As of August 2nd, 2019, the unemployment rate was 3.7%, on par with what we’ve seen thus far in 2019. While this is great news for anyone and everyone looking for a job (or looking to change jobs) this should make retailers everywhere a little bit nervous, especially when it comes to store managers.  

We ask a LOT from our managers, and ultimately, it’s up to them to keep the store running smoothly and profitably. They oversee everything from inventory to budgets, record keeping to customer retention, hiring and retaining staff, and then firing when things go south. The manager is the backbone of the store, and its success, or failure, ultimately lies with them.

Not only are your managers vital to the success of any store, they are the most influential person in an employee’s work-life. Keep your managers happy, and that will likely translate down to the rank-and-file and reduce turnover throughout the store.

So what’s a retail leader to do? 

Simple – make their jobs easier. 

Ok, maybe that’s not so simple. 

Or is it? 

Steve Jobs once famously said “Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”

Start by taking a few steps back and learn the day-to-day realities of your store managers. Take a walk in their shoes – try shadowing one of them for a few days or more. Before you start, map out what you think an ideal day should look like, and take note of where reality deviates from the ideal. Specifically take note of how things are done and look for opportunity to streamline or simplify their tasks and responsibilities.

Step 1: Walking in the door, what’s what? 
What’s happening (or isn’t?) the moment your manager gets in? Do they know who’s on the floor, who’s late and who’s a no-show? How do they learn this information, and what do they do if someone is late or a no-show?

What does their office look like? Are there sticky notes with time-off requests or long to-do lists? Or is it well organized and is the manager ready to walk the store the moment they get in?

What about the tasks of the day? Does your manager have a good handle on what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and any associated deadlines? Is there an urgent request from corporate that’s a bit outside of the norm, and how does that one-off get handled? 

Where is the store stacking up against projected sales? What does Sales per Labor Hour look like, and what kind of day is the manager looking ahead to? 

Step 2: What’s next?
Do all associates have their responsibilities and to-dos for the day? How is that being managed and prioritized? Are the most important things getting done, or do some of them get put on the back-burner for later? 

Step 3: Get in the weeds
Inevitably the day is derailed by something unexpected. Take note of what it is and look for opportunity to minimize the impact. Did an associate call out? Was someone late? Did corporate send out an urgent request to change up one of the displays or recall a product? 

Walk the store: how does the floor look? Is everything where it should be? If not, how is the manager assigning out tasks to associates? How is he/she ensuring everything is up to standards and validating that? What happens when barriers arise? How is the manager getting help from corporate? 

Step 4: Plan for tomorrow
Who’s on the schedule for tomorrow, and do they know what to focus on? Are their tasks scheduled out and planned? What kind of day is the team looking at? Will they have time for some of those back-burner projects, or is it projected to be a busy day? 

Step 5: Look ahead
Is the schedule set for the next week? Are there any changes or call outs that need manager intervention? How about the following week? 

What about associate trainings and development? Do you have any associates interested in moving up in the organization, and is there a plan to help them develop? 

Now what? 
Head back to corporate and compare your notes to the ideal day you mapped out prior to your experience in the store. Where does the reality of your managers day-to-day deviate from the ideal? What processes can you change to help make their day easier? Are there technologies or systems that can help your managers streamline their day or their tasks? 

Ask yourself: What would the impact be to your organization if your managers' work-lives were a little easier? Could they spend more time walking the store with your employees? Or helping your customers find the right product? Getting corporate tasks completed? 

Helping your managers run their stores well will go a long way to benefiting your entire organization, and modern workforce and task management solutions can help automate, streamline and simplify many of the challenges our managers are faced with every day. By giving store managers the tools they need to complete tasks and manage their associates, managers will be more productive, less stressed out and, most importantly, they’ll be happy in their role. This means they’ll stay longer, build a strong team around them and make their store successful.  

Published: Friday, August 2, 2019