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Retain or Retrain?

Furniture World Magazine


Creating retail workplace environments where talented people want to work discourages turnover and enhances bottom line results.

Employee turnover is inevitable, and retail managers often find themselves under pressure to hire and train someone just to fill a gap caused by a departing employee. Turnover is not always bad, but if it exceeds 50%—hiring three people annually for every six on your team—you may want to find ways to improve your retention rate.

As much as managers dislike hiring and onboarding, employees probably feel the same about looking for a new job. Although schedule, pay, and working conditions determine most of their decisions to quit and search for a new job, the number one reason people decide to stay or leave is the quality of the relationships with their immediate supervisors. People want to work for people they respect, and that’s not possible without consistency, empathy, appropriate coaching and recognition. You and your management team can build that respect if you adopt the following simple practices:

  1. Be Visible: Nothing beats managing by walking around. But, if for some reason, you can’t do it in person, call or video chat with your people regularly.

  2. Catch Them: Try to catch someone doing something RIGHT.

  3. Acknowledge: Even the smallest WIN counts. Acknowledge success right away.

  4. Address Poor Behavior: Whatever behaviors you don’t notice and manage quickly will become company policy. Address bad behavior immediately!

  5. Change: Retail business situations change constantly. Prepare your team with as much advance notice as possible.

  6. Private Chats: Conduct positive chats in your office. Your team needs to know that a private chat is not always a bad thing.

  7. “The number one reason people decide to stay or leave is the quality of the relationships with their immediate supervisors.”
  8. Shut Up and Listen: Whether a team member makes a suggestion or registers a complaint, don’t dismiss or defend it. Hear what they say, take notes, and ask, “What do you think we should do?” or “How can we address this situation?

  9. Encourage Future Leaders: Be a mentor and develop future leaders, even (maybe especially) if they are smarter than you.

  10. Protect Morale: Eliminate bad players on your team, even if they are the highest performers. They bring down morale and tear down your business. Don’t kid yourself—people in your organization are waiting for you to do something about them.

  11. Coach All Players: Sales training should be a daily occurrence, even if it’s only for a 10-minute session. On the operations side, have ‘morning huddles’ to discuss the challenges facing your business and your team, as well as the victories. Together, you are smarter than any one person.

  12. Train Obsessively: Provide training on the latest updates in information technology, selling skills, marketing, and logistics. Make sensible investments in tools and systems. Seek outside professional trainers as needed.

  13. Cut Some to Keep Others: Understand that some people can’t do the job you hired them for despite training and coaching. Mercifully cut the low performers. On the sales side, your good players get frustrated when a poor-performing colleague lets a sale walk that should have been closed. On the ops side, people get tired of cleaning up their messes or doing double work.

Even the best bosses can lose good people. Henry Ford II lost Lee Iacocca, and J.C. Penney Jr. lost Sam Walton. Things happen! Work every day to be the best boss ever. You will spend less time recruiting to fill open seats and more time building your team, culture, and business.

Of all the tasks you do to keep your business running, nothing is as much of a time sucker or has a slower payoff than recruiting and hiring. The fact is that recruiting is a 365-day-a-year job. Your goal should never be to hire the least objectionable warm body but to build a file of candidates that will grow and enhance your business.

“Even the best bosses lose good people. Henry Ford II lost Lee Iacocca, and J.C. Penney Jr. lost Sam Walton. Things happen!”

About Gordon Hecht: Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry. You can reach him at Gordon.hecht@aol.com