Thursday, 22 September 2011

6 steps to Employee Engagement

II was fortunate enough to attend the WiRN (Women in Retailing Network) breakfast lecture yesterday morning with speaker Gemma Giovanazzo.  The topic was the customer experience and how do we inspire our staff to deliver the best in customer service every time?

Gemma is the customer experience manager for Ford of Canada and spoke with lots of experience on how big business develops and ensures the customer experience.

After the lecture was over, I and the two lovely women at my table discussed how employee engagement can translate to small business.  In my experience as a store manager, here is what I can share on employee engagement.
  1. Treat your employees as equals.  Ask their opinions, get their feedback, and take what they have to say seriously.
  2. Praise for good work.  Lots of employers offer incentives or prizes which is great when you can do it, but what many employees really want is just a simple “great job” or “thanks for your hard work today.”  Try it; it feels great!
  3. Take an interest.  Try to remember fun personal details about your employees.  When I was a store manager for a big box retailer, I made a point of remembering everyone’s favourite colour, kids names, and any other personal details that I could.  We also had crayons and stickers as well as little treats stashed in my office for when they brought their kids or grandchildren by.  It was so much fun!
  4. Communication.  Gemma said it right; it’s so important!  Keep your employees informed of what’s going on with your store.  Tell them what you’ve purchased, what’s coming in, new sales techniques, what’s happening in the store and in the neighbourhood, etc.  Structured meetings aren’t always necessary, but try to make sure everyone gets necessary messages.  Even consider a communication book in a place where everyone can find it!
  5. Feedback.  Whether it’s simply telling them what they’re doing well or asking for improvement in certain areas, feedback is so necessary for an employee to feel engaged in their job.  Set regular intervals for feedback and make sure that if someone’s performance needs improvement in any area, you’re dealing with it right away.  Nobody likes to be doing something wrong and not be told about it for days, weeks, or months.  A simple, gentle conversation is all that’s necessary.  Tell them what they’re doing well and then what you would like them to improve and why.  Finish the conversation by reinforcing that they’re good at their job, but you would just like them to improve in this one area.
  6. Education.  Get them out of the store and get them educated.  If you can, send them out to information sessions on customer service, sales, merchandising or anything specific to the products you carry.  Make it an event for them!  Ensure you’re also providing as much product knowledge as possible and passing on and sharing your passion for the product you sell.

There are lots of big expensive steps to employee engagement and lots of large companies invest millions of dollars into ensuring it happens.  That’s not always necessary.  As a store owner and manager, follow these six steps and the result will likely be happy employees who treat the customers as beautifully as you treat them.  

Big thanks for Kendall and Kristi for their great company and conversation yesterday!

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