I was reminded again first hand the other day just how poorly too many retailers manage their relationships with their people. There are two areas in particular that are causing unnecessary disconnection with our teams and a growing sense of disbelief leading to a general lowering of productivity. Those two are the concept of ‘employee loyalty’ and manufactured ‘team passion’.
The number of times I have observed interview processes that force prospective employees to demonstrate the level of passion with which they want to work for the business and to illustrate that with out of context ideas of how they would use their passion to inspire the business shows at best poor interviewing skills and at worst someone who can’t manage themselves let alone staff. Performance reviews that focus on team members overtly demonstrating extreme loyalty to the business and personal passion, as if it should come from the team member not the business, fundamentally fail the concept of leadership and the reality test.
Today every employee in every major retail business knows that the corporation – in 99 per cent of cases – does not extend the same level of loyalty to them that they demand of the team member. People it seems today in retail are more often than not seen as a cost – and a variable cost at that. As such, the staff roster is culled to meet profit targets at the whim of management and the staff knows it.
Likewise the passion barometer. Poor leaders expect staff to generate passion disproportionately to that generated by the brand and the operating environment of the business itself. This might have worked to some degree twenty years ago but not today. However in an era where we have lost sight of what drives customer experience and who it is that delivers service, it perhaps should not come as a surprise.
The language needs to change. In a world preoccupied with performance at all costs, the language of ‘staff loyalty’ does not fit. It is the role of leaders to inspire passion and to create the context for it to flourish. Likewise we need to be honest and transparent with teams by sharing goals and accountabilities that have outcomes and consequences rather the pretence of ‘loyalty’. The contemporary employee is well aware that the average life expectancy of employment is no longer than five years and the average person will end up with more than eight employers in their lifetime.
Far from being ‘human resources’, our people are the principal source of productivity gain in an industry that revolves around human connection. To improve productivity we need to abandon the outdated, borrowed American values and HR crap that does nothing other than justify the employment of a formulaic head office department and tick a governance box that adds no value.
It has been universally proven that if your people feel they are really able to make a difference, that they are learning and they are improving their world not just yours, productivity shoots upwards. And in the new era of retail and the emerging pool of talent, the way we talk to our teams and those we wish to join them signals to them exactly what the outcomes will be for them as well as you. Fake corporate speak is out. Mutually motivating honesty that can sustain positive energy in the real world every day is in.
Peter James Ryan is head of Red Communication and can be contacted on (02) 9481 7215 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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