I am going to take a different tack for the next little while. I hope you will indulge me. Even though I am trying to make a living on some of the advice I am about to impart, I figured the retail scene could use some help from any and all corners to get through this tough environment.

I have compiled two checklists (because in retail, we all love our checklists :)) to assess whether a retailer is maximizing their business and, if not, to identify some areas that retailers can look at in order to help them achieve “Optimal Retail” status. The second list is a “Top Ten Non-Negotiables in Tough Traffic Times” list (with apologies to David Letterman). This list will give you my own take on what cannot be overlooked in these softer times in order to help retain “Optimal Retail” status.

We will start with a few excerpts over the few entries from my basic “Optimal Retail” checklist and follow up with a few excerpts from the “Top Ten” List. I will pick and choose a few in each list. For the full list, please do not hesitate to hire me ;)…

One common trait of any great organization, regardless of industry is an elevated amount of “Employee Engagement”. The more the employees of the organization at EVERY level understand the business philosophy, buy in to the direction and culture of the product and the brand and the more they are encouraged to participate in the communication processes set up for them, the healthier the organization usually is.

This is the first thing I look for when I assess an organization. How committed are the employees? What is the turnover like and at what levels? Do the front line employees understand the “mission” of the company? Why do the front line employees want to work for that company?

Some of the little engagement keys to look for are:

  • Types and frequency of communication vehicles
  • Do all employees have access to the information they need?
  • Do employees feel they can make a difference in the company and that they have a voice?
  • What is the ratio of HR professionals to the total employee base?
  • Is there an annual employee survey?
  • What is the compensation philosophy of the company ie. is there profit sharing or options available for ALL levels?
  • What does the performance review process look like and more importantly, what do the employees think of the process?

The old adage of  “keeping morale high amongst the troops” doesn’t necessarily cover all the bases any longer. Employees need to be constantly stimulated and engaged in the inner workings, creative development and decision making of any company. If they feel like they have the ability to provide input and that their feedback is being heard and acted upon, their productivity will soar and the newest, freshest ideas will be unleashed to provide the company with a great competitive advantage.

Peter Drucker always used to say that companies should treat their employees as if they were volunteers. This simply means making them feel appreciated, making them feel special, expecting a lot but understanding that they are more prone to walk out on you today than ever before. A very well respected employee base is a productive one for sure.

I will leave you with one further thought…I remember when I ran a division for a big global retailer and I made sure I read every exit interview in the division. One comment resonates with me to this day: “My work was appreciated but I wasn’t”.  Those 7 words have stayed with me for over a decade and they inspire me improve every day in the area of employee engagement.