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Giving a Job Description to Your Employees
In our store, we are always looking for additional ways to gain an advantage in our market. Most frequently, we find ideas from other retailers, and adapt them to our store. There are four ideas, or management tools, that we believe have been of great benefit to us.
The first tool that we found a need for, was a set of instructions for positions such as cashiers and warehouse personnel. These written directions, which we have titled, "job specifications", are approximately 4 pages in length. They explain most of the situations we expect these individuals to encounter and detail how to handle them. For situations outside the instructions, we explain who they should go to for a decision.
Upon finding that job specifications were very useful for these positions, we wanted to create written instructions for many of the other tasks in our store. The tasks that we had in mind were those that all of our employees (we call them team members) performed on a regular basis.
We used our regular staff meetings as an occasion to introduce and explain these written guidelines. These instructions were written in the form of letters. Of the 22 letters we currently have, the majority deal with performing tasks such as writing special orders and filling bottles of liquid chlorine. These "how to" letters are called procedure letters. The balance of these instructions, known as policy letters, give the rules of our store. They detail vacations, how to dress for work, and what duties each team member is expected to perform.
As we found that the quality of work improved, we began to include product knowledge and customer service as a part of our staff meetings. Only now, this third management tool is called Skyway University, and each meeting has a planned agenda and a written test to let us know how we are doing as teachers and how well our team members are learning.
The fourth management tool is one that most people outside the hardware business consider to be the most important. However, as we have explained, it was the last one that we created.
To extract the best effort from our employees, we have found that it is important to help them to understand what we expect them to do after we have hired them. Our job description addresses, for every position in our store, the three areas we consider to be the most important regarding the operation of our store. Those areas of concern are patron (our word for a customer) support, team member support, and a joint heading of communication and management. The management section is completed for our floor supervisors and managers.
The first section of our job description is patron support. We repeatedly state to all of our team members that while it is not their sole responsibility, the person shopping in our store is the most important part of their job. In listing their duties towards our patrons, we begin by stating that "customer service" is not dead, just harder to find, and that we expect our store to have the distinction of offering the best service possible.
We outline to each and every team member an average of eleven points of how their particular job relates to that patron shopping in our store. This first area covers a broad spectrum from greeting the patron, (with a greeting other than, "Can I help you?") to writing a special order for an item that we do not stock.
Our second section of a job description, subtitled "team member support", describes how we expect our team members to work together, and how to assist each other from both a physical and verbal standpoint. This covers areas such as building displays, giving input to our policy & procedure manual, updating catalogs, preparing our store for sales promotions. For positions of management, we also state our expectations regarding advertising, inventory levels, payroll and preparing invoices for payment.
Our third section of a job description is entitled "communication" for all team members and includes a management section for the appropriate positions. We begin by defining to our team members that we believe communication is an ability and an art by which we convey ideas, instructions, information and inspiration. We go on to point out that each of us must be able to do this with a patron, with each other, and with those that are our supervisors.
It is in this section that we tell our team members that they are required to participate in our training program, read trade magazines, and follow the guidelines of our policy & procedure manual. We also identify for each team member, their immediate supervisor. We have created a chain of command which has our patrons on top, and management on the bottom. This statement of the chain of command restates our position that the patron shopping at our store is the most important individual.
This third section is expanded for management to include duties that are handled by individual positions. A floor supervisor is expected to participate in conducting our training program as well as opening and closing the store. Our office secretary is trained to prepare quarterly tax reports as well as create accounts receivable aging reports for the manager.
To answer the question of how long these four management tools took to create, the answer is 3 years. It took 3 years to have the basis of each of these tools in working order, but we are still improving and adding to each one of them. And to the other question of would we create them again, our answer would point out that we would not want to be without them. We find it to be just like we tell our customers, "the job is always easier with the right tools."
This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.
Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.