museums&MORE Fall 2012
Empowering Employees

Creating leaders to gain sales

The dynamics of employees are very interesting, to say the least. Since most stores have a variety of ages, personalities, sexes and experience among their employees, how you manage them can be a complicated task. The key factor here is identifying how each employee needs to be managed. While one may need more leadership and another may prefer to tackle individual projects, both need your attention to deliver the best performance they can.

Empowering your employees to be the strongest players they can be will not only add benefit to their performance, but benefits to your sales. The catch is identifying what you need to do for each employee to help accomplish this goal.

Recognizing Differences

According to Gallup Management Journal (GMJ), there are three types of employees based on a U.S. survey about customer service — engaged, not-engaged and actively disengaged. Employees who are engaged are passionate and feel a connection to their company, moving forward with company goals and organization growth. Not-engaged employees are essentially checked-out” and simply put time, but not energy or passion, into their work. Actively disengaged employees act out on unhappiness and underestimate the performance of others they work with.

It’s clear that only one of these three examples is ideal for any store, and your mission is to make sure all your employees are engaged.

If you are confident all your employees are engaged already, you are steps ahead of most managers. But if you are not sure where your employees fall into place here, schedule a time to speak with your employees directly. Through group brainstorming sessions, individual employee meetings and informal staff gatherings, you can gain a lot of insight on where employees are positioned in their commitment to your store.

It would be easy to do just one of these routinely, but it’s important to do all of these to be effective. Another tip? Be positive in your communication rather than focus on the negatives of the store or employee.

According to GMJ, managers should be talking with their employees about strengths frequently — not just their weaknesses. By focusing on the positives of an employee, individuals are more likely to perform stronger and produce higher sales. In a study of 1,874 employees by GMJ, sales increased by 7.8 percent after managers identified strengths with employees and encouraged them to use these. If greater profitability is your big picture goal, then supporting strengths among employees is one way to get there.

Feeding Off Employee Strengths

When employees are encouraged to use their strengths in their work environment, they feel a sense of empowerment. Uniquely identifying each employee’s strengths is essential in creating a team of leaders who can support each other with a common store goal — to gain sales. Because employees spend a lot of time interacting, it’s important that they recognize and respect each other’s talents and motivations.

If one employee is fueled by creating dynamic visual displays and another prefers to organize inventory, their combined efforts help the at large scope of the store. Their relationships as co-workers will become stronger by trusting each other to do the best they can, and ultimately knowing their combined work together is helping a common goal.

As a manager, it’s extremely important you lead the way in communicating each employee’s strengths. You can do this in many ways, and repeating them in multiple ways is encouraged. Some examples as to how you can support your employees’ strengths that will also be visible to your entire team are identified below.

Introduce an employee bragging wall that highlights strengths and jobs well done for each employee. Make it a central spot that has a positive message and also delivers encouraging words.

Have team meetings that include gratitude for positive employee behavior. Don’t leave anyone out! Make sure to have something positive to say about everyone. This could be at a start of a staff meeting or you could separate this and make it its own event.

Schedule employee leadership trainings where each employee identifies some top tips on a certain store task based on their own expertise. You could break this up into visual merchandising, inventory management, customer relations, buying and events, as well as any other category that is relevant to your store. Do one a month to make it special.

Remember, creating respect among employees is a critical component to empowering your entire team. Without leadership from everyone in their own, unique ways, you cannot achieve a team that is 100 percent engaged.

Using Leadership for Sales

Often employees don’t understand the layers that make up a retail environment. Sure, they may work in retail, but do they really understand it? If a strong window display entices a customer to come into the store, that’s just step one. What happens next creates step two and three and four and so on. Explaining that each component of retail is just as important as the other can help employees understand that while they aren’t great at everything, what they are good at is equally important.

Having a store message that sales is a group effort versus just a single employee’s responsibility can help achieve stronger performances from your employees. For example, if Employee A knows a tremendous amount about a specific product and Employee B is helping the customer already, it’s to your store’s benefit to pass this customer off to Employee A.

However, if your store is designed around the principle that each employee has to meet certain sales goals, then it’s likely Employee B will not pass this customer on to Employee A and in return, potentially lose a sale.

Remember that creating an empowered, leadership-focused team means working every day to keep teamwork alive. Quarterly trainings and employee pow-wows cannot take place infrequently, but instead need to be a day-to-day responsibility led by the store manager. Team building exercises can help strengthen this, but it’s the combined leadership of your employees that will create sales.

Appreciation and gratitude go a long way as well, so don’t neglect to tell your team how you feel about their performances. Support them where they need it, and applaud them when they excel.

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is an experienced retail and wholesale consultant, speaker and writer. She writes a weekly retail column with Crain’s Business and her professional retail blog, Retail Minded. Reyhle resides in Chicago with her family and is dedicated to supporting local, independent businesses.

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