Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Advantage in recruitment and retention

Retail Bulletin is promoting the 2nd Annual Retail HR Summit which is aimed, as you might expect, at retailers but in reality it will probably not attract many SMEs - but that will not be the fault of the organisers (although it is marketed in a way that might deter many!). The lessons to be learnt at this event are fundamental even to the small employer.

The headlines are citing that it will be advantageous to differentiate your brand in the recruitment market - I have to say that that is more than possible even if you only employ a few people. They are promoting training input as an important tool for staff retention but also for adding value to the bottom line.

All too often the SME retailer falls into the trap of believing their own unfounded statements of woe and doom when it comes to training; "I can't afford for him/her to be off the shop-floor", "I can't afford to pay for any training", "They'll only leave if I train them". These perfectly understandable comments are not based on a well planned training strategy as a fundamental function within the business plan and often arise from a lack of understanding about how to capitalise on well trained and motivated staff.

My experience comes from when I devised a training programme to counter the fact that my store was based within half a mile of several major store groups, each with an effective training policy. In embracing an established programme I was able to attract funding (although there were associated costs); I was able to focus the training on the weaknesses that I had previously identifed in a simple SWOT analysis; equally I was able to build on the strengths. By ensuring that the individual needs of the staff member was also taken into consideration and that they were duly recognised for their efforts, I was able to reduce the turnover of staff, improve the performance of staff in each of the departments thus cutting costs and increasing revenues by making the sales staff better able to convert sales. The chosen route was to work towards awards that were within the National Vocational Qualifications framework, so that even though we were small, our training suited the requirements of a recognised award.

Staff were rewarded for effort, producing a far better return on the firm's investment in them and customer loyalty was noticeably improved and costs reduced. What can I say? If I can do it...

Just a small aside, depending on the size and location of the business, there are funds available to subsidise relevant training and you will be surprised how well motivated staff will commit to working in their own time. Try it, you might get the bug yourself! Contact Train to Gain and your local Business Link for more information.

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