Furloughed, But Not Forgotten
Retail is a social business, so it’s not surprising that many of us are going stir-crazy while furloughed and stuck at home. If your district or store team is your second family, you’re probably looking for ways to feel a little less isolated. Here are some fun ideas to stay engaged and help your teams get through this, together.
The Joy of New Flow
Unboxing a brand new shipment from the distribution center, seeing a new product line for the first time, and mentally tallying up what you’re going to snag with your employee discount — it’s all part of the working-in-retail experience. As one store manager on LinkedIn summed it up: “Shipment days are just like Christmas … but three days a week!”
While you might not be gushing about new stuff over the walkie anymore, that doesn’t mean you can’t still share the excitement of shipment days with your team. If your brand has a website, pull up that “New Arrivals” page and start filling your (virtual) cart — then ask your co-workers to do the same. You can share your picks over a group FaceTime call or Zoom meeting.
Better yet, play the "Who’d Buy That" game and see just how well you know your co-workers! (Think of it like "The Newlywed Game," but for retail.) Let’s face it: everybody has that one co-worker who snatches up every new jumpsuit, or that colleague who can’t live without your store’s latest shade of red lipstick. Why not try to guess each others’ cart picks? Whoever racks up the most correct guesses wins.
Homebound Video Challenges
Have weeks without a floor set left you itching to merchandise your closet? Or, maybe you miss processing shipment so much that you’ve started tracking your UPH as you put away your grocery deliveries?
Don’t fight the urge to flex those retail muscles, embrace it! Encourage your team to bond — and keep their skills sharp in the process — by holding TikTok-style video challenges. Who can steam a shirt the fastest? Who can replenish their bookshelf with the most visual flair? Who is the best at calculating discounts in their head? Send out a call to action, then have your teammates text in their entries or post to social media. There’s nothing like a little silly competition to lift everybody’s spirits during lockdown.
Get a Little Nerdy
With everybody stuck at home, the playing field is leveled. (We’re all just little heads on a video screen now.) That means certain teammates who may have slipped by unnoticed before now have a chance to shine. So ask yourself: Who is your scheduling guru? Your loyalty leader? Who has skills that others on the team could benefit from? Ask them to step up and share their tips with others. Hearing directly from your peers is more engaging than watching a recorded e-learning. It’s also a great way to foster camaraderie during the furlough.
Now’s a great time to showcase non-work talent, too! Ask your teammates to host “lightning talks:” five-minute presentations on whatever they’re passionate about. Maybe they’re really into sourdough bread baking, maybe they rescue wild possums on the weekend, or maybe they just successfully potty-trained their two-year-old. Whatever the subject, lightning talks are a great way to learn more about your co-workers and brush up on presentation skills in the process.
Your Team is a Family
Ultimately, we know a global pandemic isn’t all fun and games. With the world facing such an unprecedented crisis, your direct reports are likely anxious. Teams everywhere are craving transparency, clear communication and, most of all, a sense of community.
Establishing regular communication touchpoints not only helps your co-workers feel connected to each other, but also creates much-needed routine during a time when the days feel like they’re blending together. Start with a simple “welfare check” group text every morning that asks, “How are you feeling today?” If your team is too overwhelmed to share details of their daily lives, try using a quick emoji “traffic light” code: red means I’m overwhelmed and need to talk, yellow means I’m just OK, and green means I’m feeling good today. Within a few seconds, you’ll get a quick pulse on where your team is at and know where to focus your attention.
Consider keeping your weekly team or district call on the calendar, but repurposing it for non-business conversation. One former district manager said: “I would want to keep the team engaged with each other by continuing to have those calls, except I would make them about connecting, sharing what's going on in each other’s lives, finding things to laugh about, and sharing how people are managing things at home.” Better yet, host these calls via a videoconferencing service so you can see people’s faces and feel even more connected.
Don’t forget to create a safe space for work-related conversations, too. Your team will want to know answers to difficult questions: When are we going to reopen? How will this change our pay and bonus structure? What are my options if I need to take another job? These are difficult questions to answer, and you might not know where to begin. However, the simple act of listening, recording and committing to sending those questions up the chain is, in and of itself, reassuring to your team.
Emily Lane is a product evangelist at Retail Zipline, working with customers and prospects to drive store execution and engagement through better communication.
Emily Lane is a product evangelist at Retail Zipline, working with customers and prospects to drive store execution and engagement through better communication. Prior to Zipline, Emily spent 10 years managing store communication at major retail brands like Gap and Old Navy.