Yes, retail is struggling. Yes, surviving on the high street is more challenging than ever. And yes, our industry has indeed got a higher turnover rate than most.
However, if you aren’t putting your staff’s mindset at the core of your retail brand’s culture and strategy, you don’t get to complain.
Hear me out.
The current situation for most retail brands
I’ve worked in retail for over 20 years and bumped into the same problems over and over again.
Now, don’t get me wrong: as I said at the beginning, I’m well aware of the current talent crisis!
But I also think that too many brands and store managers use it as an excuse.
In fact, I’d argue that the real crisis experienced by the retail sector is a leadership one.
Problem #1: An outdated leadership style
Most retail brands are still clinging to a store manager figure that’s no longer relevant:
They spend more time in the office than on the shop floor
They micromanage and rely too heavily on delegation
They focus on hard KPIs alone
They don’t invest in their staff’s training because “they’ll probably leave soon”
When they do, they tend to prioritise redundant training options
Overall, one of the main problems with most retail leadership is that it’s misunderstanding what drives new generations.
Problem #2: Retail brands that don’t align with the needs of new generations
Today, millennials are the largest workforce in the world, and Gen Z is our future, but they’re often labelled as ‘lazy’ (a bit cheeky, when they were raised by the same generations criticising them, don’t you think?).
In reality, I believe millennials and Gen Z are being failed by most retail brands, leaders, and managers because they don’t understand their needs.
These generations are no longer up for working mindlessly and feeling like a cog in a machine. If your brand isn’t making them feel fulfilled, they’ll leave… especially when there’s so much competition out there!
Remember that people don’t really leave jobs: they leave managers. So, it’s no wonder that, for 18% of millennials and Gen Z, better leadership is what would motivate them to stay much longer.
And this leadership needs to change the focus from old-style training to what these generations really want.
Problem #3: Training that overlooks the real catalyst for change
The forms of training I’ve encountered the most when starting to work with new retail brands are:
Classroom style workshops
Now, I’m not saying they haven’t got a place in the retail industry at all.
However, they’re lacking the most important thing: a personal and human focus across all levels.
These forms of training don’t take your employee’s skills, habits, behaviours, and attitudes into account. For that, you need a growth mindset.
At all levels of your retail brand.
The solution: a growth mindset in retail and actually putting people first
Since becoming a sought-after consultant for retail brands, I've delivered projects on leadership behaviours, OMNI implementation, store team empowerment, customer service experience, and more.
But there was always ONE golden thread they all had in common: onboarding and influencing change from top down. And, for that, a growth mindset and new leadership style is vital.
Because the real catalyst for change is (drumroll) people’s mindset!
And a growth mindset is all about believing that one’s talent and skills can be developed further and mastered, seeing opportunities rather than obstacles, and being resilient.
A new leadership style with a growth mindset
New store managers must embrace this mindset and motivate their staff to do the same. If you want your retail brand to succeed, you should rely on store managers who:
Spend 80% of their time on the shop floor (yes, really!)
Lead by example and work with their staff instead of always delegating or micromanaging
Put mindset first and focus on net employee satisfaction as well as traditional KPIs
Invest in their staff’s training even though some of them might leave (because they understand they can’t play russian roulette with their customers’ interactions!)
Choose training options designed around personal development and growth mindset
These are also the kinds of managers who understand what moves new generations!
New generations want to feel that retail brands care about them personally
Sure, job perks and discounts are still juicy benefits. However, if they aren’t backed up by a strong company culture, millennials and Gen Z can see straight through them.
What today’s retail teams really want is to work for brands that support their personal growth and development. In fact, 94% of employees would stay with a company much longer if it simply invested in them.
For that, it’s important to:
Focus on human skills like effective listening, the power of body language, presenting with impact, influencing, etc.
Inspire a growth mindset, making your retail staff feel they can indeed develop these skills (and that they’re not just something they’re either born with or without)
In fact, a people-first approach should apply to both staff and customers!
Developing your staff’s mindset won’t only help you retain more of them: it’ll generate more conversions and help your brand grow, because… guess what?
People buy from people! It’s only natural that improving your staff’s human skills will enable them form deeper and more meaningful connections with your customers (and purpose drives profit!)
Think about it: when someone walks into your store, they’ve already cast a vote of confidence in your brand. They could have easily gone to one of your competitors or looked for the same product online.
Now, if your staff doesn’t connect with them on a human level… they probably will do one of those, next time!
Likewise, your staff can actively make a positive difference by:
Making your customers feel heard, understood, and valued
Helping them make a decision that’s based on their actual wants and needs
Making them feel that it was worth heading to your physical location because they got the kind of personalised service that just isn’t available online
But how can your staff provide the best possible in-store experience if you haven’t invested in developing their human skills and growth mindset?
Retail is NOT in the business of products.
We are in the business of people.
And that isn’t just about your customers, but your staff, too.
It’s time to change the focus of your retail staff training!
So, for all this to become the day-to-day reality of your stores, it’s now more important than ever to provide training that goes beyond old options and cookie-cutter approaches:
Focus on your staff’s personal development and their growth mindset
Prioritise human skills