effectively One of the core components of an effective employee management strategy is clear and effective communication. In addition to setting clear expectations, strong internal communications have a direct effect on:
- Conflict resolution
- Staff scheduling
- Employee engagement and productivity
- Customer experience and loyalty
- And more
- Whether in the stockroom or on the store floor, it’s imperative that you encourage your retail team to maintain open communications, and that you invest in technology that makes it easier for your workforce to do so. For example, a mobile point of sale (PoS) installed on a handheld device can automatically send employees push notifications about current promotions, schedule changes, and so on, as well as assist customers by pulling up their preferences and looking up product inventory availability on a moment’s notice.
- Provide Adequate Training Many retail companies dedicate more resources to management training than they do to lower-level associates. Although this might seem sensible from a cost-savings perspective, it actually costs retailers more in the long run. The role of a retail associate has changed significantly over the past decade. Retail associates no longer simply restock shelves or ring up orders; today’s associate markets products, executes strategy, provides customer service, and more. Based on that information, you can ill afford to skimp when it comes training your associates; after all, a well-trained associate can make all the difference between a customer making a purchase or choosing to walk away.Fortunately, retail associate training is easier and more affordable than ever before thanks to solutions such as Dynamics 365 for Retail. Microsoft POS enables retailers to create a custom employee knowledge base, including training videos, step-by-step guidance for different processes such as sales and returns, trial mode scenarios, and more. This type of employee management software is especially useful when training seasonal workers, as it enables them to get up to speed quickly and efficiently and get out onto the store floor that much faster.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate With a well-trained team at their disposal, it’s important that your store managers delegate lower-level responsibilities so that they can dedicate their attention to more pressing issues. Delegating not only enables managers to utilize their time more effectively — it also instills associates with a sense of purpose and provides them with opportunities to grow. Solutions like Microsoft Teams makes it easy for managers to delegate tasks and then follow up to ensure that they’re completed.
- Eliminate Inefficiencies Whenever Possible Whether it’s a store-wide initiative that never really got off the ground or a style of inventory management that makes it difficult for retail associates to locate items in the stockroom, retailers need to be able to identify and eliminate inefficiencies with expert precision. Getting rid of needless policies and procedures and improving existing processes not only optimizes store operations — it also creates a better experience for your employees, thereby promoting employee engagement.
- Lead by Example There are few things more frustrating to a retail associate — or an employee in any industry, really — than being told to do something a certain way, only for their direct report to do something entirely different. Your staff is a team, which means every individual person should be held to the same standard, whether they’re a cashier, a customer service representative, or a store manager. Encourage your store managers to lead by example: Make sure they show up on time, demonstrate exemplary work ethic, comply with store policies, take initiative, and so on. If your employees have someone to look to who models excellent behavior, they’re more likely to repeat that behavior.
- Offer Feedback on a Regular Basis Don’t wait until performance reviews to provide your employees with feedback — let them know where they stand on a regular basis. Use positive feedback as a way to recognize their hard work, show your appreciation, and continue to motivate them. When providing negative feedback, make sure your criticism is considerate, constructive and, most importantly, actionable so that it provides employees with clear next steps to improve.
- Reward Good Performance In addition to providing positive feedback, another great way to incentivize your employees is to implement a merit-based system to reward good performance. For example, if an employee consistently exceeds expectations, you might consider rewarding them with a cash bonus or paid time off. Or, if an associate meets a daily or weekly goal, you might consider giving them a gift card to reward them for their efforts. From an employee engagement — and, by extension, employee management — perspective, incentive programs really pay off: 85% of employees report feeling more motivated to do their best when offered an incentive.
- Invest in Employees’ Growth Employees are more likely to stay in jobs where they feel as though there’s room to grow. In fact, according to a recent report from LinkedIn, 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development. Investing in your employees’ growth by providing them with continuous learning opportunities, such as classroom seminars and gamified training, is not only a great way to motivate your workforce — it’s also a great way to combat the retail industry’s notoriously high turnover rate. If done well, you can create loyal engaged employees who see retail work not as a temporary job, but rather as a long-term career opportunity. To see this mentality at work, look no further than the NRF, which reports that 62% of retail store managers say they reached their current position by “moving up the ranks” in the industry after starting out as store associates.
