Four Tips For Retaining Footwear Employees

For shoe companies seeking to grow their top and bottom lines, it can be tempting to focus the bulk of efforts on selling products, opening new stores and the rollout of new advertising campaigns. During the melee that often accompanies extensive revenue growth and domestic as well as international expansion, companies must make a concerted effort not to forget the people that make it all come together.

At the risk of sounding extremely mushy: people — i.e. employees — really matter. And the greatest product idea in the world is useless without the right people to put action behind it.

Here are four tips for retaining valuable employees.

Fair and Lawful Compensation

This topic has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons lately. From the reportedly less-than-stellar working conditions at Amazon Inc. to Abercrombie & Fitch and American Apparel’s various lawsuits from jilted employees to investigations on unethical employee scheduling practices at major retailers. Need we go on?

One too many footwear and apparel companies may be missing the mark when it comes to treating employees, at all levels, fairly — both ethically and legally — and paying them what they deserve.

In April, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced he had sent letters to Crocs, Target Corp., Gap Inc., Abercrombie & Fitch, J.Crew, L Brands, TJX Co. and six other retailers informing them of possible labor-law infractions and requesting information regarding their scheduling practices.

Then in June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in favor of a Muslim woman who sued Abercrombie & Fitch when the retailer failed to hire her because she wore a religious headscarf.

We certainly couldn’t provide all the rules for appropriately managing compensation and ethically screening potential employees, but a good starting place for shoe companies is to at least make these things a top priority.

Solid Company Culture

Related to fair and lawful human resource practices, is creating a positive and supportive work environment for employees. And when you work in the exciting world of footwear, creating a lively and enjoyable organizational culture should be a cinch.

More than fostering a work environment where employee-input is welcomed and valued, work-life balance is prioritized and employees can enjoy fun, team building exercises, the cornerstones of company culture are loyalty and stability.

According to an article published by the International Journal of Business and Management, organizational culture has two aims: establishing a feeling of identity among employees and a commitment to the organization; and creating a competitive edge by helping employees understand appropriate behavior i.e. “the way we do things around here.”

Once an ethical and positive company culture is formed and human resource managers and recruiters understand it, hiring people that are a good fit becomes easier. Retaining them, follows suit.

Growth Potential

As millennials enter the workforce in droves, they have brought with them a new approach to working. Research shows, the latest generation to enter the labor force is all about their growth potential.

Many of them enter a new role eager to learn how it will make them more qualified for the next vertical move. Before the ink has even dried on their new-hire paperwork, many milenniels are updating their LinkedIn profiles hoping to attract the attention of their next employer. And, that mindset has sent many of their baby boomer and Gen-X employers and managers reeling.

To keep this generation engaged, employers must enact mentorship and other development programs that engage employees and set them on a clear path to growth within the organization.

And truthfully, if there are necessarily rigid barriers to advancement in place — i.e. no one is going to get promoted to a certain role unless the employee in that position dies or leaves abruptly — companies should be honest upfront as opposed to promising or hinting at an unrealistic growth trajectory. Honesty can circumvent frustration and disappointment later.

Sometimes a job has to be like a school that develops its students and sets them up for an exciting graduation day where both parties feel accomplished and content parting ways.

Managing Management

Experts say employees prefer a coaching style of management versus a style defined by instructing and demanding. No kidding.

To retain employees in the shoe business — and other businesses, too — it’s critical that management provides feedback and rewards good performance. At the core of this tenet are communication and respect.

According to a study published by Cornell University, this is one of the least controversial of employee-employer expectations.

“Employee surveys suggest that open, honest, two-way communication is something that most employees want in employment,” the study said. “And the employer’s need to share information to empower employees to contribute as partners in the organization’s business is widely recognized.”

The idea here is simple and as old as the hills: respect is a two-way street. So is communication.

Access exclusive content