Think Big but start Small

One trend that retailers can’t stop talking about these days is Holacracy; the employee model that helped put Zappos where it is today. And that same employee model that many have their doubts about. Without going into too much detail, holacracy means there is no management to tell staff what they know they are expected to do. The accountability is carried equally throughout the organisation and is brought together in self-organising ‘circles’. The roles are clearly outlined, but job titles are no longer at the core. Every person is a leader of a particular business area.

Not every person is cut out to work in a holacratic organisation, nor is every organisation open to the seemingly free-spirited corporate culture. One obstacle is that many employees and managers have grown up in a hierarchal business culture and letting go of this mindset is a big ask.

Whether the employee model suits you or not, there is definitely an important lesson to be learned from holacracy: make everyone a leader / project owner of a particular part. And make sure that within this leadership, there is some amount of freedom to complete the project successfully. Coolblue is a telling example of this strategy. One of the

most important missions is to provide an excellent customer service experience. The staff members who spend a large portion of their time dealing with unsatisfied customers (customer service) need to always keep this mission in mind. It goes without saying that they achieve this by solving problems directly, according to predefined roadmaps. But they are also ‘required’ to send 10 hand-written cards per day to customers with whom they have spoken. Writing such letters takes time – valuable time – because it means they can’t call/chat with the next customer. But Coolblue sees this differently, saying it contributes to customer satisfaction on the one hand, and employee satisfaction on the other. Coolblue does leave it entirely up to the employees to which customers they send the cards, as well as the reasoning behind their choice. No manual is needed here.

Besides offering freedom for the employees, we see that engaging employees is a major trend that shouldn’t be overlooked. We have already seen that a satisfied customer leads to improved customer loyalty, so retail businesses need to be making a serious effort to lift the engagement of their employees to a higher level. One method to achieve this is through the use of an employee app. This closed system is an easy and sure way to disclose information to employees and include HR solutions. But these features alone won’t lead to more staff engagement. It’s the addition of fun, social elements that will really get employees engaged, for instance by including employee time lines or various chat groups based on positions, departments or branches. Even more important are features enabling staff to share their ideas and opinions with exactly the right department. Store personnel is in contact with the customer every day and is usually filled with great ideas and valuable information. As a department, be it purchasing, sales, marketing or communication, this information is invaluable. Based on that input, you can be very effective in the next steps forward which, by the way, are likely to be widely supported by the store staff (seeing as the idea originated from them).

An employee who is engaged will also be more inclined to share information about his or her employer. After all, an engaged person is proud to be part of the retail company. This sense of engagement certainly has value when we look at the social media side. Even though the numbers vary somewhat between surveys, the average number of Facebook friends is around 100. If a retailer, let’s say, employs 1,000 people, a message that is shared by employees has a potential reach of 100,000 views. That’s even leaving out the family and friends who share the post out of goodwill.

Engaging employees is a trend we’ll be seeing a lot of in the years to come, and there are many ways to do it. Key in this, though, should always be that the head office enables their personnel to carry out the work to the best of their ability and empower them to provide optimum service. Enablement + Empowerment = Engagement

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