Now that “Black Friday” has come and gone and “Cyber Monday” is upon us, it is important to focus on the increased traffic (week over week if not year over year) during the holiday season. We dealt with the “Strategy” theme in Part 1. In this entry, we will deal with the type of “Culture” that needs to be nurtured during this funky time of year during this even funkier economy.
It is very clear that any message that is being sent throughout the company needs to cascade effectively right to the shop floor. This is not only the case for corporate messaging and information regarding corporate strategy and performance (as we mentioned in Part 1) but any external marketing messages and promotional foci need to be carefully and thoroughly (not to mention repeatedly) cascaded as well. Either using eye-grabbing posters, memos, e-mails, texts and/or, most effective of them all, pre-shift one minute meetings should be explored to ensure the messages are getting through. These are critical to ensure every staff person understands what the goals of the shift (day) are and what the focus of the merchandising and marketing strategies are. Especially when there is heavy promotional activity that relies on a higher rate of conversion than normal (in order to make up the profitability gap due to the lower prices), the staff must be fully engaged and prepared on a shift by shift basis.
In this recessionary atmosphere, there is a lot of negativity in the newspapers, on TV, from friends and acquaintances who have lost their jobs. This leads to anxiety and a loss of self-confidence which happens easier, more frequently or much more quickly during these rocky times. That is why recognition programs are so critical right now. Of course they must be well designed, well thought out and well executed, but assuming that is the case, they are truly effective in generating morale, self confidence and a sense of team spirit that can typically boost performance. Time and time again studies show that what matters most to employees in any work place is recognition for a job well done and to be made to feel they can make a difference and that that difference is noticed. These are not expensive programs and we are not talking about bonus plans. The proverbial pat on the back, especially in front of their peers, citing specifics as to the accomplishment, goes a long way in creating an energized and motivated work force.
I noted much earlier during the past two years of this blogging phase of mine that one of areas that cannot be cut during these lean times is training and development. No matter how hard it is, if the company intends to be around and perform over the long haul, there needs to be a consistent commitment to training and development, especially on how to handle these rougher times. This goes directly to ensuring that the anyone who is responsible for leading teams or larger parts of organizations also benefit from on-going leadership development. If the organization possesses sophisticated, well trained and experienced leaders in the business, it should survive and even thrive through the choppier economic waters, especially against a competitor who disregards this type of development or shelves it due to budgetary constraints. I believe it is the single most powerful competitive advantage an organization can possess.
Finally, in my experience, the toughest cultural traits to instill in a consistent manner from coast to coast in every store at every moment are those of a true selling culture. Every customer that walks into your store or clicks onto your website needs to be a staff’s or a programmer’s centre of attention. There can be no distractions, no added work load and no excuses in order to maximize sales from anyone who walks through your doors or clicks through your portals. At the risk of repeating myself, I had one District Manager work for me coin the phrase “One Customer Equals Busy”. That meant that even if one customer were in your store browsing, the store’s focus needed to be on that customer and whatever his/her needs were. This mindset takes time and effort and consistent messaging and application to get across. Once it does, it provides a platform for optimizing your retail performance.