August 15, 2016
We all have job descriptions but how often do you update them? Last month I was tasked with updating the job deceptions for the Museum Shop employees. They have not officially been updated since 2011. A lot has changed in the Museum since 2011 and our staffing is much smaller while our rolls have expanded. With that in mind, I am fascinated by larger museums that have buyers for different categories of the store, multiple managers, warehouse people and merchandisers. We have two categories of employees, a Museum Shop Associate (basically the assistant manager) and Museum Shop Sales Assistants. Our job descriptions have four sections; the position purpose, responsibilities, qualifications and working conditions.
The Museum Shop Associate (or assistant) is responsible for expanding the museum visitor’s experience by offering exceptional customer service, assist manager in the overall planning and management of the daily operations of the Museum Shop including supervision in the absence of the Manager, administrative tasks, data entry, sales reporting, visual merchandising and other tasks as deemed appropriate. The Museum Shop Sales Assistant purpose is the same as the Associate but they do not supervise anyone.
The essential responsibility for anyone working as a sales person (for profit or nonprofit) is to ring up sales. We ask more of our sales people then if we were a large box store. Yes, they still need to know where the product is, be able to answer questions and be pleasant but they also have to merchandise, restock and straighten inventory. They are NOT just cashiers, they are educated sales assistants. They need to be up to date on what is happening in the Museum, know something about art history and the general area around the museum. They need to be able to look up inventory in the POS to determine if what the customer is looking for is in stock, on order or does not exist. They check in merchandise, price it, process web sales and mail orders then pack and ship them. They are responsible for keeping their work areas (including the office and storerooms) clean and free of clutter. On top of all that, they monitor visitor activity to ensure safety, to prevent theft, to study what and where they are looking and to get feedback from them on their experience while at the Museum. That’s not all; they are also responsible for the daily cash out and reconcile the receipts.
We ask for the applicant to have a college degree (or be working towards one) and background or interest in art history. They should have a minimum of two years’ experience in retail, preferably specialty retail and or customer service industry. I personally like hiring people that have worked in the restaurant industry because they waited on people that are hungry and sometime not happy. They usually know how to step up the pace when a bus load of people come into the Shop and don’t panic. If it is for a supervisor, I would like them to have some management skills and visual merchandising experience. We are in an art museum, we want people who are creative, can problem-solve and be proficient with Windows based programs.
The working conditions for the Museum Shop employees are the same no matter what level you are hired at (including the manager). You need to be able to lift 30 pounds unassisted and stand for long periods of time. We do not have chairs behind the counter to allow the sales assistants to sit during slower periods. The reason behind this is they are sales assistants, not cashiers. They are expected to engage the visitor and be on the sales floor selling.
How often do you update your job descriptions? Do you use them as a tool during your evaluation cycle? Do you ask for your employees’ feedback on their job descriptions? I actually asked them to update them and track any changes made to them. In the end, I think it was a good exercise and opened up dialogue between employee and manager that might not have happened otherwise.
Stacey Stachow, Manager of the Museum Shop, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art