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									                                                      P E O P L E                                                                                                                                                                                Ganesh Chella

        A passion for people                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Addressing people and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            organisation issues is one of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              the most critical elements
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 of successful retailing,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                given that this is one of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                the most frontine of all
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     service businesses.
                                                                                                                                                      tems and programmes for perfor-
                                                                                                                                                      mance management and reward and
                                                                                                                                                      recognition appropriate to the retail
                                                                                                                                                         Compliance: Compliance refers to
                                                                                                                                                      the process by which the organisa-
                                                                                                                                                      tion is able to ensure fulfilment of all
                                                                                                                                                      its promises and commitments made
                                                                                                                                                      to employees through its policies,
                                                                                                                                                      stated privileges and work conditions
                                                                                                                                                      through effective workforce manage-            We will now look at the approach-

                                                                                                                                   Pic: Bijoy Ghosh
                                                                                                                                                      ment processes.                             es that a retail business needs to
                                                                                                                                                         Compliance also includes confor-         adopt in these five areas, along with
                                                                                                                                                      mance to all statutory, legal and eth-      issues and problems specific to retail
                                                                                                                                                      ical regulations and requirements           in these areas.
                                                                                                                                                      meant to protect the interests of both
                                                                                                                                                      employees and the organisation.             Capacity

             ICK up any book written by the    of the traditional HR manager’s com-      mat and organising work in a man-                               Culture: Culture refers to the way          Organisation design: Making the
             CEO of a successful corpora-      petence or responsibility. It has now     ner that enhances performance, pro-                          the organisation works and is the end       right structural choice for the retail
             tion and you will see him talk    become a serious business priority        ductivity and addresses the specialist                       result of the values it lives by. Culture   business is critical, for this can
      at length about the importance of        for the CEO and an integral part of       needs of the retail business.                                really influences the way the organi-       impact customer service, productivi-
      people to his business, not just         his job.                                  q Putting together a staffing pro-                           sation manages the above four               ty, utilisation of organisational capa-
      because it is fashionable, but also         Given that retail is perhaps one of    gramme        that   comprehensively                         processes i.e. Capacity, Capabilities,      bilities, managing costs and support-
      because it is true. Look closer and      the most frontline of all service busi-   addresses the manning needs of a                             Contribution and Compliance.                ing growth. So let us first understand
      you will realise that most of these      nesses, addressing its organisation       large or small retail business, espe-                                                                                                               the key results that the organisation
      CEOs have run successful service         and people issues is critical to busi-    cially the frontline needs.                                                                                                                         design in a retail business helps
      businesses.                              ness success. Therefore, the effort          Capability: Capability refers to the                                            Five-C framework                                                 achieve:
         As a human resources (HR) profes-     here is to address all key organisa-      process of defining the capabilities                                                                                                                   1. Ensuring geographical reach
      sional working closely with several      tion and people issues in retail using    the retail business would require in                                                                                                                and expansion.
      service businesses, I see CEOs spend-    the simple 5-C framework (illustrat-      order to accomplish its business                                                                                                                       2. Ensuring easy flow of two-way
      ing increasing amounts of time           ed in the accompanying graphic).          objectives and creating a system to
                                                                                                                                                           Capacity                                                 Capability               communication and speedy decision-
      addressing people issues. People no         Capacity: Capacity refers to the       systematically impart these capabili-                                                                                                               making, especially between stores
      longer just receive that mandatory       process of ‘building organisation         ties through on-going training and                                                                 Culture                                          and the head office, and ensuring
      one-line mention on the last line of     capacity’ to achieve business results.    coaching efforts.                                                                                                                                   that the CEO is not far removed from
      the Chairman’s report. They are cen-     This includes tasks such as:                 Contribution: Contribution refers                                                                                                                operating realities.
