I recently wrote about the Top 10 transferable Retail skills (Click here). When I wrote that blog I found myself having to separate behaviours from skills and competencies. There is a strong appetite across many industries for Retailers not just for the skill-sets that they acquire but also for the behaviours that they exhibit. These behaviours, often under rated and generally taken for granted, are not unique to Retail but when combined with a typical Retailer’s skill-set they are very…very powerful.
- Urgency & Pace
I suspect that this is the most under-rated behaviour of all. Retail has always been a fast paced industry, driven by consumer demand, trends & perishable product. Quite simply if you do not ‘get it right’ first time you will lose a sale to the competition. You snooze – you lose. With the onset of Social Media and Internet shopping the urgency of delivery has become even more important. Most retail jobs are highly task focussed and great retailers are able to prioritise, Urgent vs. Important, and deliver a result with pace. Having recruited for a number of organisations in other industries Line Managers often talk about the need for an injection of urgency and love the pace that retailers operate at.
- Customer & Service Orientation
We have all had poor experiences in a shop before but on the whole the service offered, in my opinion, is far higher than in other industries. The reason why I believe this is of particular importance is that the provision of service is generally one of many tasks that frontline and back office support retailers have to provide. Remaining focussed on the customer when you have a refit taking place, maintenance issues, conference calls from head office, an audit, stock deliveries and a multitude of other tasks in your in-tray is both an art and a science. This isn’t just applicable at store level either, the demands being placed upon Directors and CEOs has reached stratospheric levels with an increasing uptake of Social Media. I have spoken to numerous Directors recently who are increasingly dealing directly with customer issues, in real time over Twitter…24/7. Now that is…
I am not sure there are many 9-5 jobs left these days but in Retail that simply doesn’t exist. There are 0hr contracts, ever evolving shift patterns and an unceasing workload. The level of commitment will vary from shop to shop and business to business but I can only comment on my own experience from HMV. I can remember many late nights preparing stores for opening, refits, layout changes and I always found my respective teams (on relatively modest salaries) to be utterly committed. In Retail you just cannot achieve your core goals without dedication and commitment. It’s a hackneyed phrase but tasks are often split between JDIs (just do it – or JFDI as it was in HMV’s culture!) and nice to haves. Retailers accept this and just get on with it.
- Compliance & Standards
Retail is Detail. I used to hate that phrase but the truth is it is spot on. Retail is about routines and processes. If you are unable to drive continuously high standards your business will fall apart very quickly. Retailers will have this ingrained in to their behaviours from the first day they start their job. Often the tasks are repetitive and boring but they do underpin the fun stuff. Delivering this compliance while balancing customer needs is not simple. I still find myself inadvertently tidying CD sections in my local HMV store and tutting at dirty or cluttered windows. Retailers will take this behaviour with them in to every role they undertake.
Clearly this is a behaviour that needs to be moderated in the right way, however, there are few industries that are quite as competitive. Just look at the number of high profile administrations in recent months, let alone years. Retailers are used to competing and thrive on the challenge. Every single minute of every single day they are competing not just externally but often internally. Retailers are battered with KPIs and scorecards and there is nothing worse than being bottom of the table…actually scratch that, second isn’t much better! This competitiveness is often a result high levels of…
- Drive & Passion
The beauty of the Retail Industry is that anyone can enter and anyone can do well. Of course degrees and other technical qualifications will help but if you have high levels of drive and you are passionate about what you do, you WILL be successful.
I am not sure I need to explain this one given the rollercoaster most retailers have been on over the last few years. To be fair even in the good times it isn’t easy. There is rarely any respite, no rest period and little time for reflection. Retailers get two days off a year. When your average person is enjoying their May Day Bank holiday, Store managers and their teams are working harder then ever. It isn’t any easier further up the ladder either. Preparing for a 7am Monday morning board meeting, trying to shore up some shocking like for likes, late in to a Sunday night certainly requires some resilience – and not just for the individual but for their families too.
- Results Orientation
I mentioned KPIs earlier. These days pretty much everything that a retailer does is measured in some way. The larger chains have engaged in some very detailed time and motion studies to increase productivity and that only serves to ratchet up the focus on results. Retailers live and die by their numbers. Even customer service scores and employee surveys are often boiled down to a single number. Are you above average? Did you top the region, the company or the industry? As with previous points, where Retailers really impress is their ability to combine an orientation towards ‘getting a result’ with doing it the ‘right way’ – through their people and with customer at the heart of their decision.
- Receptive to and engaged with change
I think it is fair to say that this doesn’t apply to all Retailers and that the industry has had change thrust upon it to some extent with the advent of the internet and other external pressures. Having said that the industry has adapted and behaviourally Retailers have become accustomed to a state of flux within their respective markets. The most successful individuals and businesses are the ones that embrace change and where it is second nature.
- Ownership & Accountability
With highly visible KPIs, strong processes and structure comes accountability. With accountability comes ownership! This swings both ways, when you are doing well you will receive the plaudits…when things are not going so well you will be held accountable. Retailers understand this relationship between success and failure and they own their results. You only have to listen to a politician on the radio to realise what a fantastic attribute this is!!!
As I mentioned earlier these behaviours are not unique to Retail but the combination is rare and it certainly explains why leaders from other industries are so keen to tap in to this Human Resource.