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They’re the essence of the brand. The director of backstage operations. The leader who brings out the best in every associate.
They’re retail store managers: the hardworking engines that (in an ideal world) keep stores humming and drive the customer experience, day in and day out.
Unfortunately, for many brands, great store managers are like unicorns—highly coveted and almost impossible to find.
It’s easy to blame a scarcity of talent. But in truth, many companies haven’t created the conditions for greatness. Store managers may lack the requisite knowledge or skills to begin with (reflecting a poor decision to hire or promote), or their employers aren’t giving them the tools and inspiration they need to reach their full potential.
Is something holding your store managers back?
Here’s what separates the best store managers from the rest—and what they need to perform at their peak.
How Great Store Managers Operate
Great store managers are born and made, bringing just the right mix of knowledge, skills, and temperament to the sales floor.
They get the business side of retail. They have a passion for the industry and for all that goes into a successful brand (finance, buying, merchandising, sales, etc.). They focus on the big picture, and they understand their role in it.
They have a knack for managing people. They use coaching to great effect—not just to develop associates’ sales and service skills, but also to empower them to resolve customer issues on first contact.
They hire well. They know their customers and the type of personality that can serve them best. More importantly, they can identify a winning candidate.
They’re unusually productive. They’re adept at managing their time and delegating tasks and responsibilities.
They’re always thinking ahead. They understand the importance of having an excellent #2 by their side—and of preparing future store managers to take the lead role.
What Great Store Managers Want
Great store managers don’t want to manage stores forever. They want to grow. They want to move up the corporate ladder (multistore, district, regional, headquarters) to benefit themselves, their families, and the brand long term.
Grocery giant Albertsons recognizes this. In fact, upward mobility is a defining element of its corporate culture. A couple years ago, when I visited each of the company’s (then) eight divisions and walked the stores, I was amazed by the longevity of people in roles throughout the company. Albertsons employees who had started as baggers in their teenage years were company executives after decades of service.
The value of such depth of experience and loyalty is beyond estimation. But you can calculate the cost of high turnover on the part of store managers who’ve hit a plateau, don’t feel challenged, and see no way forward.
What Great Store Managers Need From You
For store managers to perform at their peak and fulfill the brand promise, they need solid direction, guidance, and support.
Coaching and mentoring
Apart from hiring, this is the biggest piece. The current crop of assistant managers must be ready to manage another store before they’re promoted. New store managers do well when teamed up with seasoned managers, who can help them navigate the initial period and hit the ground running.
Priorities and expectations must come from the top. They must be clearly outlined: This is our culture. This is our expectation. This is how we want you to perform, and this is why.
All of this should be talked about frequently and consistently measured. Customer experience data, and what it means, should be shared with store managers so they can educate and fire up their teams.
We’re big fans of in-store team huddles. Managers can bring up what’s new, changing, and important. They can reiterate store-level goals and make clear where the team stands and what’s left to do. They can also share positive mystery shopping and customer satisfaction survey results, calling out high-performing associates in front of their peers (a very powerful motivator).
Here in our office, we do huddles three times per week. And we have a different person lead the huddle each week, so the top dog isn’t always talking down to the rest of the staff. If you your store managers are free to do the same, your associates’ brand pride, morale, and performance will no doubt improve.
A Clear Career Path
What would a store manager’s career path look like, beyond his or her current role?
We’ve written about “line of sight” as it relates to customer experience goals. It’s equally important for store managers to see where, and how far, the great work they’re doing will eventually take them in your organization.
To recruit and retain top performers, you must follow Albertsons’ example. Offer your best people a bright future they can see and count on. And empower them to build a remarkable brand.
What’s Your Take?
How do you empower your store managers? What do store managers need most to do their jobs well? What can retailers do better to encourage excellence?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
This article was originally posted to our blog where you can find more posts like this at ICC/Decision Services Blog.