Employees Ready to Walk During Holidays

Discussion
Nov 20, 2006

By George Anderson


The Christmas holiday season is one of great stress at retail. This is particularly true of store personnel who have to deal with large numbers of shoppers, many of whom are
not in the holiday spirit. Ultimately, however, most retail workers can handle the customer side of things. What gets them really angry, in many cases, angry enough to quit, is
the perceived treatment they receive at the hands of their supervisors and store management.


A new Harris Interactive study commissioned by the workforce management company Kronos found 46 percent of retail store workers were prepared to walk out if companies did not
address a number of key issues.


Stuart Itkin, CMO at Kronos, told RetailWire, “Thirty-two percent of survey respondents indicated that the number one reason that could cause them to quit this holiday
season is ‘I am not treated with respect by my boss.’ This statistic shows that employees want to be treated as an asset rather than an expense.”


Following workers’ complaints about not being treated with respect, were objections resulting from having to do a job when there were too few employees to adequately address
the workload.


Having requests for time-off ignored was the next biggest reason workers were considering taking off altogether.


“Forty-three percent of retail employees said that if they ask for a day off but are scheduled anyway, it has a negative affect on their job performance,” said Mr. Itkin. “The
top three ways it affects them are: they are likely to be less motivated at work; they may call in sick; and they may arrive late or leave early – all of which have a grave impact
on customer service.”


According to Kronos’ Itkin, the problems highlighted in the study have already been addressed successfully by a number of retailers.


“Best practice organizations are able to show their workforce that they respect them by giving them access to self-service functionality. This allows them to access their personal
information, including the time they have available to take off,” he said.


The same process, said Mr. Itkin, “allows store associates to submit time-off requests for manager’s approval. This eliminates the need for the infamous time-off notebook, a
myriad of colored stickies on the wall, verbal requests, or hand-written notes that end up in the store manager’s washing machine.”


The study conducted online by Harris Interactive queried 1,009 hourly retail employees (aged 18 and over). The survey results had an error margin of plus or minus three percentage
points.


Discussion Questions: How important is it for employers to address the complaints of workers identified in the Harris Interactive study? What answers
are there for fixing the workforce management problems this time of year?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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11 Comments on "Employees Ready to Walk During Holidays"


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Ian Percy
Guest
15 years 5 months ago
“Should managers address the needs (i.e. need for respect) of their floor/sales staff?” is rhetorical, right? Here’s the rule again: How we are managed is how we serve. It’s just a universal law of reciprocity. But here’s the thing. One who is treated disrespectfully doesn’t necessarily return the disrespect to the one giving it in the first place. What good would that do? Oh no…what they do is return the disrespect to where it will really hurt – to the customer. Managers could save a lot of time just by themselves disrespecting customers as soon as they walk in the door. On a big picture level, all this revolves around the issue of employee engagement in their work and workplace. And of course we know the stats on this are rather frightening. And I suspect much of the reason for that is that managers aren’t engaged either and they feel the need to spread their own dissatisfaction around like a virus. All I want this Christmas season is to walk into a store and overhear… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Far too many store managers schedule their staff using bulletin boards, Post-it notes, and emergency phone calls. It takes too much time away from customer service, and it’s stressful for the staff and the managers. There are technology-driven solutions that help everyone, staff and management, save time and aggravation. Certainly that’s why Kronos publicized this study: they supply some of those solutions. Recent studies by Aberdeen and Retail systems Alert showed that retailers using technology-driven staffing solutions (including screening and scheduling) were more likely to be financially successful.

Anna Murray
Guest
Anna Murray
15 years 5 months ago

Motivating employees is a lost art. It’s been many years since most employees felt any loyalty towards their companies. Who can blame them? Companies are downsized and upsized based on the needs of Wall Street, not the long-term health of the enterprise. They are bought and flipped by VCs. Pension agreements are revised after the fact. If there were ever a time for an employee to feel like a pawn in a bigger game, now is it.

Bosses– who are themselves employees– recognized this. And I think it contributes to an overall dehumanization of the workplace. We forget that everyone, especially someone who is beneath us in the hierarchical structure, really craves positive feedback and mentoring. Sadly, there is usually only negative feedback and apathy. We say, “It’s just business.” Unfortunately, these days, that phrase is used as cover for, “I don’t have to act like a human being.”

