Retail executives all too often rely on word-of-mouth and on-the-job training to teach associates how to present a consistent message to customers and perform day-to-day operations. However, documentation of policies and procedures is not only a better approach, it is critical if management is to standardize the manner in which store personnel complete required tasks, according to Jim Bunn, a partner and managing director of Clear Thinking Group, a retail/consumer products manufacturing consultancy headquartered here.
“With the high level of turnover in the retail home furnishings industry, teaching new associates how to correctly perform their tasks is a never-ending process,” says Bunn, who leads the firm’s Process and Performance Management Practice Group. “Documented policies and procedures simplify employee education. When this information is documented, associates always have a place to go to find answers to their questions if they are unsure about how to perform a task.”
Bunn recommends that retailers appoint one individual at the corporate level to assume responsibility for knowledge and documentation of all procedures. These procedures should cover all tasks, from store opening to closing. The designated party should serve as the point of contact for any questions concerning these issues. Additionally, all documentation should be reviewed, updated and revised on a continuous basis. For best results, Bunn advises, the person responsible for creating and maintaining the manual must play an integral role in all discussions regarding changes to processes and systems. “Otherwise, something is bound to slip through the cracks,” he notes.
Once policies and procedures documentation is in place, retail executives must address and communicate to associates how and where these procedures can be accessed. “Make this step as simple as possible,” Bunn recommends. Many companies offer online access to this information, using links from their home pages to documentation stored on a master server. This not only renders it easy for store associates to find the information they require, it allows retailers to alter the information without printing and distributing hard copies of new documents to individual stores and throughout the company.
Earmarking proper time for newly hired associates to read through the manual is equally essential. “Employees never remember everything in the manual on the initial read, but that first look can serve as a baseline for training and understanding,” Bunn concludes. “And don’t forget to develop a tracking process to monitor which associates have reviewed all policies and procedures.”
About Clear Thinking Group
Clear Thinking Group is a national advisory organization that provides a unique perspective on business opportunities and challenges in a variety of industries such as: retail, consumer products, manufacturing, automotive, entertainment, textiles, and temporary staffing services. For further information, visit the firm’s website at www.clearthinkinggrp.com.
Furniture World Magazine-Business solutions for furniture retailers