8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses

June 23, 2013

The best managers have a fundamentally different understanding of workplace, company, and team dynamics. See what they get right.”

The preceding quote is from the latest “DFS Learning e-Blast” article, 8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses, by Geoffrey James.

In this April 23, 2012 article on the Inc.com website, the author explains eight clear ideas that separate average bosses from their extraordinary counterparts.

More from the article:

Extraordinary bosses see work as something that should be inherently enjoyable–and believe therefore that the most important job of manager is, as far as possible, to put people in jobs that can and will make them truly happy.”

Read the short article to learn more!

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments to join the discussion!

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8 Qualities of Remarkable Employees

April 14, 2013

Great employees are reliable, dependable, proactive, diligent, great leaders and great followers… they possess a wide range of easily-defined—but hard to find—qualities.  A few hit the next level. Some employees are remarkable, possessing qualities that may not appear on performance appraisals but nonetheless make a major impact on performance.

The preceding quote is from the latest “DFS Learning e-Blast” article, 8 Qualities of Remarkable Employees, by Jeff Haden.

In this February 21, 2012 post on Inc. Magazine’s online edition, the author provides a straightforward list of qualities which separate ‘remarkable’ employees from ‘great’ ones.

At DFS we strive to select, develop, and retain the very best talent in luxury retail.  Learn how the author defines remarkable and then reflect on how or if you are developing the remarkable among your team and decide whether ‘remarkable’ is for you!

Read the short article to learn more!

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments to join the discussion!

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Recess comes to the workplace

October 8, 2011

DISCUSSION TOPIC

Take a Break to Increase Productivity – 09-19-2011

September 19, 2011

A survey from Harris Interactive found that recess was key to improving workplace health and productivity, and re-energizing employees.

The survey was sponsored by Keen, the footwear brand which earlier this year launched Keen’s Recess Revolution tour, a series of events designed to inspire adults to “reclaim playtime and take much-needed 10-minute breaks from the daily office grind by escaping to the outdoors.” With a pop-up playground featuring tetherball courts, Frisbee, hula hoops and more, the tour has made stops in Denver, Minneapolis, Portland and San Francisco. The survey was released on September 14 on World Recess Day, a day-long outdoor event held by Keen in Washington D.C.

The Survey on Workplace Recess, conducted during August 2011 and involving 1,099 adults employed full-time, revealed:

  • More than half (53 percent) agreed that a 10-minute “recess” outdoor break initiated at their workplace every day would make them a healthier, happier or more productive employee;
  • Forty-one percent felt outdoor breaks would help them deal with stress at work;
  • Forty-four percent indicated that they would participate in recess if it were offered at their workplace, with the greatest interest among women (53 percent) and Millennials (51 percent).

At the same time, more than 70 percent said they’ve never participated in a paid recess-type break outside of lunchtime. Seventy-eight percent (78 percent) felt that certain factors would need to be in place for recess to be a part of the workday, including encouragement from top management (39 percent), participation from their boss and/or colleagues (25 percent), a designated time of day for recess to avoid scheduling conflicts (35 percent), and recess becoming part of the company culture (33 percent).

Dr. Toni Yancey, author of Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time and co-director of the Center for Health Equity and professor of health services at UCLA, said in a statement that short activity breaks would aid in reducing obesity rates and sick days while lifting employees’ mood and subsequently improving productivity

“If employers offered and encouraged a paid activity break during the day, it would offer a real return on investment for them — delivering $1.50 – $2.00 for every dollar spent implementing the program, according to our estimates,” said Dr. Yancey.

Added James Curleigh, Keen’s CEO, “I hope that the idea of workplace recess will catch on with companies that aspire to be great places to work, ultimately making recess as common as casual Friday.”

Discussion questions:  What do you think of the proposed benefits and feasibility of scheduled short activity breaks for retail store and headquarters employees?

My post:

There are physical and psychological benefits to a well designed “recess” strategy. The key is infusing a bit of fun into the sameness of most retail workdays, whether in the office or on the sales floor. The Pike’s Place Fish guys are a well-used example of this done right, but there are many others out there. It is difficult to schedule in today’s lean staffing store environment, but worth the effort. Especially when the boss plays too. It can be as simple as a 15 minute fast-paced walk outside to a green area to enjoy a coffee and a chat, or a little more planned, such as a once or twice monthly walk to an ice cream place as a reward. Don’t make it too structured, or you’ll lose the ‘fun’ element. This can be a big part of an ongoing and authentic engagement strategy.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full discussion at Retailwire.com:  Take a Break to Increase Productivity

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The State of Labor in Retailing

September 14, 2011

DISCUSSION TOPIC

The State of Labor in Retailing 09-02-2011

Labor Day is almost here and the retail industry’s focus is on sales this weekend and not the original intention of the holiday — to celebrate American labor and its historic role in making the nation great.

