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Job Specifications

A Tool That Will Help You Manage

During the years that we have owned this store, we have experienced, as we would expect many retailers have, situations where there are, "just not enough hours in the day." And as there have been many occasions when we have worked numerous fourteen hour days in the store, we are convinced that this is not the proper method for successful store management.

As we continually strive to make our store a more profitable business, we realize that a large part of our success depends upon how well we are able to manage our team members. We believe that managing means that as management we should delegate the repetitive jobs to those that work in our store. With these objectives, we strive to sharpen our four management tools as we feel that these tools are the most productive means to accomplish our goals.

In a previous Retailer's View we detailed the usage of one of our management tools, job descriptions, for our team members. Our job description is a written three part explanation of what is expected of each team member at our store. Our three other management tools are, 1. the policy & procedure manual: the rules of the store and instructions of how to perform routine tasks, 2. our training program: the bi-weekly staff meetings for product knowledge, salesmanship, and review of our policy & procedure manual, and 3. job specifications.

Our job specifications are detailed written instructions of how to perform certain jobs in our store. Currently, we have job specifications for our cashiers and warehouse personnel.

In creating job specifications, we believe we have received several important benefits. Those are, 1. eliminating the need for constant supervision of team members, 2. being able to solve problems quicker and easier and, 3. allowing new team members to become more productive with less time involved.

Our job specification details the performance of a job from beginning to end. The job specification attempts to detail "what-if" situations by providing instructions for solving problems and establishing a level of monetary authority for each position. For a cashier this covers a situation such as a patron returning merchandise without a receipt. And with warehouse personnel, this is for making a decision regarding the receipt of overage merchandise from a vendor.

When a situation exceeds a team member's level of authority, the job specification states that the cashier should check with the floor supervisor on duty, while the warehouse personnel would get authorization from the individual that buys for that department.

In creating job specifications, we began by listing the various tasks that a particular person currently performed. To this list, we attached the additional jobs we wanted to have accomplished, but that currently were not being done. Secondly, we calculated the necessary, and available time frame. An example of this was our effort to clear the backlog of defective and return merchandise. For our warehouse personnel, we decided we needed 30 minutes spent each week to resolve this problem.

We then spent some time observing and taking notes while our team members performed their particular jobs. With our notes we began to create a step by step description of performing a job. Both of the job specifications that we are currently using are approximately four pages in length.

Upon completing this "script", the job specification is discussed and reviewed with our floor supervisors, looking to gain their input. Of course, by having their input, the floor supervisors knew that they played a valuable part in the creation of this management tool.

When we completed a written version of a job specification, we gave a copy to each appropriate team member, asking for their input before we implemented the new job specification.

As we effected the new job specifications, it was agreed that we would collectively review our work after 30 days of usage. Finally, in addition to the individuals performing the job being given a copy of the job specification, a copy was posted in the work area, and a copy added to our booklet of management tools that we keep in the office.

And, after the initial 30 days we did perform the review as promised. We began the review by observing the performance of team members performing these jobs. We also examined the paperwork to see that we had created the most complete and quickest route. In reviewing the job specifications, checking for time restraints was important. We have, several times, experienced team members that worked for the end of the day instead of working to assist as many patrons as possible, or completing as much work as they could.

There were also several refinements that we wanted to add to the job specifications. An example of such a refinement was to provide our cashiers with an alternative to greeting each patron at the check out stand with, "Is that all?".

Not surprising, was that the initial review of our job specifications did not prove to be the only revision. Although created in 1987, we have made a revision to our job specifications as recent as this year. We have learned that revisions should be kept to a minimum. We feel that frequent job specification changes could cause our team members to question our ability to lead.

Today, if we were to start with another store, there are but a few items that we would need to take with us. Those items would be the collection of business cards so as to help us reestablish contacts with manufacturers and salesmen, and secondly, our booklet of management tools to allow us the opportunity to create the team concept in our new store.

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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.

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Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179