Monday, April 19, 2010

Staffing 1

Staffing a retail store begins with determining your needs. Do you even need to hire anyone? If so, what do you want that person to do? What "kind" of person do you want? Are you needing sales, operations, merchandising, or a general do-it-all kind of person? There are many options, just like picking out a car, so it pays to be sure of what you want before shopping applicants or you might end up with someone you can't use or don't want.

When I look around the store and think about what positions I want to hire for, it is easy to say, "Oh, I need another salesman" or "I need a cashier" or "I need a stocker." But I cannot afford to be that simplistic. The general purpose employee is becoming more and more valuable as the payroll belt tightens in a decidedly Darwinian economy. When I refer to someone as 'general purpose' that is not saying they are incapable of excelling at a specific area of retail, but rather they are at least moderately capable of functioning at an acceptable level in all areas.

In years past I would look at an applicant's prior history or their strength in a particular area as an indicator of whether or not they would be a good hire. But I have learned that there is a lot of truth to the axiom, "Hire attitude, train skill." Someone with a great attitude that is teachable is far more valuable than a terrific salesman with a poor attitude. Who wants to be around someone complaining or selfish or hateful 40 or 50 hours a week? Dan Bobinski wrote an excellent piece detailing the thinking behind hiring based on attitude.

So I begin by deciding what areas of the store need help. Then I decide the type of person who could provide that help, based on previous jobs, skills, education, and most importantly attitude. Although this person's strengths lie within the areas I need, they must be capable of working in every area of the store.

But where does this leave me when I say, "Hire attitude, train skill."? Well, when it comes down to it attitude trumps all skill. Regardless of an individual's strengths, skills, accomplishments, or awards if their attitude is poor so are their chances of being hired at my store.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Staffing intro

Staffing a successful retail store is probably 50% of the key to the successful part. Every customer that comes back into the store is a testament to the fact that the employees did not piss them off enough to keep them away. I say it like that because, while everyone talks about going above and beyond for customers, most people just want basic courtesy from retail employees. When I shop, I just appreciate a smile, a 'Hello', and a 'Thank You'. I don't need to be led around by the hand in a store or have every single product showcased and demonstrated for me.

So it all boils down to getting a basically solid, courteous employee in the door, through the application/interviewing process, trained, and then onto the salesfloor. But that pathway is filled with mines and pitfalls. My next few posts I will cover some of the things that happen along this path.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Recommitted (Sp?)

So, I have recommitted to posting some story or thought or happening to this blog everyday that I work. I am going to change it up and start mixing in some of the general stories, anecdotes, and odd little tid-bits I run across each day. So, unless something happens in the next few hours this will have to count as today's post.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Is your personal responsibility now my responsibility?

It seems that no one wants to take any responsibility for their actions or inaction any longer. Every day I have another opportunity to take care of someone else's mistake, error, or problem. Like I don't have enough of my own issues to deal with, please let me deal with your first.

We often encounter situations with customers where a little foresight, caution, or common sense would avoid problems altogether. I want to give the retailer point of view on some of those situations: injury accidents, order errors, and defective product returns/exchanges.

Customer accidents involving injury are fairly common. People slip, trip, smash fingers, cut themselves, and get hurt a lot of different ways every day in retail stores. What amazes me is the customer almost always blames the store. A common one is the customer that trips over a floor mat/rug at an entrance/exit. Those rugs are there for a reason: to collect water, collect dirt, define the entrance or exit, etc. Now on average those rugs are about 1/4" thick and when an edge gets flipped over by someone dragging their foot over it the edge becomes about 2-3" high. As a human being, I was gifted with the ability to lift my foot over 3". I have no business dragging my foot over that and falling down. What about people with disabilities that cannot lift their feet that high? Well, if you know you drag your feet and that is a problem, then maybe you should pay a little extra attention to where you walk. This type of accident I have personally witnessed more than once. The most frightening was the man that fell (couldn't lift his feet that high), then proceeded to literally chase me around the store with his cane trying to "beat the shit" out of me. Nice, huh? I'm sure his grandchildren would be proud. Another specific accident that really bothers me happened about 5 years ago. A father was walking into the store I was at with his 4 year old son. The boy runs up to the front doors from the side, under the detection range of the sensor that opens the door. The boy puts his hand on the glass and as the father walks up the doors slide open. Now had the boy taken his hand off the door, this would not be a story, but you can guess what happened. The boy kept his hand on the door and sure enough, his entire right arm was pulled between two heavy metal and glass doors. Ever heard a four year old scream for his life. I hadn't until that point. Well, it seems from first glance the store had no liability at all in this instance, but the father did not see it that way at all. He demanded that I turn off the doors and have them replaced with something safer. He was beligerent at best and downright abusive most of the time I spoke with him. I tried reasoning with him that no one could possibly anticipate a person not taking their hands off the door when they opened. Well, it turned ugly and went well above my position and was turned back on the father as a possible case of child endagerment for failure to properly supervise his child.