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 5 months ago
At this time of year, workplace management at retail consists of hiring 30% more people than you need to make up for the no-shows and the ones who simply walk out after a couple of days. Even seasonal workers should be treated with some respect. However, I believe retailers have a bigger problem and that is attracting good people to these jobs all year long. There are some notable exceptions, but for the most part the industry has done a miserable job of promoting itself as a career path. You also need a better way of dealing with the regularly hourly workforce which consists primarily of part-timers, many of them teenagers. Maybe new types of reward programs that include more than an 18-cent an hour raise. Some of them aren’t even worth that. However, if you want to keep the others you might look at what some independents around the country are doing. A couple of examples: . Keep a couple of movie tickets in your picket and hand them out to people who just… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

When you are overworked and underpaid, all those petty problems get overblown. Considering the huge labor shortages of retail workers, employees know they can walk out one door and just walk into a similar job across the street. However I think that is only a temporary solution to the employee. Addressing the issues is only important if it affects the bottom line of the company. To me it seems most retailers have built their labor models on recycling warm bodies anyway so addressing petty work issues is not very important.

Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
15 years 5 months ago

Issues must be addressed for one simple reason, the internet. It used to be a retailer only had to have employees equal or better than other retailers. Now the quality of retail help has deteriorated so much it now becomes a question of the retail clerk being better than no personal interaction like what a person receives when shopping online. The only sustainable competitive advantage anyone can have in the marketplace is its employees and the sooner companies realize this the better off they’ll be.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

If retailers want the consumer needs to be satisfied by front line workers, those front line workers need to be recognized and rewarded for that behavior. Employees need to identify what behavior is being rewarded and decide whether that is the company for which they want to work. If employer-employee-consumer expectations do not match, there will be tension in the system. During a period of high stress, like the holiday season, the tension will increase and be released somewhere somehow.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 5 months ago
The worst form of disrespect retailers can bestow on their staff is placing poorly trained and unempowered associates (seasonal or not) on the front line during the holiday season. Retailers fall way short in preparing their workforce both psychologically and with the right tools to survive the onslaught waiting for them this coming Black Friday and beyond. It’s not possible to create the type of successful environment just for the holidays, nor is there time for change. It has to be a year round culture that continuously teaches, leads, inspires and rewards those who make the difference in whether or not you remain open for the seasons to come. While the survey is self-serving for Kronos, it does relay the obvious. What would be interesting is to somehow identify the experience and training level of the management of these 1,000 workers. That would tell even more of the story. It’s talked about little, given less of a priority than most anything on the list, but training is where the answer lies. Certainly, when mentioned, all… Read more »
Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
15 years 5 months ago
I see two glaring problems here: 1. Management has (again) done a horrible job of educating their employees. Have they gone to great lengths to explain to their employees that the period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas (to most of them) represents the annual profit for the company? That it is critical that everyone pull together to make this very short sales period as profitable as possible because the money that is made now will be the money that is used to pay salaries during January, February and March when sales are slow? 2. Do the employees have a clue about their employer’s business? Can any retailer tolerate employees taking vacation during this most critical sales period? Are employees thinking at all? Retail is a tough business that operates on thin bottom lines. Don’t force your employer to deal with you (as a problem) during the most critical sales period of the year. Prove yourself an asset and you won’t have “respect” issues. Respect your employers business and you won’t make requests that cost… Read more »
Mark Barefield
Guest
Mark Barefield
15 years 5 months ago

As someone who has had to deal with the reality of the computer generated self-service scheduling process, I can tell you that many times a giant wall calendar and a pencil would have been preferred by both associate and manager, to a computer-generated schedule that thinks you need to hire ninety-eight people to work Black Friday and the Saturday before Christmas but only one four hour shift on the weeks between them. Intelligent, compassionate management, which matches tasks with available people to do the jobs, is always the best option — even if it takes the supervisor/manager longer to make a schedule work.

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 5 months ago

If any retail operation has a consumer centric environment, with the ‘sister’ corporate culture, it will secure all the benefits that come with it, i.e.: happy shoppers who receive better service, come back and give praise to the retailer through word of mouth to friends and family. And the retailer gains better quality sales/higher margins, and future shopping.

The KEY ingredient is a happy sales associate who feels he/she has respect from the boss. KEEP IN MIND, this ‘middle person’ does all the engaging with the shoppers!

Don’t understand why bosses and higher ups don’t get this.

Benefits outweigh the cost! And there are people in the labor force who are more than willing to be engaging with shoppers, and be consumer centric! Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

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