Monica Cooper and her partner Alec Sneddon own A&M’s Variety in Coniston, ON. The two work full time in the store, alongside four part-time employees. For this couple, staff engagement isn’t easy, but they’ve found success by keeping these eight strategies in mind.
Strategy 1: R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Treating staff members how you’d like to be treated is the name of the game at A&M’s Variety.
“I’ve found that in my 20 years of working in groups, staying positive and upbeat around other people can change someone’s sour mood into a positive mood,” she says, adding that it’s important to show respect by listening to opinions and involving employees in the decision-making process.
Strategy 2: Be part of the community.
A&M’s Variety is very involved and active in the community. “We spend long hours at our store and through the years we have developed a strong bond with our customers,” says Cooper.
They see their customers as family, and raise money for their local hockey association, participate in the yearly food drive at Christmas, and also donate to organizations within the community, such as the playground association.
Strategy 3: Look to your customers.
“When we hire someone, it’s always someone in the community. It’s always a customer that we have observed and gotten to know for a few months or even years,” says Cooper.
By building strong ties with customers, these retailers can become comfortable with potential employees before they even hire them.
Strategy 4: Ask for input.
A&M’s Variety has a successful Facebook page where they post information about deals, community news and alerts, and draws for items such as tickets to local sporting events.
Cooper manages the Facebook page, but she’s always turning to her employees for ideas. “We’re always asking our employees about what we should raffle next or what game can we play for a prize giveaway,” she says, adding that involving them in these decisions ensures they feel like part of the team.
Strategy 5: Be thankful.
To stay on top of industry trends and innovation, Cooper and Sneddon often head to Toronto to attend trade shows and to find products they can’t find in Coniston.
“Each time we come back from one of these trips, our staff is so excited and just can’t wait to see what we picked up. We usually bring a gift back for them from our trip as a way to say thank you for taking care of our store while we were gone,” says Cooper.
“We’re close to our staff but it’s also really important to leave that line of employee and employer.”
Strategy 6: Work in your own store.
Being present in your store on a daily basis ensures you have a handle on day-to-day operations and roles. “Work your store so you know what’s goes on and so you can get to know your staff. You should also get to know your customers because some day they may be an employee,” she says.
Strategy 7: Turn mistakes into lessons.
Employee training is essential, says Cooper. “Employees have to understand tobacco and lottery laws; they have to get that right because it comes down on the owners.”
A&M’s Variety employees are always being reminded about proper identification laws, but when mistakes are made, these retailers use those incidents as learning experiences to ensure employees know what went wrong and how to correct it in the future.
Strategy 8: Demonstrate positivity.
For Cooper and Sneddon, it all comes back to that simple golden rule: treat others how you’d like to be treated. “Don’t walk into your store with a sour look on your face and dictate. You won’t get results and you won’t keep employees,” says Cooper.
“We’re always smiling and saying positive things. It doesn’t matter if you’re having a bad day at home, when you walk through your doors of your store you need to put a smile on your face.”
It’s important to be upbeat and positive around people because this behaviour is contagious, she says. “Just try it and you’ll see results!”