The Value of an Employee Management System
So, now that we’ve talked about employee management best practices, it’s time to move on to the next item on our agenda: employee management software.
Employee management software refers to any solution designed to help businesses optimize employee-related operations. Originally created for human resources departments, the definition of employee management software has expanded in recent years to include tools that enable retail workers to stay connected and empower them to do their jobs more efficiently.
If you’re in the market for an employee management system that will help you implement the best practices listed above, there are a few key features you’ll want to look for:
- Time Optimization: In the interest of time management, it’s important that you look for a solution that offers built-in time tracking functionality. This will not only provide insight into how long your employees take to complete certain tasks, such as restocking shelves or preparing items for in-store pickup, but also into why it takes that amount of time to do so. Based on this data, you can look for opportunities to eliminate inefficiencies, as well as build schedules more strategically.
- Automation: Speaking of eliminating inefficiencies, automation is an excellent way to reduce the amount of time spent on tedious, menial tasks so your employees can focus on more important responsibilities. For example, you might consider implementing an employee management system in your customer service call center that uses chatbot technology to address lower-level requests so that your customer service representatives can dedicate their attention to more complex calls.
- Mobility: As we’ve already discussed, the role of retail associate is far different than it used to be — depending on which retail vertical you’re in, your associates are the main interface for your customers, so it’s important that you equip them with the tools they need to get the job done. Mobile POS systems, such as Microsoft’s, enable associates to quickly look up information using their tablet (or other mobile device) to answer customer questions, locate items in inventory, and so on while on the store floor. Mobile POS systems also enable your employees to pull up customer information, such as their purchase history, major life events, and more, on a moment’s notice so that they can provide tailored product recommendations, thereby creating upselling and cross-selling opportunities.
- Data Security: Regardless which employee management system you choose to use, make sure that it has robust security policies and features so that you can rest easy knowing your data — whether it’s customer, employee, or store information — is safe from prying eyes.
- Goal-Setting: Most retail employees start their day with a team meeting, during which they learn about store goals for the day or, in some cases, the week. Employee management software solutions such as mobile POS standardize that messaging and make it easily accessible so that associates can refer back to it over the course of the day and keep store objectives top of mind.
- Task Management: It’s important that your employees have immediate access not only to store goals, but also to the list of tasks they’re expected to complete over the course of the day. Employee management solutions such as Microsoft Teams enable you to schedule recurring tasks, such as changing signage and pricing, cleaning out dressing rooms, and so on, and automatically push them out to employees’ mobile devices. This functionality not only makes it easy for associates to stay on top of their work, but also for store managers to check to see that different assignments have been completed as requested.
- Communication: Whether it’s to deliver — or solicit — employee feedback, provide expert guidance, assign responsibilities, ask questions, or build social connections, the ideal employee management system should have some sort of built-in communication and collaboration capabilities. For example, Microsoft Teams offers a mobile chat functionality, which your employees can use to ask each other questions and get advice, as well as file sharing, which store managers can use to build an employee knowledge base and create and share presentations about company goals. The more connected your employees are, the more engaged they are — and the more likely they’ll be to succeed.
Hitachi Solutions & Microsoft: Better Together
You’ll probably notice that, over the course of this article, we talked quite a bit about Microsoft products. That’s because, when it comes to innovative solutions that help retailers achieve digital transformation, Microsoft leads the pack by far.
Here at Hitachi Solutions, we specialize in unlocking the true potential of those solutions. Whether it’s Dynamics 365 for Retail, Teams, or any other solution within the Microsoft ecosystem, our team of experts has the skill and experience to tailor your implementation to your exact business needs and integrate it with your existing systems. Even better, we’ll show you how to use your new solution to apply all of the best practices you see here, engage your workforce, and create a truly winning employee management strategy.
So, what are you waiting for? Contact Hitachi Solutions today to get started.