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Comment: Reviving the retail role model

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Diane Coolican, Director at Redsky Learning, a provider of bespoke learning and development programmes, explains how the recession has impacted on retail’s role models and the opportunity for businesses to recreate role models for future success.

Role models have always had an important role to play in business, inspiring junior team members and helping them to progress through the ranks, as well as leading teams effectively and profitably. However, difficult economic circumstances over the past few years mean that we are in danger of losing role models in retail.

Retailers have been under great strain to make cuts to manpower throughout the recession. A significant trend we have seen is the removal of a middle level of management, who are traditionally the role models to junior teams and junior management, leaving a gap that has not been completely filled.

The removal of this tier was necessary to ensure future prosperity of the industry, but it has had an impact on the sector in the short term. For example, junior managers have greater responsibility than pre-recession and have stepped up to fill the gap of the middle managers, though they may not necessarily have the leadership skills of their predecessors or a role model immediately above them to learn from. In addition, high turnover despite the recession and a more reactive approach to team management are trends that have emerged and suggest the absence of a role model.

A reactive approach to team management can have a knock on effect during peak periods of activity, such Christmas, when retailers traditionally employ higher numbers of temporary staff. For example, junior managers may have larger, less skilled teams to manage and may need to adapt to develop new recruits quickly and on the job or make swift decisions to reorganise teams during hours of high footfall.

Indeed, the reality is that many junior managers do not realise that they are now role models to the junior members of their teams and responsible for leading to success and motivating their teams. Although this was a necessary short term measure for the industry to remain on its feet, we should now look to how retailers can revive the concept of the role models.

Leading to Recovery

We are still facing challenging circumstances in retail and in the short term the middle management may not be reinstated. But there is an opportunity to develop junior managers into leaders and role models with a few simple steps:

  • Coaching - Junior managers should be coached to believe that they are role models. This can be done by helping them to recognise the elements of management that they are good at and where improvements can be made before developing those skills.
  • Workshops - Implement workshops on effective people management, communication with seniors and motivation of teams. Junior managers in all industries often need to enhance these skills to achieve optimum results and increase morale.
  • Planning - Help junior managers to plan. Employees are more likely to share ideas and work cross-functionally if they are working less reactively, which increases morale and creativity.
  • Tracking - Progress should be tracked and measured so that managers can tangibly see their improvement and repositioning as a role model, for example, 360 degree feedback can be particularly useful for gauging their team’s opinions of them as a role model.
  • Embedding - Development should not be rushed – it is only by embedding it into managers’ daily practices that these new skills will stick and produce benefits.

People are the number one investment of any business and by making these changes and developing junior managers, retailers can benefit from more organised, well-motivated, creative teams that give a return on that investment.

Published on Wednesday 12 December by Editorial Assistant

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