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Focusing On Associate Relationships This Holiday Season

Posted on 10/27/11 9:30 AM

During the holiday shopping season, retailers tend to focus their attention on maximizing the staff’s ability to generate sales. Longer store hours, increased customer traffic and the overall expectations of the season can elicit peak performance, but can also cause store associates increased stress. How can operations and loss prevention make sure store associates are on top of their game from both a sales and loss prevention perspective?

The holiday season is not only a time for increased sales, it is also a time when store locations are at their highest risk for loss. With all the effort put into making the most profits during the season, you also run the risk of being hit hard by dishonest associates.

How can you maintain a loss prevention focus in your store locations during the busy holiday season?

Your loss prevention and operations personnel should visit stores during the holiday season; checking for compliance with policies, procedures and how things are operating overall (if this is not happening, we can help). In support of your operational and sales focused efforts, you should also incorporate a way to “check the pulse” of store associates. Something that is not time consuming or a burden on the store’s already stretched resources, but perhaps something that can be quick, effective and provide insight into the real happenings within the store. Take an associate on a coffee break!

I know, sounds ridiculous, especially during the busiest time of the retail year, but taking time with store personnel throughout the course of the holiday season is a great way to:

  • Help boost morale by getting folks out of the store and giving them a little time outside of the hustle and bustle of what’s going on in the store. Give them some time to openly talk.

  • Strengthen relationships between your department and store associates. Let them see a different side of you, your department and the company.

  • Engage in open dialogue, including small talk, personal inquiries and also some questions regarding various happenings that may not get answered during a normal store visit or audit.

What do you talk about?

Building relationships are all about being personable and genuine.

  • Start off with some small talk about how things are going with the store.

  • Follow that up with some questions about what they may be planning for the upcoming holidays. 

  • Ask them open-ended questions (ones that require paragraph answers, not yes, no, or single responses), allowing the associate to speak break

Engage with each associate in a general manner, asking them questions about their thoughts on the season, how the store is operating and what they like or would like to see changed. Remember this is not an “interrogation” or an “interview”, it is a discussion.

Although your core purpose for being in that location may be high shrink, potential loss or an overall loss prevention visit, making the discussion not about loss prevention can lead you to greater insight into what may be happening in the location.

In general, most people are interested in being heard. Taking some time to engage employees in a less formal conversation, asking them their thoughts, and listening to them will reap the benefits of learning more about your store locations and giving them a break from the holiday grind. You never know what you might learn!

Written by Mike Hofstetter, CFI, National Manager

Topics: training and awareness

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