Culture | Customer experience is key but employee experience is critical

Customer experience is key but employee experience is critical

In retail, customer experience is key. On the shop floor, in the back office, in the warehouse and on social media, customer experience is everything. But what’s the biggest contributor to customer experience? Your employees.

Whether they’re facing customers, facilitating orders, coding website copy, or replying to a question on twitter, employees are behind every customer interaction.

So why isn’t more focus being placed on employee experience in retail?

In every industry, employee experience has a direct impact on commercial results. It’s well documented that happy, healthy and engaged employees are better for business, and in recent years we’ve seen a huge shift in how forward-thinking organisations approach performance and productivity, by recognising their employees as individuals and not a statistic.

Yet the retail sector is lagging behind, and it’s creating a disconnected, demotivated workforce that’s impacting on customer experience. If retailers want to offer a better experience for customers – and ensure they can attract and retain the talent they need to facilitate it – they need to reframe their focus and place the employee, not the customer, at the heart of their brand.

There are three key barriers facing retailers as they look to address this challenge:

Diverse workforce

Perhaps more than any other sector, retail hires a disparate mix of individuals in a wide range of roles. A ‘one size fits all’ performance management solution is never going to work in this sector.

Us/them mentality

Too many retailers – both in eCommerce and bricks and mortar – suffer from a head office vs shop/warehouse floor divide. This hasn’t been helped by the WFH revolution, and the hybrid solutions offered to office staff that can’t, realistically, be extended to store or distribution employees.

Management inconsistency

One retail worker’s management experience can be very different from another’s, and it can have a big impact on motivation, wellbeing, and engagement. A mix of management that has been promoted through the business and understands the culture, demands of the role, and challenges of the job, and those managers who have been hired in at a senior level, can be particularly divisive if not managed correctly.

How can retailers overcome these obstacles to offer the best experience to every employee – and drive motivation as a result? So many of the performance management methods and tools available just aren’t practical or effective for retailers, and if you’ve been burned before, you’ll know just how frustrating it can be trying to implement ‘one size fits all’ management solutions into a diverse retail environment.

Why you need holistic one-to-one performance management conversations

However, there’s one thing that should always be at the centre of performance management: holistic conversation. Open, honest and regular dialogue is key to recognising every employee as an individual, and unlocking their full potential. For retailers, the challenge lies in ensuring that every manager can have the breadth of conversation needed to connect with every employee, covering the agenda items that are most important to them.

A step by step to unlocking individual performance in retail

The first step is providing a framework that supports managers across every department to become a coach, who can have the right one-to-one conversations, at the right time, to understand every individual. In retail, it’s not always possibly to offer every employee the same benefits – especially when it comes to flexibility. But that shouldn’t stop managers from listening to every employee’s motivational drivers and challenges, and helping them to reach their goals.

The second step is using those conversations to unlock performance. Managers need to ask the right questions to find out what’s important to employees, whether its workplace promotion or personal factors like protecting time with family.

The next step is taking action. Managers and employees alike need to be empowered to set objectives, create change and measure results. Without actionable outcomes and accountability, one-to-one conversations can quickly become lip-service to employee experience, instead of driving real change to employee wellbeing and satisfaction in a retail environment.

The message for retailers is simple. If you provide your employees a good experience at work, they will in turn contribute towards a better experience for your customers. But you need to make sure you have a performance management structure that can meet the unique requirements of your workforce, not a generic management tool that doesn’t fit with the realities of retail.

At OpenBlend, we work with leading retailers such as Gymshark, Superdry and Dr Martens to enable every employee to perform at their best: for a happier, healthier and more productive workforce. To find out what motivates retail employees in 2022 and discover why holistic one-to-ones are the key to driving better employee performance across the retail industry, download the OpenBlend guide to one-to-ones in the retail sector today.

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