Another day, another boardroom battle for Britain’s retailers. Today it’s Debenhams, who desperately need £200m to fight off Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley, who seems intent on buying up every ailing retailer on the high street.
But what do these high-level wranglings mean for the average customer? More sales, certainly. But one thing you are guaranteed to find is an assortment of frazzled employees who are worried about their jobs.
So, while you’re getting annoyed at Sandra who refuses to look “in the back” to see if they’ve got that jumper in a larger size, or Robert on the customer service line who appears less than interested in whether the courier has lost your delivery, what are the suits at the top of the food chain doing to reassure staff?
From my 30 years in the retail business, I know only too well that staff morale can make or break a business. So here are my top three tips for Debenhams bosses – or any other struggling retailer, as there are many to choose from right now – on how to help your employees weather the storm.
Firstly, remember staff at all levels. Remember that they will see the news and be uncertain about what it means or them. Yes, middle management might be wondering where they fit in with the new structure, but the chances are they will be well-informed. What about the people on the ground? These are single mothers, working part time while the kids are at school. Students, who work weekends to supplement their meagre student loans. They’re wondering whether they will have a job next week, and wondering how they are going to pay their bills.
Second, be transparent. Put out a staff memo on the company intranet. Even better, record a video message for staff and reassure them that although the outlook looks grim on the news, you are doing everything you can to make sure they are looked after and that job losses are not something you want to consider. Make sure staff have access to this information before the press do, so they feel like they are your priority.
Finally, provide support. Have your HR department ready to address concerns, and remember this is an opportunity to improve. Encourage staff to adhere to best practice, and invest in training. Though this might seem counter intuitive, it goes a long way towards boosting the collective flagging that words like “store closures” and “buyouts” can bring.
If you cover all these bases, no matter what happens, you will have your staff behind you!
Read more from Martin Newman here+