FOSTERING EMPLOYEE DEVELOPMENT IS CRITICAL TO MAINTAINING TOP TALENT IN
RETAIL ORGANIZATIONS, LIPPMAN ADVISES
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High-caliber retail talent is scarce and difficult to attract, but merchants can and should take steps to buck the trend, advised Lloyd A. Lippman, founder and CEO of Career Management, a retail, direct mail and e-commerce executive search firm with offices in East Brunswick, N.J. and Manhattan.
In a panel discussion on making the hiring of talent a strategic priority, Lippman noted that current retail training programs do not include sufficient cross-training to produce the caliber of executives that are the tomorrow's true merchants and leaders. Other panelists included Nancy Straface, vice president, human resources, Loehmanns; Roy Cohen, vice president, human resources, Tween Brands (operator of Limited Too and Justice stores); and Aida DeColli, executive vice president, human resources, Jones Apparel Group, Inc. Joan Volpe, managing coordinator, The Center For Professional Studies at F.I.T., moderated the session.
In the past, he said,
trainees spent time in stores, meeting and learning to understand
customers, as well as working in the merchandising and planning
areas. They subsequently applied what they had learned to satisfying
Lippman believes retailers must search within their own organizations for talented individuals and take all necessary steps to foster their development. The real talent today is working in your own company, but they are not being trained, challenged, recognized, motivated or mentored to be the best that they can be, he stated. He advised merchants to consider internal candidates who may not have the specific experience necessary to fill a given position, but are intelligent, in sync with their companies beliefs and values, and have potential that could be maximized with the proper training and mentoring.
Quality candidates can also be found within competitors ranks. Many of these individuals may prove difficult to recruit because they feel secure, productive and appreciated for their contribution to their companies success. Thus, attracting the best and brightest from other organizations requires a willingness to assign to prospective employees the responsibilities and authority that fits the job title. Being creative with compensation and offering security in the form of sign-on bonuses, performance bonuses, stock options, grants and severance agreements is equally critical, according to Lippman. When retention is above average, customer satisfaction, productivity, and profitability also tend to be above average, he said. Once top-tier talent has been recruited, retailers must enlist strategic measures to retain it. Although compensation plays a role in attrition, employees are far more concerned with the level of fulfillment they get from their jobs. Statistics bear this out, Lippman said, noting that 41% of executives who participated in a recent survey by Robert Half International deemed limited career growth their rationale for seeking employment elsewhere. By contrast, only 15% of individuals queried cited salary and benefits as a viable rationale for leaving a job.
Lippman urged organizations to focus on ensuring that the candidates they select are a good match for the job in question, as well as for the culture of the hiring company. Additional key measures for retention include being clear about what is expected of employees; providing personnel with the materials and equipment needed to perform their jobs successfully; and ensuring that employees are assigned to managers who care about them and their success. Retailers should also surround talented employees with co-workers who have a similar drive for quality and success, as well as provide opportunities for staff members to learn and grow.
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