Supermarkets are fortunate in that they have high-levels of face-to-face contact with their external customers every day. They have so many opportunities to talk to their customers and to find out what their customers are thinking/buying/wishing for. Employees are there in the stores, restocking shelves and produce, clearing aisles, answering questions, greeting people coming in the door, serving them at the deli, the sushi counter, the fish counter, the bakery, the pharmacy, the bank; cashing people out, bagging groceries, and saying thank you and good bye as the customers leave the store; clearing the parking lots of carts to make it easy for customers to park. So, if any employer has easy access to its customers, it is a supermarket.
It would follow, then, that to leverage this valuable opportunity supermarkets should put a strong focus on engaging customers. Of course, in order to succeed at this type of strategic interaction, an organization must have a workforce that is both trained and engaged.
But despite the fact they have a high-degree of access to their customers, supermarkets, like most businesses, struggle with Employee Engagement.
A 2007 Gallup poll showed that over 70% of the US workforce was disengaged, and that nearly twenty-percent of this group were actively disengaged! Similarly, a Towers Perron (now Towers Watson) study done in the same year found that only 20% of companies have a fully engaged workforce. (Personally, I find that number high and not believable!).
Further, that same study indicated that those with a fully engaged workforce financially outperformed their peers and had less turnover. These findings confirmed data presented by Crawford International the year before, indicating that engaged workforces were substantially more productive and significantly more profitable.
Engaged employees can not only gather useful data, but can also, and more importantly, help customers have a great, or at least a better experience.
But how many supermarkets invest in employee engagement—not just “friendly training,” but real employee engagement? Employee engagement starts with the hiring process, and then moves through training, personal and organizational behavior, and ongoing senior management attention to Employee Engagement. It’s not an event now and then, but rather, a deep and abiding way that defines a company, and the way it selects, trains, treats and values each employee and customer.
Many times when I go to the supermarket, I shake my head and am stunned about the lost opportunities for Employee Engagement. In the next few posts, we’ll be talking about Employee Engagement…when it happens…and when it doesn’t.