Retail and Work/Life Balance-Are they incompatible?

This past Thursday I listened to a great HR Happy Hour show on work/life balance. There were a lot of perspectives offered and it’s a subject that I felt needed to be explored a bit here.

“Both Best Buy and Gap Outlet are now doing ROWEs. Well, that’s great for their corporate employees, but what are they doing for their hourly retail people?”



As a lifelong retail employee, the above quote stuck with me for obvious reasons. At first glance you may come away thinking, “Hey, what does Best Buy/Gap Outlet do for their store employees? ROWE is unfair!” Now, I can’t speak for these companies but I can discuss the unique nature of retail.

ROWE in its current form cannot work in a store environment. The difference between an office and store comes down to portability. If what you do isn’t dependent on a physical work site, then you can (and should, in my opinion) be able to work from anywhere. This is why consulting and freelance work can be so attractive to certain people. With the right equipment you can satisfy your clients needs remotely. Store staff are tethered to a physical location and therefore not able to enjoy the benefits of ROWE.

Does this mean that they (hourly store employees) don’t have flexibility? Absolutely not. Depending on a company’s policies, they can have a fair amount of leeway in terms of scheduling, hours worked, etc. In addition, many states offer additional protections in terms of paid and unpaid time off benefits. And in this economy, many retailers are re-vamping their total rewards programs to attract and retain great employees. It’s no longer acceptable to hire “bodies,” meaning sales people who are just there to get a job done. Nowadays, where customers have the ability to strengthen or damage a company’s reputation with a click of a button, most retailers want engaged and passionate employees on the front lines as well as the back office.

In short, just like ROWE was designed to increase productivity and engagement, retailers (and other organizations, for that matter) have to adapt to the times. They’re faced with the same issues as any other company, which is how to do less with more, all while keeping an eye on the bottom line. Designing and implementing policies and incentives which allow people the ability to manage their personal and professional lives will separate the good from the great employers.

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Retail and Work/Life Balance-Are they incompatible?

This past Thursday I listened to a great HR Happy Hour show on work/life balance. There were a lot of perspectives offered and it’s a subject that I felt needed to be explored a bit here.

“Both Best Buy and Gap Outlet are now doing ROWEs. Well, that’s great for their corporate employees, but what are they doing for their hourly retail people?”



As a lifelong retail employee, the above quote stuck with me for obvious reasons. At first glance you may come away thinking, “Hey, what does Best Buy/Gap Outlet do for their store employees? ROWE is unfair!” Now, I can’t speak for these companies but I can discuss the unique nature of retail.

ROWE in its current form cannot work in a store environment. The difference between an office and store comes down to portability. If what you do isn’t dependent on a physical work site, then you can (and should, in my opinion) be able to work from anywhere. This is why consulting and freelance work can be so attractive to certain people. With the right equipment you can satisfy your clients needs remotely. Store staff are tethered to a physical location and therefore not able to enjoy the benefits of ROWE.

Does this mean that they (hourly store employees) don’t have flexibility? Absolutely not. Depending on a company’s policies, they can have a fair amount of leeway in terms of scheduling, hours worked, etc. In addition, many states offer additional protections in terms of paid and unpaid time off benefits. And in this economy, many retailers are re-vamping their total rewards programs to attract and retain great employees. It’s no longer acceptable to hire “bodies,” meaning sales people who are just there to get a job done. Nowadays, where customers have the ability to strengthen or damage a company’s reputation with a click of a button, most retailers want engaged and passionate employees on the front lines as well as the back office.

In short, just like ROWE was designed to increase productivity and engagement, retailers (and other organizations, for that matter) have to adapt to the times. They’re faced with the same issues as any other company, which is how to do less with more, all while keeping an eye on the bottom line. Designing and implementing policies and incentives which allow people the ability to manage their personal and professional lives will separate the good from the great employers.

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