So what is the state of labor in the retailing business?

The industry, like others, has its problems, with a workforce largely made up of part-timers who work terrible hours for low wages and few benefits. The combination of unmotivated and sometimes poorly-trained workers and managers under extreme pressure to succeed has created issues in some stores.

Retailing also suffers from an upper management disconnect. As covered many times on RetailWire, top executives often do not have a true understanding of what workers deal with in stores. Unlike in the past, many top execs are more likely to come from MBA programs than up from the ranks.

Like other industries, compensation of upper tier executives has grown at an exponentially faster rate than front line workers. A few businesses — Whole Foods comes to mind — have taken steps to tie executive compensation to what workers within the chain make, although even here the c-suite is growing at a faster rate than store employees.

In 2006, Whole Foods increased its the salary cap from 14 times the average pay of all full-time employees to 19. That number was nearly twice the cap (10x) Whole Foods had in place in 1999. The average hourly wage for full-timers at the chain between 1999 and 2006 grew from $12.36 to $15.38.

The debate over benefits and how to control health care costs remains contentious within the industry. Major grocery chains in Southern California and the United Food and Commercial Workers seem, almost unbelievably to outsiders, on the brink of another work stoppage. An employer lockout followed by a strike in 2003/2004 was extremely damaging to Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway with the chains estimated to have lost $2 billion, not to mention the hardship faced by workers not pulling in their regular paychecks.

Not all labor relationships within retailing suffer from animosity or, perhaps worse, apathy. There are many broad exceptions: Costco, Container Store, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans, Zappos and others are often given high marks for employer/employee relationships.

Ultimately, however, many retail businesses see and treat workers as expenses to be contained and not assets to be exploited. They do this even as they proclaim, almost in unison, that their front-line workers are most important to performance.

Discussion questions:  What do you think is the state of labor in the retailing industry today? How would you fix it, assuming you believe there is something that needs to be fixed?

My post:

As a career-long retail leader, this subject never fails to frustrate me.  The easy excuse of the poor state of labor in retailing is the dominance of short term financial metrics driving bad leadership at the shop floor level.  The constant demand of immediate results that beat market expectations forces leaders to cut investment in long-term success strategies:  training and development, benefits that drive employee loyalty and performance, and time spent in efforts to intentionally engage line workers.

However, any leader in any retail organization can decide today to focus on loving their teams and provide simple development opportunities and engagement activities.  I’ve seen it personally over and over again.  Having said this, those retailers who continue to push their leaders to not focus on positive efforts to engage their staff will continue to decline into irrelevance.  Why?  Most operational leaders do not have the character strength to counter poor senior leadership.

How to fix this?  Support those retailers who get it – Container Store, Zappos, Costco and others.  Their financial results will continue to strengthen their market share and eventually kill off lesser contenders.  The evolution of retail, happening in front of us.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full discussion at Retailwire.com:  The State of Labor in Retailing

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Effective interviewing is only the start

July 30, 2011

DISCUSSION TOPIC

Dramatically Improve Your Interviewing Process 07-28-2011

By Doug Fleener, President and Managing Partner, Dynamic Experiences Group

July 28, 2011

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Contrarian, the blog of Dynamic Experiences Group.

The other day, I noticed that a manager was interviewing a job applicant on a bench in front of her store in a local mall. Since I’m never one to miss the chance to watch and learn, I decided to hang out and see what I could take away from the interview.

I can sum up the entire interview in one word. Boring! The interviewer was boring. The applicant was boring. I think they were boring each other. At the end of the interview, the only thing the manager learned was what was already on the application, and all the applicant said was the same stock answers everyone says in an interview, including the all important, “I’m a people person.” My day was complete.

Interviewing and candidate selection is just too important to not do extremely well. A great hire can have an almost immediate positive impact on the store, and a bad hire can lead to 60, 90, or more days of pure hell.

Here are ways to dramatically improve the interviewing and hiring process:

  1. Spend part of the interview working together on the floor. Instead of asking the applicant to tell you about her customer service and selling skills, have her show you with real customers. Sure, she won’t have a lot of product knowledge. Sure, she’ll be nervous. But I’ll tell you what — you’ll quickly separate the winners from the fakers. At the very least, do some selling scenario role-playing with a candidate.
  2.  Have him observe the staff and share his insights with you. You’ll be surprised how many people who say they’re good at sales and service can’t define it even when they see it.
  3. Require the applicant to interview you. You can learn a lot about a person by the questions he/she asks. Is he interested in the challenges and opportunities, or how the lunch breaks work? Is she interested in hearing why you’re a great company to work for, or is she already thinking about vacations?
  4. Have the applicant spend time with non-management team members. If he/she is good, we want to do everything we can to get our offer accepted. One of the best ways to do that is to have the candidate bond with one or two of your best non-management employees. It’s one thing for you to say how wonderful your store/company is, but it’s another when that message comes from a potential colleague.