                                                                                                                                                         Contribution                                              Compliance
      tral to the story the annual report                                                to all the processes by which the                                                                                                                      3. Ensuring that scarce and expen-
      will tell. Organisation and people       q Designing an organisation that is       organisation is able to enhance                                                                                                                     sive specialist resources (such as
      issues are no longer within the limits   appropriate for the chosen retail for-    employee contribution through sys-                                                                                                                  merchandising, distribution, market-

28 Praxis 3 Business Line 3 January 2002                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Praxis 3 Business Line 3 January 2002 29
                                                                                                                                                         resources and achieve cost efficiency
                                                                                                                                                         and standardisation. When retailers
                                                                                                                                                         run multiple formats, the front-end is           RAVIKANTH
                                                                                                                                                         most of the time dedicated, whereas
                                                                                                                                                         some of the key support functions
                                                                                                                                                         tend to be shared across formats.
                                                                                                                                                            The most critical issue is the design
                                                                                                                                                         of the store manager’s role. Store
                                                                                                                                                         managers who are buried under piles
                                                                                                                                                         of bureaucracy and layers of man-
                                                                                                                                                         agement seldom act in an empow-
                                                                                                                                                         ered manner. Despite having maxi-
                                                                                                                                                         mum insight into the customer the
                                                                                                                                                         structure may not allow him to be
                                                                                                                                                         heard. The extent of empowerment
                                                                                                                                                         and the quality of systems support
                                                                                                                                                         will determine whether he spends
                                                                                                                                                         more time with customers and in
                                                                                                                                                         growing the business or in filing
                                                                                                                                                         reports that the head office keeps
                                                                                                                                                         asking for.

                                                                                                                                 Pic: A. Roy Chowdhury
                                                                                                                                                            Staffing: There is perhaps nothing
                                                                                                                                                         more critical in a retail business than
                                                                                                                                                         a good staffing strategy and pro-
                                                                                                                                                         gramme. Retail is perhaps the only
                                                                                                                                                         business where large-scale hiring
                                                                                                                                                         keeps happening throughout the life
                                                                                                                                                         of the organisation given that retail-
                                              ing services, properties & projects)      either has operational or profit                                 ers keep opening stores. A lot has
                         One of the most      are well utilised and not duplicated      responsibility. A typical large format                           been written about the importance of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  “Just three more sons, dear, and we can start
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             our own chain of stores.”
                        important issues      across regions \ geographies.             department store would have a                                    good quality hiring, but the realities
                                                 4. Ensuring that there is standard-    senior person heading the store with                             of managing a staffing programme
                           in retail is the   isation of systems, practices and poli-   a profit goal, whereas a small format                            for a retail business makes ‘quality
                                              cies across stores.                       store chain such as a supermarket                                hiring’ sound like a luxury. Let’s         all that people receive.
                      design of the store        5. Ensuring that there is a right      would assign only operational                                    understand the context first:                 However, these are not the real
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Most retailers in
                         manager’s role.      balance between the extent of cen-        responsibility to the store manager.                             q Retail jobs in the frontline are near    issues. The real issue is that most       India are rather
                                              tralisation and decentralisation,           As the business reaches reason-                                minimum wage jobs. Those in spe-           retailers are lazy when it comes to
                                              especially with reference to pivotal      able geographical dominance, the                                 cialty formats tend to pay a wee bit       planning a staffing strategy. While       lazy when it
                                              roles such as the store manager, the      organisation is faced with the need to                           better. Pay can seldom be used as the      they spend a lot of energy fitting out
                                              regional manager and so on.               make competence available in the                                 lead mechanism to hire.                    their stores to international stan-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              comes to planning
                                                 6. Ensuring that the front drives      region to address issues of growth,                              q Retail jobs are physically demand-       dards and sourcing the best mer-          a staffing strategy.
                                              the back (Operations drives the sup-      fast store roll-out, competition, cus-                           ing. Very few jobs requires you to         chandise, they somehow assume that
                                              port functions based on what cus-         tomisation and so on. At this stage                              stand 10 hours a day, six days a           ‘people will happen’. Even worse,
                                              tomers want) and the back does not        they overlay a geographical structure                            week, work on weekends, holidays           they just go out and hire from the
                                              drive the front (Support functions do     in the front-end, typically with a                               and festive days.                          streets or other retailers just in time
                                              not dictate what Operations should        regional head who has profit respon-                             q Retail jobs are also not career          to open the stores. Very few actually
                                              do and how they should handle cus-        sibility and is also provided with                               builders in the short-run. Not many        do supply side management in
                                              tomers).                                  some key functional resources. These                             frontliners can grow to become store       staffing.
