If there are two areas of retailing that retailers say cause them the greatest amount of frustration – they would be inventory and staff. Aged inventory at least affords you the luxury of being able to ignore it – even if it doesn’t go away! Staffing issues however can be a far greater burden on a managers time.
Often the chief cause of staff disruption arises when a staff member is attempting to do a job that is beyond their skill set. Rather than just admitting they are unable to cope, they deal with the matter in a variety of ways that may seem to have nothing to do with the issue – arriving late to work, low productivity, arguing with fellow staff members – we humans are nothing if not complex beasts!
Last month we spoke about the importance of recruiting well – but what happens when you have an existing problem that you’ve already hired? Too often the problem is ignored, but although this may result in short term gain for the owner or manager, the long term effect on staffing, sales and morale can be catastrophic.
There are a number of steps that can help you deal with a staffing issue:
1. Look at your own performance first. This isn’t easy to do but the simplest problem to solve is the one you can control 100%. Have you been clear in the instructions required for the job? Has the staff member received the training necessary to perform the task? Is there regular communication and feedback on their performance? By the law of averages, 50% of the issues surrounding staff performance will be caused by management not providing an appropriate structure to perform the job.
2. Profile your staff. Are they the right person for the job? Do they have the skills set and personality attributes to meet the required standard? Profiling your staff involves assessing their compatibility to the job requirements and can be as important for existing staff as it is for hiring new recruits. An in depth profile not only identifies compatibility, but provides a guide on how to manage them effectively to get the most out of their performance.
3. Have a talk with them. Ignoring issues doesn’t fix anything. Often the process of having a conversation can go a long way to resolving the matter. Performance can often improve when the staff member knows their issues are being heard and that there is someone ready to listen and offer assistance.
4. Manage the impact on other staff. Depending on the situation, the staff member may be affecting others through their performance or attitude. It is important that other staff understand that this impact is being acknowledged and that steps are being put in place to make things smoother. Most importantly, if the staff member concerned is being disruptive, other staff need to understand that this sort of behavior won’t be tolerated. Staff respect management that are seen to set boundaries for performance and will take steps to enforce them when required.
5. Have contingencies. You should always ensure there is back up for every job function. This makes sense regardless of staff performance as you can lose personnel at any stage due to resignations or illness. Make sure that all of your staff have a person who can do their job in their absence. Problems can develop where a staff member starts to feel they are indispensable to the business, and it becomes difficult to take strong action where there is no adequate replacement. Rotating your staff through different functions regularly can also provide job variety.
6. If you must release them... do it quickly. Obviously employment legislation must be considered, but a long drawn out situation is disruptive to the team and unfair on the staff member. Wherever possible give the person the chance to make the decision themselves rather than you having to make it for them. Most staff that are disruptive or don’t perform the job to the standard are unhappy and in many cases, a discussion about their wants and needs will have them realize that they need to move on for their own sakes so they can find a role that is more fulfilling.