Inspiring The Future Of Retail Productivity & Organizational Health

Inspiring The Future Of Retail Productivity & Organizational Health

I have the unique and invaluable experience, over the past several months to connect with lots of different retail organizations and get to know team members inside the organization from C-Level leadership to Part-Time Sales Associates. One of the most interesting constants I encounter when I am learning about the business is that on the list of business obstacles – the people piece usually falls toward the bottom of the issues. In recent months I have heard about marketing concerns, product availability/allocation issues, operational challenges – I have even heard rationalizations relating to the weather, the finicky customer – very rarely do senior- and executive-leadership truly assess their people component and readily identify opportunity in that area – possibly because it is the most difficult and overwhelming for organizations to repair.

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From my perspective [and experience] it’s the people that make or break the business the majority of the time. When you have the right people, in the right place – they can overcome most marketing, product, presentation, and process issues [they can also minimize the impact these challenges have by ensuring their area’s aesthetic looks incredible regardless of missing product or categories]. Those are tough conversations to have because not only are the people the most important representatives of our business to the public but they are also our greatest variable. If we are filling our organizations with people who contribute and shape a strong culture and one that is aligned with the mission and values established for the brand there is actually very little that can stand in the way of delivering an exceptional experience to the customer and driving results through great customer engagement.

When an organization is struggling with it’s results I generally look to a few pieces to inspire dialog around the people piece of the business [especially if their culture is blurry or possibly a bit moldy]:

  • Collaboration over competition;
  • Action over words;
  • Participation over observation;
  • Community over agendas;
  • Relationships over formality;
  • People over personalities;
  • Learning over expertise;
  • Boldness over comfort.

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This, coupled with employee temperature surveys and feedback, makes a strong case for improving the employee experience to drive results to the customer experience and bottom line. Great people want to work for great people. When we have less than great leadership coupled with soft talent development or recognition practices – we are going to be hiring “bodies” that will produce – if we’re lucky – “good enough” results. Bad begets bad and good begets good. It’s really that simple. When we fill our organizations with great and enthusiastic talent – commit to inspiring, motivating, involving, developing them through empathetic, human leadership – we will find that we have team members committed to exceeding the goals and objectives of the company and customer. Reshaping and investing in turning around a toxic culture [get rid of the leadership that is holding the organization down] will support the health and growth of a business and show your great talent that they are valued and appreciated.

Why Aren’t We Massively Productive?

Whenever we talk about the secret to productivity, we tend to hyper-focus on processes and directives – which are usually, ironically, counter-productive. That’s not to say these things aren’t necessary – because they are. But it’s important not to lose sight of an effective strategy in the process.

Most people aren’t productive because of these reasons:

  • They possess an ineffective multitasking ability;
  • They fall victim to distraction;
  • They mismanage their time and under-allocate the hours in their day.

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But here are the real reasons people aren’t productive:

  • They get lost in the weeds and forget what they’re truly aiming for;
  • They spend way too much time analyzing and researching and not enough time actually doing;
  • They don’t know and/or understand priority.

8 Ways To Support A Productive & Healthy Workplace

  • Possess An Authentic Desire To Create An Involved & Supportive Workplace: Having a sincere interest in creating a friendly and supportive culture is a smart technique to solicit cooperation among staff members, and by setting a good example you’ll change the mindset of all those around you. Recognizing staff commitment with regular and tailored appreciation and carve out time to update everyone on the state of the business. Reward your most efficient teams and people who contribute the greatest results. When your team members feel appreciated for their hard work, it inspires them to go above and beyond what is expected of them.
  • Communicate & Seek Feedback [That You Intend To Action]: I was speaking with a colleague the other day who was explaining and new program rolled out in her workplace. It was a confusing program both to her and the team – the the team was resisting. It was another in a huge catalog of “things to do”. Most of the programs implemented to right the business have been ineffective and time consuming. They also have not learned the result their efforts have delivered. The communication comes in a email to the field leadership and the stores and the field leaders are expected to decipher and roll out these programs without understanding the meaning and purpose it is meant to bring to the goals of the organization. I asked if the company ever solicited ideas from the field about how to drive the business. The response was “never”. Why do we neglect to solicit feedback from our customer facing team members? These are the people that can communicate the customer needs/wants. These are the people who truly have the customer experience and expertise. Ask for feedback or gain consensus and action suggestions and ideas from the people the initiatives impact most.

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  • Capability & Career Capital Building: Capability building is an imperative for any company that values their employees. Investing in training and developing our workforce to create skilled and confident team members. The more skills our retail employees have, the greater opportunity and growth they will attract for themselves, and the more loyalty and commitment they will show to their jobs, their customers, and their retail organization.
  • Support A Culture Of Recognition: Allowing employees to recognize each other is invaluable to retail organizations. It enables teammates to support each other for good work and helpful behaviors, and also to keep a very high degree of awareness about what everyone is contributing to the business – even through challenging times. Having a corporate plan in place to appreciate and reward high-performing employees will support the delivery of results and contribution that are aligned with the organization’s goals, objectives, vision, and values.

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  • Encourage Creative Environments: There are a number of studies on motivation that have suggested that it’s the need to learn and create that is behind motivation, rather than simply a paycheck. Allow your employees to come up with innovative – or even simple – solutions to create a great place to work and a strong business. They’ll see your leadership as one that values their brains and personalities and individual and team contributors [not just cogs in a machine or sheep that most retailers value], and they’ll enjoy coming in to work every day support the growth and health of the business.

Culture drives everything that happens in the workplace, good or bad. The quality of the work environment causes players to treat each other, and customers, with trust, respect and dignity. – S. Chris Edmonds, founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group

  • Create A Culture Of Accountability: By making your team members accountable for their actions and decisions, it encourages them to be more thoughtful and curious when it comes to their work. It also encourages organizations to develop and support their team and to bring meaning & purpose to all tasks and assignments. In addition, instilling accountability in your employees also gives them a sense of ownership, so that they too feel they have a stake in the organization, customer experience, and bottom line results.

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  • Have A Sense of Personal & Professional Discipline: This goes hand-in-hand with accountability but on an individual level – willpower is a limited resource [particularly in retail], and when you run out, it’s really hard to stay disciplined and accomplish the things you want/need to get done. Practicing discipline is one way to increase your ability to stay focused and increase your resistance to being distracted. One of the best things you can do to increase your willpower and get more done is to not deplete your reserves on things that don’t matter. Understand the things you can change and things you cannot and don’t take unreasonable positions on what you can’t change. You’ll save on the amount of willpower you have to spend on them every day, freeing up valuable resources for staying focused on the more important [and fun] parts of your job.
  • Explain The Why: A huge morale and productivity killer to your organization is to roll out new directions, policies, processes due to desperation without explaining what the objective is or to clarify questions. These are the moments that the state of the business seems dire and desperate. This is also shows the tremendous disconnect between the corporate and field teams. Chaotic and blurry communication is deflating to your team and a clearly desperate act of an organization in trouble. Your team will lose respect for the executives of the organization and the brand if they don’t feel as though there is clear and transparent processes [especially those that just – seemingly – create more work for the field teams].


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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