                                                 Our research shows that most           resources would typically work in a                              managers.                                     The other serious issue is to do
                                              retailers start off with a simple func-   matrix structure.                                                q Value addition is not very common        with numbers. Indian retailers tend
                                              tional organisation at head office.         Once the organisation’s systems                                except with very professionally run        to be too generous in manning the
                                              Depending on the nature of the for-       are well established, most retailers                             retailers who invest in a lot of train-    stores. We tend to believe that since
                                              mat, at this stage, the store manager     would like to pull back specialist                               ing. In most cases ‘smile training’ is     the per head cost is seemingly low we

30 Praxis 3 Business Line 3 January 2002                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Praxis 3 Business Line 3 January 2002 31
                                                                                                 what they want, not yet comfortable         als to work in this field today.           retail formats with assisted selling.
                                                                                                 waiting at check-out queues or bag-            The most crucial position for which     q Lack of competence can directly
                                                                                                 ging their own products. They expect        the retailer must have a staffing          affect the store’s reputation.
                                                                                                 their lack of familiarity to be com-        strategy is the store manager. ‘Where      q Most retail employees come with
                                                                                                 pensated by a lot of staff around to        are my next 20 store managers going        very minimal educational qualifica-
                                                                                                 help.                                       to come from?’ is a question for           tions and therefore cannot be sub-
                                                                                                    I have seen so many supermarket          which the retailer must have a clear       jected to intense conceptual inputs or
                                                                                                 shoppers asking store employees to          and well-articulated answer. The           classroom inputs for that matter.
                                                                                                 accompany them with trolleys while          most ineffective solution is to hire a     q Employees in retail stores cannot
                                                                                                 they move around and picking up             store manager from outside and             be spared for long hours or days for
                                                                                                 products. You can call this great ser-      expect him to run the store. Given         training. Therefore, whatever needs
                                                                                                 vice; you can also call it inefficiency.    that his primary role is to be a coach,    to be done has to be quick and well
                                                                                                 Organised retailing, which is still new     an outside hire seldom carries credi-      timed like during lean days and lean
                                                                                                 to us in India, calls for a lot of self-    bility among the frontline employees.      shopping cycles.
                                                                                                 help, which of course is contrary to           The organisation must also have a       q Most important, the frontliners
                                                                                                 the Indian belief in fussing over our       good development plan by which             who need training the most are also
                                                                                                 ‘guests’.                                   supervisors, floor managers or             most informed about what the cus-
                                                                                                    The issue is simple - if you have        department managers grow to                tomers want, what they like and dis-
                                                                                                 fewer people, you can offer better          become store managers. While the           like. Those who train them therefore
                                                                                                 careers to the fewer employees, train       compensation strategy for frontliners      need to ensure that their training
                                                                                                 them better and reward them better.         can be conservative, retailers must        addresses problems of satisfying cus-
                                                                                                 The larger the numbers, the lesser          really have a very competitive plan        tomer needs than just deliver moth-
                                                                                                 the attention, lesser the training and      for store managers. If you want him        erhood stuff that is meaningless.
                                                                                                 value addition resulting in higher          to provide stability and also act as the      It is these factors that make the
                                                                                                 attrition.                                  custodian of your business, he must        training task challenging.
                                                                                                    A retailer with plans to grow large      be compensated well.                          Service businesses throughout the       Retailers must provide
                                                                                                 must have a concerted plan for                                                         world, including retail, have worked
                                                                                                 addressing his staffing needs. The          Capability                                 on this unique problem and have            growth opportunities,
                                                                                                 RPG Institute of Retail Management             A lot has been said about training      come up with many interesting and
                               “You’ll love it! Bedroom, drawing room,
                                                                                                 in Chennai is an outstanding example        employees in retail, but very little is    innovative solutions. The single most
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   especially for frontline
                               kitchen and toilet – all under one roof!”                         in this area. It is perhaps the coun-       really understood about the unique         important shift in the approach to         management staff.