Discussion questions:  Of the interview techniques mentioned in the article, which will likely provide the most value on average to the interview process? Do you have any unconventional interview techniques that you would add?

My post:

The ideas Doug shared are all good and are easily imbedded in a strong talent acquisition strategy.  The real conversation here should be around the creation of that strategy.  Without a comprehensive strategic approach to talent acquisition, any one touchpoint can only be marginally effective.  Keys to an effective talent acquisition strategy include, but are not limited to:

  1. A clear understanding of what talents are necessary for success – not just generally, but in your unique culture.  This is accomplished by a careful study of the best staff – not just the top sellers, but those who readily create real and human relationships with your top clients.
  2. Determining what is needed to “fit” into your unique culture, including the specific individuals on the team the new staff will be joining.
  3. Developing a structured interview which asks questions that enable the candidate to articulate their strengths in the talents you are looking for (or not)
  4. Training interviewers how to use the structured interview plus “fit” questions.  Here is where the suggestion to spend time on the floor & interview with non-management comes in.  There is no better way to judge fit than to observe the individual in the environment and with their potential peers.
  5. Finally, determining where people who fit your talent profile “live” so that your marketing efforts for candidates can be most effective.  Where they “live” includes social media sites, physical locations (zip codes), types of current employers (for direct recruitment) and more.

This is just the beginning.  A comprehensive talent strategy won’t stop here.  It will include the methods of onboarding, leader engagement, development programs, structured touchpoints for follow up with the staff to ask how they are doing and how you are doing in meeting their expectations, and annual engagement surveys to judge your progress in creating an attractive and retentive employment environment.  Look to the Ritz Carlton and the Container Store as benchmark organizations for this effort.

I have laid out a much more robust and demanding approach vs. the simplicity of an improved interview.  Anything less cannot deliver what you are truly after:  an improved selection process, leading to a more effective workforce, leading to more satisfied customers and a healthier business – creating a virtuous cycle of successful talent management.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full article at Retailwire.com:  Dramatically Improve Your Interviewing Process

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The CEO hunt goes on

June 28, 2009

DISCUSSION TOPIC

Good CEOs are Hard to Find 6/3/09

TOPIC SUMMARY:

Sears Holdings has been searching for a permanent chief executive officer since September 2007. Barneys New York has now been hunting for over a year for a new CEO. So, what’s the problem?

Many, in the case of Sears Holdings, say the sad shape of Sears and Kmart along with the prospect of going to work for Edward Lampert is enough to keep top talent from considering the job. Mr. Lampert, a hedge fund manager who is also the chairman of Sears Holdings, gets really low marks for his retail acumen while having developed a reputation as a micro-manager.

A RetailWire survey in February found that 86 percent believed it was very or somewhat likely that Mr. Lampert’s hands-on management style was keeping the company from hiring a new chief. That same month, an article in the Chicago Tribune reported that Sears had met “a number of very talented individuals” about the CEO job but none had been made an offer.

In the case of Barneys, concerns about liquidity have caused many to wonder about the company’s viability. The company’s owner, Dubai investment fund Istithmar World, gave Barneys a cash infusion in April to allay the fears of vendors and lenders alike. Even with this action, Standard & Poor’s lowered Barneys’ credit rating to CCC (“distressed debt”). Not having a CEO contributed to the rating.

“When we evaluate the company from a credit ratings standpoint, one of the key attributes we look at is management,” David Kuntz, an associate director at Standard & Poor’s, told The Wall Street Journal. “Without a CEO in place, it’s very difficult for us to gauge what the direction and leadership of the company is.”

David Lord, a search-industry consultant, said searches that go beyond a year suggests, “the board does not know what it wants or that something is preventing good candidates from being attracted to the position.”

On the other hand, there are those who point to CEO-less companies as evidence that executives within organizations can do the job needed without having anyone looking over their shoulders. Imran Amed, a consultant to luxury goods firms, told The Journal that there was no “concrete evidence that a CEO-less Barneys is suffering any more than other retailers in luxury retail.” 

Discussion questions:  What do extended and unresolved searches for top executives say about companies such as Sears Holdings and Barneys? Does the fact that companies without a permanent CEO continue to operate suggest that chief executives are not as important to a company’s success as often assumed?

