The most valuable asset during a crisis is the company's human resources. Alla Bednenko, HR and Organizational Development Director of ECONIKA, tells about how one of the largest shoe chains in Russia works with staff
- Do you use the services of recruiting agencies when searching for sellers or do you have your own search service?
- We use all possible and most modern ways to attract candidates. Now our recruitment department has become so professional that we close almost all vacancies on our own, and we do it faster and better than recruiting agencies. We resort to the help of agencies in those cases when we need to find personnel in remote regions, but at the same time we always conduct a parallel search on our own.
- How do you determine that a person suits you, that he will become a successful member of the team?
- Even before the start of the search for an employee for any position, we prescribe all the competencies that he should possess, describe the requirements for his qualifications and his personal qualities. Further, in the course of the interview, we not only talk about the candidate’s professional experience, but also with the help of special “case studies” determine the degree to which the candidate develops certain skills. In addition, we use the selection and technique of psycholinguistic interviews.
The most important thing for us is to understand the candidate’s motivation and potential. What matters to us is not so much the past merits of the candidate, but how the candidate will be able to prove himself in a new place. For me, the most important signal of a candidate’s motivation is how he talks about his work. A motivated professional can be seen with the naked eye, he is always very enthusiastic and enthusiastic about his work, asks questions to a potential employer, his eyes are corny. And this is the most important thing, because such a person, even if he does not have any knowledge and skills, is always ready to learn and develop in his profession.
- How do you grow professionals: how do you build a system for adapting new sellers in the store, do you use the practice of mentoring?
- Each new potential employee, in addition to an interview in the personnel department, undergoes a test internship in the store. It is needed so that both the company and the future employee make the final decision that they are suitable for each other. If agreement is reached, we invite an employee to draw up a termless employment contract and hand him our “Novice Folder”, which contains complete information about the corporate code of conduct, work standards, as well as a training manual for employees of the ABC of the seller-consultant retail chain. Already during the first week of work, an employee gets to us at the first stage of WELCOME training, where training managers introduce him to the history of the company and provide basic knowledge about the sales technique. Yes, we also use a mentoring system for beginners. Mentors usually work either shift managers in stores or senior sales consultants.
- Do you have a corporate training center or an internship and e-learning basis?
- The corporate training center in the company has existed since 2000. Three-stage training. Each step ends with a small exam: if it passes successfully, then the employee increases his qualification category and the constant part of the remuneration. In addition, the company has a fairly detailed textbook for sales staff - “ABC of the seller-consultant”, which contains answers to the most common questions. Training at the corporate training center is organically supplemented by an internship mechanism and mentoring.
- What qualities do you consider most important for sellers? Are requirements for them changing now? If so, why?
- No matter how trite this sounds, the main thing is an initially positive attitude towards interaction with people. To be a successful seller, you need to love people, accept each person as they are, be able to find a personal approach to him. The second is optimism, the ability to be in a good mood in any situation. And it is worth a lot.
A fake smile, gritted teeth said greeting and the seller’s desire to sell the product at all costs, the buyer, as a rule, feels very subtle. And impeccable knowledge of their products will not replace the sincere desire of the seller to help any client make the right choice. You can teach the rest of the employee, but you cannot “make” the seller smile and love his customer.
Unfortunately, now many people consider the seller’s profession to be temporary, which does not require special knowledge and skills, and the rapid development of retail in Russia and the lack of supply on the labor market forced employers to lower the threshold for staff recruitment. Now the situation on the labor market has changed in favor of the employer: the number of job offers in the labor market has declined sharply. At the same time, consumer demand is declining, and most employers are increasing demands on candidates. This is due to the fact that most companies understand that for the buyer to "vote with his wallet" for them, you will have to make much more effort than before. Therefore, improving the service is a key task of many companies during the crisis.
- What knowledge, abilities, skills are usually not enough for sellers? What do you do to develop them?
- As a rule, it is precisely the skills of effective communication that are lacking. If the assortment and special properties of a product can be studied quickly, then the ability to interact with customers so that communication leads to a mutually beneficial result for the client and seller is already an art. And you can learn this all your life. We develop this competency with our sellers in multi-stage sales trainings, organize the exchange of experience between employees as part of a discussion of various case studies, and also issue a special glossy magazine for sales staff in which our tips on sales technology are communicated to employees in an understandable and accessible language, and also offer the best sellers through the magazine to share their experience with colleagues.
Every year we evaluate sales staff using cases. Parsing them, employees share experiences and suggest to each other the best way to resolve the conflict, the best way of arguing to the client about an objection.
Since 2009 of the year, we have launched a new format for the exchange of experience between employees through a corporate portal.
And, of course, the rotation mechanism of more experienced sales consultants is widely used to exchange experience both in the new stores of our network and in those retail facilities whose performance of which the company considers it necessary to increase.
- How do you teach the sellers of your regional stores - do you come to them or invite to Moscow?
- The training managers of our training center go to the branches themselves - they have a rather busy work schedule. Moreover, we teach both our own staff and the staff of our franchisee partners. We usually plan training programs for a year.