                                                                                                 try’s largest producer of trained           issues relating to training in retail.     build capabilities in retail is to adopt
                                                                                                 frontline employees every year. With        First, we need to understand that          coaching and not training as the
                                                     can actually fill the store with a lot of   four centres across the country pro-        training, as it is traditionally under-    means. What is the difference?
          Indian retailers tend to
                                                     people. We also believe that quantity       ducing over a thousand trained              stood, seldom works in retail (for that       Coaching focuses on performance
               be too generous in                    will compensate for quality. But it         interns, the institute has helped           matter it does not work in any busi-       improvement whereas training
                                                     doesn’t. With little training and large     address the staffing needs of RPG’s         ness as much as it is expected to). To     focuses on developing skills, which
         manning stores, perhaps                     numbers, employees are quite often          retail businesses from the supply           understand this better we need to          may or may not be applied. Coaching
                                                     embarrassments to the store. Not            side. I am sure many others will fol-       understand the unique requirements         provides one-to-one attention, is
             because labour does
                                                     entirely their fault of course. Good        low this route.                             and problems of managing training          delivered at the workplace and by the
                   not cost much.                    role descriptions, tightly defined             Professional managers: The prob-         in retail:                                 supervisor or job expert. The gap
                                                     operating processes and drills can do       lem is that it’s very different with hir-                                              between the ‘trainer’ and the super-
                                                     a lot to enhance productivity and           ing professionals in retail.                q Employees are spread across mul-         visor is reduced.
                                                     reduce numbers drastically.                    In the early years, retail was not       tiple and scattered locations making          By adopting a coaching model,
                                                        While it is partly the retailers’        a very attractive field for profession-     delivery difficult.                        many international retailers have de-
                                                     fault, it is partly to do with the fact     als such as MBAs and CAs for spe-           q One of the key requirements of           mystified training, made delivery
                                                     that Indian customers are still ‘first’     cialist positions. No longer so. Many       training is standardisation in work        easy and made it possible to take
                                                     generation shoppers in organised            see retailing as an extremely               methods, processes and service tasks       training to the workplace rather than
                                                     retail stores. What this means is that      challenging career opportunity.             and not so much ‘smile training’.          expect people from the workplace to
                                                     our consumers are not yet used to           The introduction of courses in retail-      q Employee turnover in the frontline       come out for training. The other
                                                     finding their way around a large            ing at business schools is evidence         is around 20 per cent in most cases        important thing that retailers do is to
                                                     store, not yet comfortable looking at       of this increasing interest. It is          q Knowledge of products and ser-           focus training on multi-skilling and
                                                     floor plans or a signage to locate          quite easy to attract good profession-      vices can directly influence sale in       further link all pay and administra-

32 Praxis 3 Business Line 3 January 2002                                                                                                                                                                                                     Praxis 3 Business Line 3 January 2002 33
                                           tive decisions to the employee’s abili-    q Employees become quite clued in          point is that celebration is key, but     not pay minimum wages, give weekly
                                           ty to absorb and demonstrate these         to numbers, sales, expenses, shrink-       there is no quota for recognition. I      holidays or contribute to provident
                                           capabilities on the job. This is done      ages and so on.                            have seen many schemes fail because       fund and so on. And you can see this
                                           through an assessment and certifica-       q They also know what it takes to hit      managers see a compulsive need to         from the service you receive.
                                           tion process.                              the incentive pay levels.                  recognise employees by turns making          Statutory compliance: Retail is
                                                                                      q It promotes a lot of teamwork,           it an entitlement and destroying the      perhaps the most over-legislated
                                           Contribution                               helps the store manager focus on           charm and value of the programme.         business. To open a supermarket,
                                              Pay: The biggest challenge of           performance improvements and                                                         you will need something like a mini-
                                           ensuring employees contribution to         keeps the operation agile.                 Compliance                                mum of 20 licences. Each store
                                           business results is in figuring out        q Similarly, this also puts a lot of          I would like to focus on two issues    comes under a different inspector,
                                           what kind of reward and recognition        pressure on the support functions          here:                                     and you need resources to maintain
                                           programme to implement. Let us             and the head office to help the store      q Internal compliance                     records in each store. You can always
                                           again go back and understand the           achieve their goals. On the other          q External and statutory compliance       be slapped with a notice if someone
                                           contribution related realities in          hand, those in support functions no           Internal compliance: It refers to      wants to.