My post: 

Effective leaders seldom make it to CEO because effectiveness requires talents not understood by most boards – the talents of true leadership.  Boards tend to hire CEOs that can create short term shareholder value vs. long term sustainability and growth.  If the boards of Sears Holdings or Barneys wanted a CEO, they’d have one.  There is no shortage of folks willing to be a CEO and given the ownership of these two (financiers, NOT retailers/merchants), there are plenty of folks out there who can drive a short term P&L result.  No, these boards have chosen to go leaderless. Why is anyone’s guess.  In any case, it is not healthy for the viability of these companies, and is certain to lead to more talent defection because great people want to work for great leaders. 

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full discussion at RetailWire.com:
http://www.retailwire.com/Discussions/Sngl_Discussion.cfm/13783

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The Brilliance of The Container Store

March 20, 2009

DISCUSSION TOPIC

The Container Store: The Employee as an ‘Extension of the Brand’ 3/20/09

TOPIC SUMMARY:

In the retail industry, a 100 percent plus annual employee turnover is not uncommon. And, in these tough economic times, that statistic doesn’t tend to be of greatest concern to operators. More likely, they’re preoccupied with determining if they can get away with one less person on the floor; cutting back on training; or increasing the commission portion of the compensation.

There is one retailer, with 46 stores and 3,500 employees, which seems to have a very different philosophy. The Container Store experiences just 10-to-15 percent annual turnover. How does the retailer achieve a number virtually unheard of in the industry?

Perhaps the most eye-opening place to start is on the interview process for a “transition team.” The transition team at The Container Store is a group of associates hired for a five-day or so tenure to transition a store between themed selling seasons. There would typically be transition teams before and after Christmas, Spring Cleaning, Back-to-School, etc. At The Container Store, the selection process for this short-term associate is more involved than what most retailers would have their full-timers go through. It consists of two interviews: one in a group setting; and one face-to-face lasting an hour and a half. If there is a next step, the candidate is taken for a walk around the store with a group of other candidates and asked “what if” questions largely oriented to customer interaction. (Note: This is for associates who are being hired to change displays, fixtures and move merchandise – not to sell product.)

Karyn Maynard is The Container Store’s director of recruiting. When asked about this process, she said this type of attention to detail is not unusual for The Container Store. “We believe each employee is an extension of our brand. The staff in the office can write all day long about how great we are, but it is our associates on the floor who communicate it by action with the shopper.”

The evaluation process is very deep regardless of the position. “We want to hire great people and we want to retain great people,” said Ms. Maynard. “We have part-timers who have been with us over 15 years.”

The evaluation process also goes both ways. As with any screening process, The Container Store wants to be sure the future employee is the right fit. But, The Container Store also wants to be sure the company is the right fit for the employee. The company considers it symbolic that their very first hire was a customer.

“This process has been an evolution,” recalls Ms. Maynard. “When the founders started the company in 1978 they wanted to have ‘the best retail organization in the country.’ We are certainly more sophisticated now than they were then, but even our first hire started us in the right direction.”

Today, in fact, most employees are former customers. Many are approached on the sales floor when they are shopping. (“Have you ever considered…?”) The other source of talent is online through The Container Store website, where every application is reviewed and replied to.

When asked what mistakes other retailers make, Ms. Maynard quickly answered, “They are not making a commitment to time.”

(By the way, Karyn Maynard did not come up through the Human Resource department. She came up through the stores, like everyone else at The Container Store.)

Discussion questions:  The Container Store seems to be an outlier when it comes to hiring in the retail industry. Do you know of other retailers with unique hiring processes? Why do you think many (if not most) retailers accept an annual turnover rate of 100 percent? What does The Container Store gain from such an extraordinarily low turnover rate?

My post: 

I’ve watched the Container Store for years and have always been impressed that they have never wavered from their “commitment to time” in talent acquisition, education, and ongoing improvement of these processes.  They are simply maniacal about this.  We all know that having extraordinary people outweighs any temporary lack of extraordinary products, services, or strategies.  But few companies focus on the people side with the same level of intensity that The Container Store executes daily.  Why?  It started at the beginning with the founders’ personal focus on hiring and educating the best workforce anywhere.  For any company wishing to emulate The Container Store’s success, it must start at the very top.  The leader must ensure their lieutenants share their maniacal focus and stay on this literally forever.  Any relaxation in this focus will allow slippage.  There is no shortage of information on developing excellent hiring, education, and retention processes.  There is, however, a terrible shortage of leaders willing to make this the company’s #1 priority.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! TM strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full discussion at RetailWire.com:
http://www.retailwire.com/Discussions/Sngl_Discussion.cfm/13624

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