Involvement In The Retail Workplace

Involvement In The Retail Workplace

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TinyPulse asked the question – “On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your ability to make an impact here vs. at a prior employer?” The industries with the happiest employees gave a score of 8.15. The industries with the unhappiest employees gave an average score of 6.95.

Then they asked, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how much opportunity do you have for professional growth in this organization?” The happiest industry employees gave this question an average score of 7.12 for their current company. The unhappiest industries assigned this question an average score of 6.15.

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Finally, “On a scale of 1 to 10, do you feel like you’ll have the opportunity to reach your full potential at our organization?” The happiest of employees scored this question an average of 7.27, while the unhappiest averaged a score of 6.80.

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Employees don’t want to just give feedback, they want to be business and growth partners with their companies in identifying and acting on overcoming obstacles through providing innovative solutions in the workplace. So getting the workforce involved in the company is incredibly critical for employee recognition and happiness. There’s one common thread between transparent management and great coworkers, and that’s culture. Neither one of these things can be accomplished by individual actions alone. Transparency is about more than sharing one piece of information here and there.

It’s about establishing a culture with openness and trust, where employees know they can rely on leadership to share answers with them instead of hoarding information, so that even when a leader has to be tight-lipped about a sensitive/critical issue, employees know it’s in their best interest. Similarly, a strong team is more than the individual people or one-off actions. It needs a culture that expects employees to step up for one another — and supports them in doing so with effective communication and conflict management.

Employees Want to Do More

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Understanding that employees don’t want their companies to just hand things to them. In fact, one of the biggest differences between workers in the happiest and unhappiest industries is that the former have more opportunities to grow and develop employees want to be involved and show their commitment to their organization’s health. When you engage your team to a level where they feel personally and professionally invested, you will create a culture of innovation, inspired and creative learning and sharing, brand advocacy, and a team of people [at all levels] who are committed to the success of the retail organization they are passionate about.

They expect, rightfully so, to have their level of commitment and involvement reward them with opportunity for professional development and growth. Obviously, allowing for this culture will lead to the organizations continued development and growth also.

High-Involvement Work Practices

These range from selecting the right people for the organization to a commitment to training and skill development, and creating and supporting a collaborative work culture. Training programs can be developed around succession planning and career path planning for current and future skills, technical, and interpersonal skills, new hires and experienced employees. With all of the choices, developing a coherent set of high-involvement work practices that are consistent across the organization and reinforce each other is a nontrivial challenge for all retail leadership and organization.

Organizational effectiveness scholar Edward Lawler and his colleagues identified four interlocking principles for building a high-involvement work system that help to ensure that the system will be effective and that the various practices will work together to have a positive impact on employee engagement. These principles can be summed up as providing employees with power, information, knowledge and rewards.

Power or empowerment means that employees have the power to make decisions that are important to their performance and to the quality of their working lives. Power can mean a relatively low level of influence, as in providing input into decisions made by others or it can mean having final authority and accountability for decisions and their outcomes. Involvement is maximized when the highest possible level of power is pushed down to the employees that have to carry out the decisions.

Today we have the ability to utilize technology and platforms to easily develop and share ideas for improving organizational performance  and this can be highly-effective, but only when good ideas from employees actually get used.  From TinyPulse, here is what happens when ideas/suggestions are solicited and then ignored or managed badly:

Sometimes you get good responses, while other times you get … not-so-positive ones. Regardless of what kind of feedback you receive, it all comes down to how you react to it. Here are the three worst things you could ever do with feedback:

1. Ignore the feedback: Blessing White found that 1/3 of employees become disengaged when employers ask for feedback but do nothing about it. Fielding a survey without the commitment to act on its results is a recipe for disengagement.

2. Hunt down the source: When we receive negative feedback, we immediately want to know who said it. But how are you going to improve your culture or gain trust from your employees by calling them out for voicing their opinion? Stressing about who said what will only cloud your judgment and potentially breed bias against certain employees.

3. Not sharing the feedback: Managers tend to hoard information because it gives them a sense of power. In actuality, you’re telling your employees that you don’t care about them. And according to our 2013 Employee Engagement Survey, transparency is the number one factor that contributes to happiness in the workplace.

Information means data, including information on the quality of business revenues, profitability, and customer experience. A major challenge for leadership developing a high-involvement work system is to create an information system that provides employees with data that is timely and relevant to their particular area of responsibility that they can digest and influence personally.

As mentioned earlier, the more transparent retail leaders can make the organization’s operations, the more effectively employees can contribute to the success of the business. Transparency is important because it helps employees see the link between their actions and the goals and objectives of the company, thereby enhancing the cognitive aspect of engagement. Transparency is essential for employees to see what they are doing that is working and what isn’t.  Here is a great philosophy to protect transparency and action: “Deliver short, frank, frequent reports on how the company is doing”.

Knowledge, or employee skills and abilities, can be distinguished from information, which is the information employees use to make decisions and take action. Improving employees’ knowledge means a commitment to training and development. Theses investments are essential in a high-involvement retail organization because when employees are making important workplace decisions, it is important that they have relevant information AND the skills and abilities to make the best decisions.

When having to evaluate the business for changes in challenging environment, objectively, either costs (employees and their salaries) have to be lowered or organizational productivity raised to make up the difference…The only way to make up this difference would be to mobilize the knowledge, skills, and commitment of the workforce, and to design the work practices and organization in ways that achieved higher quality and productivity. In these moments it is the level of employee involvement that will make the difference.

Rewards –  this component of the high-involvement equation means rewarding employees for expending discretionary effort to enhance organizational performance. A key element in the high-involvement equation, rewards for performance ensure that employees use their power, information and knowledge for the good of the company, their business partners, and the customer experience.

The Importance Of Alignment

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Edward Lawler suggests that to implement high involvement leadership, “virtually every major feature of the organization needs to be designed differently.” This can be a huge challenge.

The Ledford and Mohrman “Self Design” change strategy requires leaders to develop a vision of the new organization and state it in broad terms, “leaving the more specific designing to be done by the members of the units that have to make the design work locally.” Different business units deal with changes at their own pace and through methods that yield the highest level of efficiency and effectiveness. The idea being that the mission statement, company values, and practices that organizations are used to inspire performance are integrally related to the capacity of the organization to accomplish its business objectives and of its employees to accomplish their purposes because there is alignment, commitment, and understanding. In simpler terms – if you outline specific direction without allowing for the organic flow innovation, creativity or any thought needed from your team, you will not maximize results. You will earn, ultimately, average compliance but not ownership or involvement, both of which can lead to excellence, productivity and, effectiveness being achieved.

There are several reasons why a participatory and involvement practice is highly-superior for implementing high-involvement leadership. Beyond the knowledge, skills, and information employees gain through the collaborative process, participation generates engagement on all three engagement levels by affecting beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. High-involvement work practices empower employees to make workplace decisions, training to build their knowledge and skills in order to make and implement decisions effectively, information about how their actions affect business results and rewards and recognition for their efforts to improve overall individual, team, and company performance.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail. Published writer. Frequent Podcast Guest. Speaker. Twenty year [oy vey!] retailer. I am passionate about leadership development and workplace culture. 646 246 1380 | [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

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