                                           retail, which are:                         longer wait to be asked for help. They     ensuring that internal customers are         You need a very robust machinery
                                           q Low margins and the dangers of           go out and ask to serve, given that        kept satisfied by meeting all their       to manage this, and avoid getting into
                                           raising guaranteed compensation.           their fortunes are now also linked to      basic needs and expectations as per       trouble despite being a good employ-
                                           q Store employees’ ability to directly     how well their stores are performing.      the promises made. This could             er. Unfortunately, despite talk of
                                           influence sale.                               A word of caution, however; the         include things such as paying salaries    retail becoming an industry, the
                                           q Store manager’s key role in ensur-       organisation needs to be sensitive to      on time, processing leave, loan and       Government still treats the retailer,
                                           ing profitability of the store.            environmental factors and extrane-         other requests on time, providing         big or small, like a petty shopkeeper.
                                           q Merchandisers’ ability to enhance        ous considerations when rolling-out        neat and clean changing rooms, good       In fact, the small shopkeeper who
                                           gross margins.                             the programme. Unless employees            uniforms and most important, ensur-       does not comply gets away with a
                    Frontline retail       q Need to contain shrinkages that          see the colour of money, the pro-          ing that their issues and grievances      competitive advantage since proper
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Retailing combines
            employees face a lot of        are primarily caused by employees          gramme will not be seen as credible.       are redressed quickly.                    compliance costs money.                    many of the features of
                                           and which can kill the business and           The organisation must also get             The most important concern that
             flak from customers           wipe out bottomlines.                      over its hang-up about confidentiality     frontline employees have is about         Culture                                    service businesses such
                                           q The fairly quantifiable nature of        and openly share all necessary finan-      ‘treatment at the workplace’.                There are many large organisa-
            as a part of their work        work in most retail roles.                 cial information about the health of       Remember that they are not very           tions with plans to enter the retail
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      as a courier company,
                 and hence must be         q The key role of customer satisfac-       the business or store. Knowing how         educated, cannot find their way           business. While they may have and          a fast-food restaurant,
                                           tion in building customer loyalty.         the store is doing is so critical to the   around the organisation and are the       do all that has been said so far, there
               recognised in some             Going by these realities, it is clear   store manager’s ability to drive own-      lowest in the hierarchy. They need to     is one big requirement - culture. If       an FMCG business,
                                           that any programme must have a             ership and also take corrective            feel safe and secure. In the absence      the organisation does not have the
           fashion, whenever they          strong linkage to the profitability at     actions.                                   of this they will either leave or even    right cultural orientation to run a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      a five-star hotel and
              are doing a good job.        the store level, the regional level and       Recognition: Equally important is       worse, attempt unionisation.              retail business, the best expertise will   a household.
                                           the business level. The programme          the role of non-monetary recognition          In RPG’s retail business there are     still not help it succeed. So what are
                                           should also ensure it establishes          programmes in influencing good con-        regular HR compliance audits to           the cultural pillars that are so impor-
                                           strong accountability, ownership and       tribution and also reinforcing the val-    check basic things such as whether        tant for retail?
                                           service orientation at all levels. Not     ues of the organisation – especially       employees took their weekly offs,            Retail is detail: When introducing
                                           an easy task given that we are talking     service values.                            whether any one was forced to work        retailing to aspiring professionals, I
                                           of a large proportion of front-line           Retail employees face a lot of flak     double shifts, whether the toilets had    often tell them that retailing is a com-
                                           employees.                                 from customers all the time. They          locks and so on. In other words HR        bination of a courier company, a fast-
                                              The key to this is a compensation       constantly need to be told that they       needs to be their champion and also       food restaurant, an FMCG business, a
                                           programme that is low on guaran-           are doing a good job, that their           advocate their cause, or else they will   five-star hotel and a household.
