Employees should be assessing your business as well

By Gordon Hecht, YSN Contributor

You’ve finished counting the dough you made over Black Friday weekend and have torn off the next-to-last page of the Classic Cars or Cute Kittens calendar hanging in your office.

Meaning there’s only one chapter left in 2021.

Savvy leaders have already set their sights on 2022 with goal planning, part of which requires those dreaded but necessary performance reviews with the staff.  After all, the performance review session provides the opportunity to celebrate successes, candidly discuss shortcomings, and gain mutual agreement on the path forward.

Just like Ivory Soap, it’s purely likely that 99 and 44/100 percent of this year’s reviews will be one-sided. That is, management goal oriented.

But in case you haven’t heard, companies in the U.S. are experiencing “The Great Resignation.” Over 50 million employees have changed jobs or left the workforce this year, making it a challenge to keep and find people who can help your team survive and grow.

The workers who have left and the ones that remain are pretty smart. They know more about day-to-day operations than most of the top leaders. Whether from messy customer encounters or dirty fingernail experience, they have expert knowledge on:

  • What merchandise they will never show and sell
  • Why the store down the street sells shoppers that you should be selling
  • Which employees are ready to quit and why they are leaving
  • Who will get fired (usually they know two weeks before you do)
  • Which policies or practices your shoppers hate
  • Which items have the highest return or dissatisfaction rates
  • Ten ways to bring down costs or improve operational efficiency
  • Ten ways to drive more business

If you value that type of knowledge, it would seem that the easiest way to get it is to simply ask your employees. The flaw, however, is that most of the people you work with will clam up. This is a result of most managers responding to that information in a defensive or confrontational manner. If you’ve found yourself hearing or making a suggestion, and the response is “That won’t work because…,” then you are a victim of that negativity.

Consider instead a survey where your team can respond in anonymously.  Good old pen and paper will work.  Don’t ask for long written responses, as some of your staff will be concerned that you’ll recognize their handwriting. You can create questions with multiple choice answers that just require ticking a box.

If you have the capability, you can create an electronic form using Microsoft Word.  Your team can type in their answers and then print and submit the form.

Or take the next step and use Google Forms.  This easy-to-use format allows you to create short answer or multiple-choice survey questions with all responses submitted anonymously. As a bonus you can sort and sift through the responses.

Start your reverse review with merchandise questions: What sells, what doesn’t, what gets returned. Then add in some competition questions: Who do we lose sales to (brand and store). Be bold and ask, “What would you change?” and “How can we improve upon…” questions. You can get to the heart of the matter with questions like “What is the best/worst part about working here?”

The package that the responses come in can be ugly and distasteful, but the information inside will be valuable in helping your company grown. If your business has more than three employees you can expect the Three S’s of answers: Silly, snarky and sarcastic. But even those responses have value in gauging the mood of your ground-level, customer-facing team.

There’s no better time to get all the information you need to plan for a successful 2022. Unlock the vault of information that your employees hold (and want you to know). Sift through it and you’ll eliminate bottlenecks and widen your opportunities.

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry. You can reach him at Gordon.Hecht@aol.com.