Busy Equals Happy

In cities all across the country, quality employees are becoming harder to find. So, if you’re having a difficult time retaining your best employees, a good strategy may be to just make them work a little harder.

The retail work environment, particularly in museum and institutional stores, can be laid-back even with a steady stream of customers.  But for some employees, this unique pace may not feel challenging enough for them.
That’s not to say that a museum store isn’t a busy place, but there are plenty off-peak lulls that may result in lots of standing around. Most people don’t mind the slack times when the crowds subside and you have an opportunity to catch up. But slow times can also bore some employees who find themselves long for a constant stream of activity.

In my experience, museum and cultural store employees tend to be better educated and more dynamic than the run of the mill retail employee. There’s a good chance they’ve intentionally chosen to work in these types of stores. This is a group of people who are there because they like the vibe of the institution – and the customers who shop there. But, because these employees are informed and enthusiastic they may also require a little more on the job stimulation.

It’s usually pretty easy to motivate your team on a busy Saturday afternoon or during a special event. But it also follows that you may leave your employees to their own devices when times are slow and you are needed on the sales floor. However, leaving them to just putter around the store is a poor use of your employees’ skills and experience.

Anyone who has ever worked in the food service industry has heard the quote attributed to Ray Croc, former McDonalds’ CEO, “If you have time to lean you have time to clean.” But simply handing your employees a rag and bottle of Windex and telling them to clean the counters and dust the merchandise probably won’t keep your best team members dialed in.

An article that appeared on the Houston Chronicle’s website entitled, How to Keep Your Staff Busy in Slow Times, suggests having your crew participate in cross training, webinars, online training and goal planning – in addition to day to day cleaning. Of course it’s incumbent on the manager to find worthwhile online training for their team members to use.

Take advantage of the diversity of your team. Have them help identify and create content for your social media sites. Ask your employees to write blog posts, which is a great way to keep your blog vibrant, timely and replete with a diversity of perspectives. Encourage your staff to take photos and use these to keep the store website, Facebook and Instagram interesting and current. Challenge them to be experts on every item in your store. The more they know the inventory, the more engaged and helpful they’ll be to your customers.

Have your team help with guerrilla marketing campaigns. Stuffing envelopes, delivering flyers and brochures to neighboring businesses, maintaining e-mail contact lists, and conducting surveys are all worthwhile uses of time for your top team members.

Perhaps the most critical component of keeping your crew motivated and on task is to demand their very best. Let them know that you expect them to use their time both productively and wisely. Remind them that they need to take care of business whenever they’re on the clock.

The value of your employees will always be determined by the value you place on your employees. If you see them merely as interchangeable parts, then you’ll get a staff with lots of turnover and encounter a less-than-stellar attitude. Learn to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of every individual member of your team. Then challenge them to use those strengths during slow times to create a better store. In the end you will be nurturing a more engaged and happy employee.

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