                                           teed pay but aggressive on store-          efforts are being noticed. What is         find someone else who can.                   Retail has the back-end logistics
                                           profitability linked bonuses or incen-     important is that this must be spon-          Compliance will, of course, also       complexities of a courier company. It
                                           tives. Even those in support functions     taneous, cover a good percentage of        include employees’ compliance with        has the speed and standardisation
                                           such as merchandising, distribution,       the population (about 25 per cent)         basic standards of business conduct.      needs of a fast-food restaurant. It has
                                           accounts and so on need to be              and must focus on the right behav-         Educating, communicating and coun-        the supply chain, brand management
                                           rewarded based on the performance          iour.                                      selling are key to make this happen.      and customer knowledge require-
                                           of the stores that they are servicing.        Good service businesses have a             Remember, happy employees pro-         ments of an FMCG business. It calls
                                           It is amazing to see the impact that a     portfolio of recognition programmes        vide good service. This is a problem      for the personal contact, attention
                                           good programme can have:                   to cover a variety of actions. The         especially with small retailers who do    and ambience of a five star hotel.

34 Praxis 3 Business Line 3 January 2002                                                                                                                                                                                        Praxis 3 Business Line 3 January 2002 35
            The fact is that Indians do not have a natural apti-                                                                                                                                           The retail industry, in its own silent way, is creating
                      tude and cultural orientation for the high                                                                                                                                           employment opportunities for a group of people
                           level of detail that retailing requires.                                                                                                                                        for whom there are few opportunities.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Pic: Kamal Narang
         Finally, a retailer’s task is quite     or the floor, or lifting a crate, or just                                                                                                            noticed or written about by the           frontline employee? Why have I not
      similar to a housewife’s. Whatever         running to a shelf to fetch the cus-                                                                                                                 media.                                    spoken about the properties manag-
      she does in the beginning of the day       tomer a product he or she is looking                                                                                                                   Here, I want to again talk about the    er, the merchandising manager, the
      get undone by night and needs to be        for. We are used to working with a lot                                                                                                               contribution made by the RPG              marketing service manager and so
      redone from scratch and has to be          of helpers, peons and support staff -                                                                                                                Institute of Retail Management            on? The truth is that it’s the front-line
      ‘perfect’ each time. It is noticeable      at home and at work. Most retailers                                                                                                                  (RIRM). Started in 1996 by the RPG        which makes all the difference and
      when it is not done, but not acknowl-      end up with as much support staff as           Sam Walton’s frugality is legendary    tunity to directly interact with and                           group to address the manpower             much harder to manage. Take care of
      edged when it is!                          those who actually sell or serve cus-       and written about a lot. While these      respond to customers needs. He                                 needs of its retail businesses, the       your frontline and the rest is much
         Not an easy combination. All of         tomers directly. Maybe this is the          things are nice to read they are hard     receives instant, direct and face-to-                          institute visits Government schools       easier to handle.
      these call for a very high level of        hangover of our caste system.               to practise, especially when your         face feedback from his customers                               and selects students to attend its           Having said that, I am not underes-
      attention to detail. Most of these            What will ultimately make the dif-       batch-mate from business school,          about all his programmes, products                             three-month Certificate course in         timating the importance of training
      require systematic human interven-         ference is a change in this attitude to     working with an MNC is travelling by      and services - good or bad.                                    Retail Sales and Service. The institute   store supervisors to become man-
      tion, focus and monitoring.                the dignity of work. Retail cannot          air, worse still by J Class, hires air-     At a time when banks are using                               has produced over 1,000 students          agers, managers to become area
         So, do Indians have the natural         afford a large number of menials and        conditioned cars and has a plush          technology (IVR, CTI, CRM) to close                            from four centres in Chennai, Pune,       managers, training merchandisers in
      aptitude and cultural orientation for      helpers. Everyone has to help. This         office in an upmarket location. It        branches and stop meeting cus-                                 Hyderabad and Bangalore. Most of          category management and logistics
      this level of attention to detail? The     poses yet another training challenge.       calls for a lot of emotional maturity     tomers face-to-face and other service                          these students find employment with       and so on. I am also not underesti-
      sad answer is NO.                             I must warn that these attitudes         and self-worth to not fall prey to        businesses such as credit card com-                            RPG’s retail businesses. These stu-       mating the importance of developing
         It does not come naturally to us.       cannot be altered in one training ses-      these trappings.                          panies, cellular service providers and                         dents are also sought after by other      commercial acumen among all retail
      Our streets, our average offices and       sion, as some kid themselves into              There is one more reason for this –    others are outsourcing through                                 retailers.                                managers. I am also not underesti-
      our public places are testimony for        believing. These call for habit modifi-     over 90 per cent of the employees in      direct selling agents, their most                                 What is heartening is that most of     mating the importance of developing
      this. Whenever I interact with inter-      cation and take a lot of time. What         retail are the frontliners. They are      important moment of truth - ‘selling                           these youngsters’ parents are car-        good career plans linked to capabili-
      national retail professionals, while       will hasten the process is demonstra-       the face of the organisation and they     the service’, retailers continue to be                         penters, bus conductors, auto drivers     ties to provide for talent to fund your
      they have a lot of good things to say      tion by the senior management team.         manage the millions of moments of         the only ones who are spending more                            and other daily wage earners. For         expansion plans.
