Tips for more productive staff meetings

Photo: RetailWire
May 27, 2016

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Contrarian, the blog of the Dynamic Experiences Group.

I’m a big proponent of regular staff meetings. Whether they’re weekly or monthly, regularly getting the entire team together is extremely productive — if, that is, the time is used wisely.

Two ways to drive more productive store meetings:

Practice/role play. Whether you’re rolling out new products, teaching the staff how to deliver a better service experience, calling customers, or looking to improve your sales approach, taking the time to show — not just tell — how to do something makes a big difference.

Brainstorming. Associates have a lot of great insights, but you probably won’t hear them if you don’t ask. Spend 10 to 15 minutes brainstorming forward focused questions such as:

  • “What else can we do to increase the number of visits by our regular customers?”
  • “What actions can we take to increase our average sale by $10?”
  • “What actions can we take to make our customers feel even more special?”

Two all-to-common backfires driving less productive meetings:

Lecturing versus teach and engage. Passive listening to information that could have been communicated in an e-mail or memo is not a productive use of payroll or the staff’s time. Staff meetings should be looked at as an investment. Use this time to develop your team and improve your store experience and results.

Focusing too much on the negative. Because this is one of the few times everyone is together, leaders can find themselves talking too much about little things that are wrong. Again, this is information that can often be covered in a memo. If you need to have this type of conversation, make it quick and move on to more productive topics.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What unique challenges do managers encounter when orchestrating productive staff meetings with store associates? What tips do you have for conducting productive meetings at the store-level?

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11 Comments on "Tips for more productive staff meetings"

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Chris Petersen, PhD.

While role playing is certainly better than lecture, it can become pedantic very quickly. One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it to someone else. Asking employees to create their own role plays and “teach outs” creates an experience that engages. Product training is still too focused on features. One of the most successful aspects of Apple’s training is learning how to ask open questions to guide consumers to explore and experience. Rather than new product training, a very powerful technique is to have employees focus on how ask better questions to understand consumer needs and position value.

Ian Percy

Couldn’t be more affirming of your points, Chris. Managers insist on believing they have to run everything. Enabling employees to take responsibility for their own development will pay huge dividends in engagement, innovation, etc.

Bob Amster

While not a store operations person myself, the first challenge that comes to mind is communicating effectively to all the associates, given different work shifts throughout the business day. Managers probably have to have two such meetings on the same topic in order to reach most if not all of the associates.

“Productive” implies upbeat, informative, and two-way. The people deep in the trenches know the realities of serving customers and performing the chores expected of them better than anyone in an organization, and have plenty to contribute to improving operations and streamlining processes — if somebody were there to listen to them and try to implement some of their suggestions.

Ian Percy
Several suggestions. First, teach a few interested employees how to facilitate meetings. We don’t seem to see how debilitating it is for the one with all the information and authority (the manager) to run a staff meeting (or a corporate board meeting for that matter). A meeting facilitator focuses on the process which enables people with content to be more effective. If you are the one giving out information, you are focused on your information and are not likely to be aware of how people are actually responding. People will always tell you what they are thinking and feeling but most of the time it’s a matter of seeing it and not hearing it. There is only one of three possible goals for every “agenda” item: 1. to provide information; 2. to generate ideas and; 3. to make a decision. The problem with most meetings is that these goals are confused and people don’t know what the purpose is. For every agenda item, begin by declaring the purpose of raising it and stick with that… Read more »
Al McClain

Staff meetings can easily be a one way street, with those in charge communicating “down” to lower level staff and associates. In addition to dictating what must be done, a portion of each meeting could be used to get ideas from those who are closer to customers. Execs might be surprised how much results can improve if they just engage and LISTEN to store staff who interact with customers all day long.

Kim Garretson
5 years 6 months ago

When I was at Best Buy, often the highlight of the huddle before the stores opened each day was a fun, but informative, video produced at headquarters by the internal video team. But now that Facebook Live has exploded on the scene, and if store associates are mostly Millennials, I see a lot of potential in turning associates into “producers” and “on-camera” talent, both live in staff meetings and captured other times during the day or week prior, all with learning as the focus, but fun as the vibe.

Mel Kleiman

An informed, trained and engaged staff is a retailer’s most potent weapon. As I have said in the past, we need to have a workforce that wants to work for us, not one that needs to work for us.

Be it a formal meeting, a daily huddle, a chat out one-on-one with an employee at the end of the day, it does not matter. Just take the time to train your staff and make them feel involved and appreciated.

Shep Hyken

One challenge is when to have a group meeting. Many times it’s “pre-shift.” For daily or weekly meetings that may be the best time. The best retailers and restaurants have daily “pre-shift” or “pre-open” meetings. They don’t have to be long. Sometimes just ten minutes. The type of meeting determines a lot of how it is run. Here are a few ideas for productive meetings:

  1. Regardless, there should be an agenda. Everyone’s time is important, so plan what will be done in the meeting.
  2. Get everyone engaged from the beginning. We have a short exercise we kick off each meeting with. Everyone shares a time in the last week when they created a positive experience for the customer. This sets the meeting on on a positive note.
  3. Give people a chance to share their feedback. The best meetings aren’t lectures. It’s two way or group conversation. If all you wanted to do was communicate a message, send an email.
Dave Wendland

Terrific discussion on effective staff meetings and a far-too-often overlooked retail essential. Challenges include: lack of “new” material, disinterest, unpreparedness, and poor (two-way) communication. Tips to succeed: have an agenda; invite staff to contribute; don’t pre-judge ideas; make it fun!

Doug Fleener

Thanks everyone for your insight. One point about roleplay/practice. There was no assumption that a member of management is always doing it. As a matter of fact we encourage clients to assign and rotate responsibility. We have found involving the team not only gets the employees much more engaged, but we’ve also identified new managers and training team members.

Kai Clarke

Stop the cell phone madness! Have everyone “donate” their cellphones by turning them off and putting them in the center of the table before the meeting starts. No one can get their cellphones until the meeting concludes. Meetings will immediately become more productive, move along at a faster pace, and usually after the initial howling dies away, become a place where everyone feels that their input is important and valued by the entire team.

"Only one question should be driving your organization toward its richly imagined future: “What is possible?”"
"A very powerful technique is to have employees focus on how ask better questions to understand consumer needs and position value."
"We need to have a workforce that wants to work for us, not one that needs to work for us."

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