I'm getting too wordy here, so I will finish the other two points later.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The mobile manager

I am entering this blog post from my phone to prove a point. My phone is almost always with me and so is the chance that I will get a call on my day off concerning a problem at the store. These problems are sometimes an easy to fix issue and at other times they ultra-complex, multifaceted disaster. But as the manager I am expected to always have an immediate, correct response to every conceivable problem (even on my day off).

Monday, June 8, 2009


This is my first post in a while. It seems that whenever I try to start anything new I get overrun with the busy life of a retail manager. I have spent the last couple of weeks cleaning, organizing, and trying to overcome the impossibility of keeping payroll in-line.

Payroll is one of those fickle things that can be either a blessing or a curse, but rarely both. You can be blessed with some unexpected extra boost in dollars. Or you can be cursed with a sudden reduction, coupled with a plethora of tasks and assignments due on short notice.

One of the least pleasurable tasks of a manager is cutting payroll. Basically that means you reduce the amount of money you typically spend during the week for your employees' pay. So, I recently have had to spend a couple of hours deciding which employees are going to get less on their next paycheck. These decisions weigh heavily on me. I take vacation days when I can to reduce the payroll burden, but when there is a lot going on in the store that is not always feasible. Therefore, I make the call on who can pay their bills and who can't. Many factors play into my decisions and I would like to think I am impartial and make decisions based on performance alone. But that is not the truth. In addition to performance I also consider the employees' obligations, personal life, and pay rate.

The saddest part is that the cuts take a huge toll on everyone in the building. Everyone has to work harder to pick-up the slack from missing employees and customers are not too forgiving of a reduced work force. I get so enraged to hear comments from customers about a lack of employees or how they "couldn't find anyone to help them."

At times like this, I always feel the same thing: Hopelessness.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Attendance Issues

Just when it seemed that things were beginning to get smoother, the phone rang at 7:20 this morning, Sunday. Not usually a big deal on Sunday since I'm up early to get everyone ready for church, but we didn't have church service today because we met last night. So my once in a long while to really sleep in was ruined. Why? Because an employee failed to show up for work. One hourly employee missing is usually not that big of a deal. You deal with it. You make choices and compromises about tasks and customer service and breaks and lunches. But this was different because it was an openning employee. Meaning they were to enter the building with the manager first thing in the morning. For obvious reasons we don't enter a locked building alone. Staying alive is the most obvious and a dead witness can't tell the Police what they saw. So we don't go in alone.

Well, it was my openning manager calling me. Give him credit, it appears that I was the last person he called. He tried every other manager and every person scheduled today, but I was the only one to answer. I wish I could say I had a magic response that fixed everything, but I didn't. He wanted permission to go in alone, but I nixed that. Don't need a fatherless family weighing on my conscience. I recommended he call one of the other managers that lives nearby and ask them to wait in the store with him until the next hourly associate arrives. Inconvenient for all, but I was trying to actually accomplish something by making everyone else uncomfortable. Instead of me being the one to hold someone accountable, I wanted those managers to do it for me. I want them to step-up to the plate and hit the no-show with all their frustrations at having their day interrupted. The no-show stocker provides the fuel and I lit the match. Now I didn't call back and no one called me, so I guess that was the right call. I'll find out in the morning when I talk to the managers involved.

All this is to say that attendance issues are one of the biggest problems retail managers face each day. Tardy, absent, sick, no-call-no-show, leaving early, and late lunches drive me crazy. I think all the time about the unemployment levels and how everyone is always begging for more hours and I am amazed that this goes on. Not only is it a problem for me, it is a problem for other employees and customers. An openning cashier is stuck at the register until the closing cashier gets there. An early morning customer might have to wait in line longer if an openning cashier is late for work. This is a problem that permeates every retail store I've ever worked in.

This attendance issue seems to be tied to a certain age of employee. Better yet, it seems their maturity level is a great indicator of their attendance habits. And it is easily observed that maturity levels are falling in the current crop of young employees (under 25 years of age). I get a few here and there that actually have some vague semblance of work ethic and responsibility, but those have been few and far between over the last year or so. It seems that a sense of entightlement has swept over a generation and getting them to understand the facts of life is a never-ending task of mine. But my personal opinion is that their parents should have taught them how the world works and how to be a responsible adult, not their manager. So maybe the problem is with the parents of this generation. People that believe the lie of "It takes a village." It doesn't take a village. It takes a mom and a dad with the courage and intelligence to say, "NO!". Or to say, "Do it right now, the right way." I see the way my employees behave or fail to act like adults and I see all the things I know I must train my children to be better. I will do my part, because I will not leave raising my children to their boss.