At any job, you generally find out how much you’re valued in short order. BizEngine is familiar with this.
At a retailer that shall remain anonymous where I worked my summer vacation away in high school, the level of appreciation was low. I was a cashier in a department, and my manager made it clear on my first day that we were expected to go above and beyond for the customer. I was happy to do that for employee morale purposes, especially because it would get me out from behind the cash register, which was like a ka-chinging shackle I was attached to for eight hours a day.
Unfortunately, the very first time I left my station to help a customer find one of our products, I was called to the manager’s office. I got an earful for leaving the cash register for two minutes, which he apparently saw on the bank of monitors above the department. Reeling, I repeated what he had told me about putting the customer first and helping out. He glared and told me, in essence, that I was to help as much as possible…but never move.
At that point, I realized the workplace policies put into place at this retailer were going to get me yelled at by either my boss or a customer every time I tried to do something. When I was undercut again by the same manager—who told me I was never to give a customer a refund without a receipt, watched me get shouted down by an angry Mainer for ten minutes and then swooped in to give the man the refund—I realized I was not valued and my company had no intention of treating me with respect.
That’s a fairly demoralizing realization, obviously. Down went my employee morale.
Why It Matters
I use this example to highlight the challenges faced by many employees in low-cost retailers. When you’re being paid relatively low wages, you want your employers to make up for it by offering decent benefits and support. When they fail to do so, negativity develops, which in turn can carry over to the customer.
The Harvard Business Review says it well:
Many in the business community still see employees in low-cost retail as interchangeable parts. They can see with their own eyes that most large retailers, such as Wal-Mart, do not invest much in their employees. And it makes sense to them, as it made sense to my student, that low-cost retailers really have only one thing to offer their customers: the quick, cheap sale. That’s what the customers are there for and there’s no point in offering more.
The HBR goes on to point out why that traditional view no longer works, with the chief two reasons being that even in the smallest shops or online businesses, you have employees handling inventory and dealing with customers in some fashion. If you treat them like they’re a speck of dirt on the bottom of your expensive loafers, they have little motivation to live up to the lofty goals you’ve set forth. Eventually, your business will suffer for it.
So here’s my advice: If you’re asking employees to go above and beyond for you, go above and beyond for them. Recognize their successes, work with them to get through their failures and give them perks when you can. You’ll have happier, more productive workers, which in turn will make for happier customers.
How do you ensure you’re treating your employees well?
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