Over the years in countless conversations, I’ve heard business owners, HR managers, store supervisors and director of operations, discuss in frustration how they in their respective jobs, and the companies they work for, could achieve so much more if only they had the right store personnel.
Comments like, “Finding good store managers and CSRs is holding our company back from taking our business to the next level,” or, “We have great store locations and layouts. It’s the quality of our employees and our inability to execute that is causing so many of our stores to underperform.” Sound familiar? Have you had similar conversations within your company? If so, you’re certainly not alone.
Price of Entry vs. Differentiator
Having a great store location, like far-corner, high-traffic count, lots of rooftops, and limited competition, along with a great architectural design, does not, in and of itself make your store unique or give you a competitive advantage. The reason being is that your competitors also have great locations and store designs. Therefore, the playing field is level.
The way you win is not by playing on a level playing field, but by tipping the playing field in your favor. And how do you do that? Through people! Not real estate, design, products or services - but through people.
Don’t get me wrong, real estate, store design, products and services are indeed important. But in today’s highly competitive marketplace, these things are merely the ante to get into the game – the price of entry; not a competitive advantage, unless of course you have no competition, and what are the chances of that? Besides, real estate, store design, products and services don’t execute themselves – people do.
Think about the investment you make in acquiring the land, construction, and fully stocking the store. Big number isn’t it? And unfortunately that number is getting bigger by the moment. But nothing happens until you add the final piece to the puzzle – people.
You’ve just spent a fortune and now you turn the keys over to your store supervisor whose job it is to install a store manager who will then hire store employees. Are you feeling a little bit anxious right about now? God knows you should be. How much did that baby cost you again?
Redefining Employee Expectations
So now your new store is ready for business. What are your expectations of your store manager and his or her employees? I’ll answer that question for you since I’ve asked it a thousand times and the answers are all pretty much the same: 1) show up, 2) be in uniform, and 3) don’t steal.
Admit it – that’s pretty much the extent of how low we’ve set the bar on store employee job performance expectations. You continue to get what you continue to expect! So if the leaders within your company have low expectations of the folks who work in your stores, then who’s to blame for underperformance?
Discretionary effort is the gap between how much effort, energy and creativity an employee is putting forth, and how much the employee “could” put forth if he or she so desired. Most employees only give enough effort not to get fired.
In a recent research study that my company conducted, we asked store employees to “honestly” rate their job performance effort on a scale of 1-10, where 10 represents maximum effort. The average score was six. When we asked the question again, but incorporated the discretionary effort definition, the average score increased by two points, from six to eight.
Statistical analysis will tell me that your company is no different. At your next management staff meeting, ask your leaders why that is. With cut-throat competition, you either perform or perish.