What Do They Want And How Do We Deliver It

What Do They Want And How Do We Deliver It

I shared this quote the other today by the CEO of Whole Foods Market, John Mackey, on an article I wrote titled, The Power Of Employee Happiness In Retail, “If you are lucky enough to be someone’s employer, then you have a moral obligation to make sure people look forward to coming to work in the morning.”

This statement is outrageously inspiring. Not too terribly long ago I was having a conversation with a Director of Stores for a company that really worked their employees hard, with no recognition, no tools to drive business, no planning, and seriously chaotic communication (they would call an hour before closing and tell the stores they needed to stay open two additional hours). When I asked how can we do it better and offered a few suggestions…the DOS stated “Hey, they signed on for this, they have to deal with it”. It was such a shockingly vacuous statement from a retail executive, but these people are out there. Frighteningly in executive leadership roles.

In case there is any question, I 100% agree with Mr. Mackey’s position on our retail industry employees. We ask a lot of them – at every level. The customers ask a lot of them – at every level. We need to give them a reason to want to be great employees and future leaders in our industry. To quote Jason Lauritsen [again], “Engagement is a renewable daily decision that is voluntarily given when the company has proven worthy of it.” Sure, they have to come to work if they want a paycheck. Sure, they have do a little of this and a little of that if they want to want to avoid corrective action but they don’t have to do much more. That being said there many people in retail who, regardless of the company and level of motivation instilled, are driven to deliver excellence. They create their success. These people are so invaluable [if you know someone like this, please take some time today to tell them how appreciated they are]! Ideally, in a perfect retail environment the give to get relationship of motivation is 50/50.


One of the many things I like about retail is that we get to see a lot of people start their work experience in our industry. Retail is a great first job and in so many cases it becomes a fun, ever-changing, interesting career. It can set you up with a tremendous foundation for service and interaction. It can help you learn to quickly build rapport and establish relationships. It truly is a wonderful industry.

On 2/2/16 SHRM published a great article about what the “Emerging Adults” category of employees, that are now entering the workforce, want in a job. Here are their 9 Key Requirements:

1. Provide Continuous Learning

2. Help Build Career Capital

3. Help Them Make A Difference [Company and Environment]

4. Provide Constant Feedback [Real Time, Stay Interviews, Career Path Planning]

5. Help Them Achieve Financial Independence

6. Listen Carefully and Offer Leadership Roles [Rotational Assignment, Stretch Assignments]

7. Help Them Find Mentors

8. Help Them To “Do Their Own Thing” [Support their entrepreneurial spirit]

9. Provide Work/Life Balance [Time Management, Productivity, etc.]

Yes…this article was specifically about the “Emerging Adults” but this is exactly what most people want and have wanted from their employers. Perhaps the words are a bit different [Career Capital today = Marketable Skills last year] but the ideas are the same. I think the big difference is that the newest generation is entirely empowered and connected through Social Media and the sharing of ideas to make an impact – creating a new way to work for themselves. It’s a powerful thing. It’s also a huge gift for retail organizations. It takes the guess work out of leadership and direction and what we should be doing to drive results and growth on our team and with our business.

Our biggest challenge is now how to deliver these components effectively to our employees – all of them. How to model and build programs around these “needs” that drive value not only to the individual’s personal and professional growth but to the bottom line of the business [profits].


How Do We Deliver It?

All of these things are something of a moving target because they are fluid and the only way to keep up with them it to engage our team in conversations about them. Communicate with them. Exceed their expectations [Engage, energize, and enchant – just like we expect them to do with the customers]. What that means is:

-Deliver the 3 C’s of communication deliver value and understanding:
1. Clarity
2. Consistency
3.Constancy                                                                                                                                                                                     – Employees want to have confidence in the messages and communication of the company. Keeping information relevant, precise, accurate, transparent, and consistent will help support this. Use every communication as a opportunity for growth and expanding experience and comprehension of the business;
– Provide the right resources for their style of learning – make the investment in their futures;
– Ask their opinion using town halls, surveys, OD leadership and commit to taking action the ideas that will improve the business;
– Provide real-time feedback and recognition and allow them to recognize each other;
– Hire brand ambassadors and brand advocates and support their desire to share your message/product with extraordinary content;
– Encourage and support healthy workplace relationships to foster proactive mentoring;
– Deliver unique and awesome benefits/perks.

The other big part of living up to their expectations is that we have leadership in place that is accountable for these deliverables. We, as leaders, need to commit to providing the critical tools and guidance that our employees (regardless of generational bucket) need to feel a part of and connected to our business. “When 332,860 bosses, peers and subordinates were asked what leadership skills—regardless of level—were viewed as the most important attributes for a successful leader, the top skill named was the ability to inspire and motivate others.” [Source: SHRM]

Here is how our peers at Crate & Barrel roll with the role they play in continuous learning by fostering innovation and creativity:

Jann Iaco, a training specialist with Crate & Barrel in Northbrook, Ill., views continuous learning as key for engagement. She prizes affinity learning, which she defined as “engaging someone in a learning environment by including them in a conversation and allowing them to succeed or fail.”

One proven approach is to create space within an organization where employees can play with ideas, try on different roles and develop new capacities, says Pamela Meyer, Ph.D., author of From Workplace to Playspace: Innovating, Learning and Changing Through Dynamic Engagement.

“It’s actually the playspace that enables us to find out what kind of people we really are,” said Meyer, director of the Center to Advance Education for Adults at DePaul University in Chicago. She said playspaces are not job-specific, and that HR can take the lead in creating learning opportunities as the company’s “permission-giver.” [Source: SHRM]

It’s an exciting time in retail – we have the information needed to bring our employees and customers what they want without having to guess. Now – we just have to follow their lead and deliver the tools to make our businesses a success and develop the future leaders in our industry.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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