Managers, Take a Page from Retailers

When shopping, there are universal phrases that most retail people know and use when engaging a customer. Some use as you enter to make you feel welcome, or when you look lost or unsure, and nearly all use as appreciation and as you leave. So, why not take a lesson from retailers and ask these questions when engaging with your employees?

May I help you?

Often, we think we manage our people, but more often, we are managing projects. Effective people managers will ask employees, “what do you need (and as follow on) and how can I help you?” So if you are a manager that assigns projects/tasks and states what must get done, try changing your approach to ask, “What can I do to help you be successful?” 

This conversation needs to happen often, not just once a year in a review. An employee usually knows what they need to do their job but may not be getting it from their manager. But it’s a manager’s job to ask. 

May I help you find something?

I often smile at this one because if you’re like me, you just want to wander the shop to get ideas. But when looking for something specific, you’re grateful for guidance in efficiently finding what you need. In fact, I’m always impressed when a sales assistant cares enough to make suggestions (be it an alternative product or even another store, if they don’t carry what you need). Even online retailers have chatbots to help.

Good managers must be perceptive enough to see where an employee seems lost or unsure on where to go for help. Employee conversations that uncover issues must happen early and often with new employees and certainly with individuals who have recently been “reorganized” and feeling insecure in a new department. Provide direction, or give alternatives such as a “buddy” or a possible mentor. In the case of organizational change, cultivate your “change champions” individuals who can help fellow employees find what they need without always having to go to their manager.

Thank you for coming in.

Shoppers expect a good experience, and if they don’t, they won’t return. That’s the case with employees too. They have a job to do and try to do it well. They expect that when they do, their company will deliver. But they also must feel appreciated, otherwise, they go elsewhere. 

But too often lately, inexperienced managers treat an employee like a commodity. This lack of awareness permeates the company culture, and may lead to high turnover. A company’s “revolving door” reputation is at stake, as is the “institutional knowledge” that goes out the door when good employees choose to leave. And surprisingly when they do, fewer human resources people are asking, “why” in an exit interview.

So take a page from successful retailers that understand brand loyalty. When you have a good employee, do thank them and let them know you appreciate that they show up, do their job well, and go the extra mile. It fosters employee loyalty and those employees become an organization’s best brand ambassadors.