The Benefits Of Retail Employee Development
Most retail employees – regardless of current position – have designs on a more senior level than where they currently stand. And that’s a great thing. The challenge is that we are so busy keeping up with process and operations with our teams that we are unable to build in the valuable exercises that support employee development and career growth.
Every single retail employee can benefit from a focused development program. Retail is such a fast-changing and fluid industry if anyone believes they are up-to-date in their development and growth – they are automatically behind. Yet it’s easily forgotten or allowed to take a back seat due to the pressure(s) of everyday business. Why? Why is employee development a gigantic missed opportunity, and why should it not be?
Why Employee Development Is A Frequent & Critical Miss
- As Retail Leaders We Focus On The Here & Now: When we are in the stores with our teams we are very focused on the operations of the business – because we are expected to fill out the same parochial “Store Visit Forms” bi-weekly during our visits. These forms focus on the granular parts and pedestrian portions of the business – checking closing paperwork, ensuring lights are working, product in place according to guidelines. These operational checklist items cater to the lowest common denominator of employee. This occurs – despite the fact that everyone speaks to hiring great talent. We hold our teams to a basic set of standards instead of hiring talent who will automatically deliver in the areas of the business so that we can focus on bigger opportunities for our team members and customer experience standards.
- It Becomes A Compliance Issue: Every year at “performance appraisal” time there is an extra “thing” to do and that is to force rank your team. The tragedy of this exercise is that it is literally just a forced ranking…wearing the title “succession planning”…I have only every worked for two organizations that did anything with this information once it was transmitted from laptop to home office. This issue with this is that we view this process as an operational exercise but follow up/next step becomes so confusing and time-consuming [with little ROI today] that we were satisfied just to complete them, and never did anything constructive with the data.
- We View Our Employees As Revolving Door Employees: Why on earth would be make an investment in their future when they will leave us tomorrow for another opportunity – closer to home; for more money; because they are bored here? Though these are really awful and embarrassing excuses – they are all things I have heard from executive teams.
- We Don’t Have The Budget: Budget for development and upskilling? Any District or Regional Retail Leader worth their salt will build in time to assess the strengths and opportunity areas of the their team and partner with them through one-on-one guidance, providing tools/resources for learning. When retail organizations support development of their team – all that is needed is the time and executive support for development to be made a priority. Elevating the hiring criteria and standards, and creating a compelling brand promise will help attract the right talent [paying them fairly also allows for a strong and compelling reason people want to work for specific brands].
Why Employee Development Needs To Be A Business Priority
- It Supports Great “Engagement” Metrics: Creating a employer brand image that is supportive and proactively committed to development and career growth supports a lot of “engagement” metrics. Things like: employee retention, decreased absenteeism, improved employee referrals, etc. Having a solid employee development program can support a healthier business and elevate employee happiness.
- It Is A Benefit: Employee development can be seen as a benefit, and that is something employees weigh in the “pros” column when finding a job. Hourly employees in retail, especially, don’t always receive the benefits that salaried or more senior employees are accustomed to. Providing employee development of career capital – as part of the hiring package – gives you a competitive advantage over other similar jobs and wages and supports growth with the organization.
- Talented Leaders & Emerging Leaders Want To Grow [And They Appreciate The Support]: Capable, ambitious, emerging leaders and current leaders truly want training, mentoring and career guidance. They want to gain marketable skills that will support their growth and future. They want to become more versatile, invested, and valuable to their organization. And as a bonus…Happy employees equal happy customers!
- It Attracts Great People: Having a reputation as a good retail organization – one who cares enough to invest in their people – is great both for attracting and hiring new talent. With how savvy today’s retail customers are – consumers want to support brands that give back and who do good things for people. Retail organizations, like it or not, are transparent today. With resources such as Glassdoor, Indeed, etc. – word gets out and if the message and employer brand is positive, great people will want to be a part of that.
- It Helps Create Future Leaders & Other Promotable Team Members: A solid and embraced program of employee development will help: (A) Create a candidate pool of great employees that “get” the business. (B) Create opportunity that supports loyalty and growth. (C) Identify and support important career collateral for the health of the business.
- It’s Supports Bottom Line Growth: The costs associated with turnover and recruiting/hiring can be substantial. Not to mention the lost momentum when we are unprepared, as leaders, for change on our team. Focusing on the development and growth of our team will help maintain business and metric health during transitions.
- It Forces Us To Have a Forward-Thinking Perspective: Not only for our business but for your team members and their futures. Do we hold onto them or do we support their growth into another role in another organization when they are ready? If they are ready to take on the next level of their career and choose to look elsewhere because we don’t have an opening – who is next to fill their spot? How do we start preparing them? How can the current leader help support and shape their future? This also is very appropriate to identifying how rapidly changing our industry is. Being able to identify and reinvent our development programs to the shifting priorities of the business will help ensure we have capable and empowered leaders for the future.