- ECONIKA is one of the leaders in the shoe market. How do you understand leadership within the company, in management, in corporate culture?
- As you know, forms of leadership and leaders are different, including destructive, if you recall many notorious politicians and heads of state. In ECONICS, leadership is built primarily on the basis of traditional Russian values, goodness, the development of the best human qualities, on “we-feeling” and self-improvement. Each person working with us can be sure that they will listen to his opinion, support the initiative and mark it. And, importantly, the company is ready to forgive employees for their mistakes if the employees themselves are ready to admit them and work further on their own development.
- How is the seller motivation system built?
- The system of motivation for sellers is built on five main KPI positions. We stimulate the staff both on the basis of individual sales and the team’s store result achieved over a certain period of time. Of course, in the structure of the seller’s premium, quality service of our customers has significant weight. It is also important for us to maintain standards in our stores.
We also use methods of non-material motivation. Each month, the company selects the best sales consultants, on the virtual account of which a certain number of points is awarded. Having accumulated a certain number of prize points, the employee can exchange them for the desired item from the "prize menu". Every year we hold the contests “Best seller-consultant of the year” and “Best debut of the year”, winners are awarded trips abroad.
- Is there an age requirement for employment at ECONIKA?
- As such, he is not. Some restrictions are more likely connected with the fact that the work of a sales assistant is quite difficult; not everyone can have their health conditions on their feet. We also have appearance standards for sales staff, we want our sellers to be neat and well-groomed, so that it is pleasant to look at them. Indeed, each of our sellers is the face of the company. In addition, often our “adult” customers are much more likely to trust the advice received from their peer seller.
- What are the opportunities for career growth in the company?
- We appoint 95% of our store managers from the internal personnel reserve, which is formed in accordance with the results of the personnel assessment. A mentor from among managers is attached to each reservist; we conduct training courses for all reservists. And this is not the limit. Almost all of our territorial retail directors have grown within the company, as well as top managers. We have examples of career growth within the company from the seller to the director of the sector, from the ordinary manager of the commercial department to the director of retail sales, from the director of the salon to the general director of the company. If an employee works in good faith and with full dedication, then he will not go unnoticed in our company. It is not for nothing that we call our personnel strategy a strategy of “profitable investment”, an investment in our employees. And our employees for us are not a resource, but our capital.
- What are the main principles of team building?
- In my understanding, the formed team is when, in general, very different in their personal qualities people united in a certain social group begin to “look in one direction”. At the same time, the goals of the group are perceived by each participant as more valuable than personal goals (the priority of group goals over personal ones).
And at the same time, a group of people becomes a team when the result of the group’s work begins to be several times greater than those individual results that these people would achieve individually. Another feature of a full-fledged team: in a team, each person has a role, each person is valuable and unique, none of the team members should claim to destroy or change the individuality of another person.
- What do you think can be done to make the profession of sellers turn from a way of part-time work for students into a high-quality after-sales service? - In my opinion, it is necessary to start with changing the attitude in companies in relation to the profession of a seller as a “lower link” and a “black bone”. Indeed, in the end, if you look, the salary of the whole company is paid by the seller. And the seller is the client. Therefore, the seller is a key link in the company.
- How do you reduce staff turnover?
- We set ourselves the task of reducing turnover a little differently. Firstly, we do not measure the “general temperature in the hospital”, we are primarily concerned with the fluidity of our “human capital”, that is, those employees who are the backbone of the company and whose preservation we are interested in. So, according to the results of the 2008 year, our annual turnover rate among sales consultants of the highest category was less than 2% per year. And the main turnover came from a less qualified and, therefore, less valuable resource for the company. For our company, the decrease in turnover is not an end in itself, we ourselves are interested, especially during the crisis, in the replacement of low-effective personnel with those with high labor productivity. The motivation system (tangible and intangible) in our company is built in such a way that we retain highly-efficient employees in the company. Anyone who works with full dedication will always receive a decent salary that will be higher than the average on the labor market, additional bonuses and career advancement. Those employees who are not ready to work hard and achieve better results, we simply do not take root. Therefore, the turnover in this group of employees does not bother us very much.
But in order to retain our key personnel, we regularly study the reasons for the dismissal of employees, the level of satisfaction through corporate surveys and, based on the results of research, we try to take preventive measures to retain employees.
- What tasks do you now face as an HR director?
- The main task that our service is facing now is to increase staff efficiency and motivate staff to achieve the goals of the company. Closely related to previous tasks is the task of improving the quality of service for our customers. And, of course, during a crisis, corporate communications become very important for us. Indeed, it is now very important to convey to each employee what requirements the company has to each of them and what everyone should do in their workplace, so as not only to get out of the crisis without losses for the company, but also to get additional benefits.
And it is also important to remember that the more a company invested in its employees in “good” times, the more risks they would lose in crisis times. Therefore, I also face the task of retaining key employees in the company, who are the backbone of the company and its personnel reserve.
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