      about the intellectual prowess of          If the head of the business walks           truth every day. However, they are        time and effort than ever before to                            them, retailing has made a real world        All these are critical HR tasks. But
      Indian retail professionals, they have     around, picks up garbage from the           the least paid employees, with the        make personal contact, with joy and                            of a difference.                          I guess, we have done many of these
      a lot to complain about our lack of        floor, wipes a shelf with his own           toughest working conditions. They         willingness.                                                                                             in other businesses too. What is still
      attention to detail, our inability to do   hands and once in a while washes the        stand on their feet 10 hours a day, do      The social dimension: The retail                             In closing...                             new, still a mystery, is what I have
      repetitive tasks excellently and with      toilets, the message will be loud and       not have a big rest room and do a lot     industry, in its own silent way, is cre-                         Throughout this article I have used     tried to address. s
      pride, and our ability to do it over a     clear. If on the other hand, managers       of physically demanding work.             ating employment for a group of peo-                           the word ‘he’ when talking about
      period of time with discipline and joy!    sit on egos and status and within the       Against this backdrop, perpetuating       ple for whom there are few opportu-                            employees. Do not think retail is a                  (The author is the founder of
      This cultural problem presents a           confines of their cabins (as many           a culture of excess and lavishness in     nities. Most of the frontline employ-                          man’s field. On the contrary, retail                   Totus Consulting, Chennai,
      huge training challenge for retailers.     Indian managers do) nothing will            the corporate headquarters can be         ees in retail normally have only about                         offers huge employment potential for                and has extensive experience
      A lot of training is needed to over-       change.                                     the greatest blunder a retailer can       12 years of formal education. For                              women.                                                     in the retail industry.)
      come this mindset and alter habits            Retail calls for frugality: A retail-    commit. In that sense, it is tough to     these youngsters, retailing makes a                              Over 50 per cent of retail employ-
      formed over generations.                   er, however large and global he may         be a corporatised retailer. The tradi-    world of difference. First, it makes                           ees tend to be women. For
         Retailing calls for respecting the      be, must practice frugality at the          tional shopkeeper’s culture is hard to    them employable, it gives them enor-                           them these jobs have meant real
      dignity of all work: As Indians we         workplace. No free lunches, no five         imbibe for many.                          mous self-worth and confidence and                             empowerment and real choices. They
      have perceptions of what is ‘good’         star hotel bashes, no off-sites and            Retail calls for passion, passion in   teaches them some very essential                               are quite often the highest wage
      work and what is not. There are            granite-floored offices. Your business      making a difference to customers          skills of managing their careers and                           earners in their families!
      some things we consider below our          just cannot afford that culture, leave      each day. Remember, retailers are         work lives. Unfortunately this social                            Readers may also wonder why I
      dignity - such as cleaning the shelves,    alone the cost.                             among the few who have the oppor-         contribution of retailing is seldom                            seem to be so preoccupied with the

36 Praxis 3 Business Line 3 January 2002                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Praxis 3 Business Line 3 January 2002 37

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