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Motivating Your Retail Workforce

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We have all worked low level jobs, in fact, most of us are still stuck in these low level jobs because of the state of the economy. We understand that having a job and a steady paycheck is more important than the glory jobs we’ve long been dreaming of. So as we march into the sunset of our service or retail jobs, overqualified and overeducated, we get to deal the with generation that refuses to retire yet labels and sees our generation as lazy. Undeserving of the jobs because we refuse to find them; but if you are a manager or supervisor in these industries, you already understand the plight of the younger workforce, and you understand that traditional motivation techniques may not apply. So what should you do to motivate your workforce that feels under-appreciated, overworked, and underpaid

Stand up for your workers

I worked in retail for years, towards the end of high school and all throughout college. There are two faces of retail, the one the consumer sees, and the behind the scenes that anyone who has working in any type of retail job. In any retail job you can imagine, at some point you or one of your employees are going to take attitude or abuse from a disgruntled customer. Corporate policy probably tells you to throw your employee under the bus on this one and kiss the customers butt for retention purposes. But being a good manager goes beyond the enforcement of corporate policy. You work almost daily side by side with your workforce. You know them as people, not the units of labor as is described by corporate. Even the more seasoned retail workers understand that the pressures and expectations placed on the managers are often high and unrealistic, but even with that knowledge, some of the best managers I worked for knew when to stand for an employee to a customer.  If the employee is wrong, fine then you are doing your job, but if the customer is wrong and tries to pin you against your employee because they are following policy, standing up for your employee has more of a benefit have you may think. Managers that stood up for me, or put themselves between the angry customer and myself, gave me a sense of pride for my manager, and chances are it will instill pride and loyalty in your workers as well.

managerBe a Manager

A common mistake that is made in the service and retail industries when managing a younger workforce, or the workforce of our generation that went to college and is still works these types of jobs, will have you run into disgruntled employees. The state of the economy is stressful on everyone. And having a workforce that is either stuck in a job they hate, or having to work multiple jobs in order to make the wage they can live on and pay off their debt, doesn’t leave much room for sympathy for a customer’s needs. While it is important to know your workforce, and be kind at times, you’re still a boss. If you choose to tread the line of a friendly manager, know when to be the boss and when to be supportive.

Get your hands dirty

Do not be afraid to get your hands dirty. The most common shortcomings in retail managers, is that they forget the industry they work in. A lot of managers feel that they are above the lower work, but any manager worth their pay, should understand and be able to work every position in their store or establishment. Dishes need to be cleaned? Roll up your sleeves and get busy. Does the garbage need to be emptied, or the registers are backing up…start bagging. This is another great opportunity for you to get on the front line of the most basic aspect of the retail or service industry. You get to be one on one with customer and reinforcing the values of your company to your customers, and showing your employees that if you can do the work, so can they. All throughout history, some of the most revered generals and leaders were the ones that led from the front, marching into battle in front of their troops, not hiding in the background barking out orders.

The customer is not always right. In fact most of the time the customer is wrong, and gets cranky when they know that they’re wrong. You’re employees, pending you have decent ones, are not looking to put one over on you, but are looking for a supportive and effective manager. Show your employees that you are unafraid to get down and dirty, and work the jobs that no one wants to work. That you understand that helping the operations of day to day business is just as important as delegating responsibility. Your workforce is the key to your establishment’s success, and just as you are the boss, they are just as important to the business as they are to you working their position. Show them you value them, and respect and productivity will be the effects of your motivation tactics.

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