If you are a Manager in an organization that places high importance on internal
promotion - and it should - then you probably find yourself asking “Who is ready
for promotion into a supervisory or management role?” quite often.
A person working in a retail store may be deemed ‘not ready’ by upper management
and that assessment is usually based on very little interaction with the
employee. When management does not have the opportunity to see the employee in
action, on a regular basis, it is difficult to assess their true abilities.
Sometimes even a recommendation from the employees’ direct superior is
So how do you go about the process of determining which associate will get the
next promotion? While gut feel, or instinct, may often work you really need to
have some supporting information.
Over the next few weeks we will look at some case studies that will help
management make those critical internal promotion decisions. Succession planning
can be a daunting task, but it can be made easier with a step-by-step process in
To start with we are going to look at:
Any associate who is being considered for promotion to a supervisory or
management level must be able to look at a situation, ask some relevant
questions, analyze the answers and take an in depth look at what it might take
to correct, or improve, that situation. Simply put, the employee must possess
If an associate is not able to drill down and ask quality questions rather than
just taking the situation at face value, then that associate is not likely going
to be successful in a supervisory or management role – where everything needs to
be continually questioned and analyzed in order for the business to grow and
You can use this case study to ascertain whether your candidate for promotion
can come up with some relevant questions that need to be answered before a plan
for improvement can be made. After reading the case, you will see some examples
of questions for consideration. These are just a few of the many questions that
should be asked.
Case Study: The Acme Retail Company
Acme owns and operates 75 retail stores across the country. For several years
the majority of the stores have been profitable. This particular year, however,
one of the highest volume, most profitable stores is not doing very well.
Management must determine what has caused this downturn and identify the steps
required to correct the situation.
This store is located in a highly desirable location in a very good mall. There
is high growth in the area that the mall serves. Many new housing developments
have been built in the last two to three years. New retailers are leasing space
in the same mall and the landlord is able to demand very high rent. There are no
significant job losses in the area and no economic decline affecting the area.
The store is old but is not showing significant signs of deterioration and is
not in need of a major renovation. The employees are very comfortable in the
store – treating it like a home away from home. Their friends stop in regularly
to say hello.
The product is highly desirable to consumers. This store is scheduled to receive
product on Mondays and Thursdays. They receive approximately the same amount of
product as the other high volume stores. The store is the furthest away from the
Distribution Centre and, therefore, often receives product very late on
Thursdays and sometimes does not receive it until Monday. This has been
happening more and more often since the new delivery company was hired
approximately six months ago.
The company invests heavily in promoting the product and services offered by the
stores. Advertising is done by way of direct mail and newspaper advertising. The
company does maintain a database of customers but the email list is not very
accurate so emailing to the list has been used only occasionally and without
much success. In all print ads, all store addresses, in that area, are listed.
The Marketing department is currently looking for new places to advertise
because some of the newspapers they used to advertise in have gone out of
business or have changed in an attempt to gain readership in a different market.
The company wants to cut down on direct mail because, with the number of
households increasing, it is getting very expensive to get the direct mail piece
into the hands of all potential customers.
Price is determined by Head Office. There is no movement on price at store
level. Only the Buyers can initiate a markdown.
The company uses state of the art information systems. Currently the Store
Managers receive only overall sales results, by associate. Some Store Managers
have requested certain reports that they believe would help them immensely in
tracking and monitoring results of their associates. They want information to
use as a coaching tool for certain desirable selling behaviors. Although the
system is capable, the company has resisted making these reports part of the
daily and weekly report package.
Most of the stores are managed by long term employees. This particular store has
sales associates who have been working at that location, with the same Store
Manager, for some time. The employees get along very well; they feel like a
family and they are accustomed to how each of their team mates works. All of the
associates, and the Manager, socialize outside of the store quite often. The
Manager knows the associates well. Very few new people have been hired in the
past 18 months.
The Manager does not like confrontation and his employees treat him as a good
friend. One of the newer employees has tried to tell the Manager that he has
some ideas about how to improve performance in the store but the Store Manager
knows that any ideas put forward by this new individual will not be looked upon
favorably by his longer term associates so he has not spent much quality time
with the newer employee to find out what the ideas are.
The new employee has
talked to the Human Resources Manager as he feels like he is not being regarded
as a part of the team and feels that the Store Manager lets the other employees
pick on him. The Store Manager believes, strongly, that his team is doing their
best and is unwilling to have performance discussions with them as that would
cause hard feelings. He believes that circumstances beyond his control are
causing the lack of sales performance.
Questions for consideration:
Place – Is the store being well looked after? Is it inviting to the customer? Is
Visual Presentation excellent? Are all company visual standards, including
cleanliness and maintenance standards, being met? Although a major renovation
may not be necessary, could it use some paint and a minor renovation?
If employees are that comfortable (seeing the store as their second home) they
may not be keeping up to standard in terms of organization and cleanliness and
the Store Manager may no longer be paying much attention to this area of the
business. If overall visual presentation is lacking customers may find it messy,
cluttered and generally uninviting.
The Store Manager needs to remain objective about the appearance of his store
and whether or not standards are being met. He cannot let friendship and
complacency get in the way of what is being offered to the customer in terms of
store appearance and the shopping experience. He must hold himself, and his
Product – Is there some reason why the deliveries to this store are often late?
Is the lack of product (that product that should be delivered Thursday but does
not come until Monday) impacting the ability to do business on the weekend?
Exactly how often does the new delivery company deliver the product late and why
is this allowed to continue?
Is the Store Manager not aware of the seriousness of this issue? Does he not
believe it is making a difference to the store’s performance?
Does he believe it is not up to him to challenge the individual in charge of
The fact that deliveries are late could, indeed, have a huge impact. If the
product is not in the store and available for sale when the customers are there,
no doubt some sales will be lost.
The Store Manager should be raising this as an issue with his Regional Manager
who could escalate the concern to the head of the Distribution department, or
with the delivery company itself. He must get it resolved and ensure his product
is received on time to stay competitive.
Promotion – Why is the email list not being well utilized? Who is responsible
for the list not being properly maintained? Are his associates collecting the
necessary information? Are they entering it into the database properly? Are some
of the homes in the market area for this store being left off of the direct mail
list in order to save money? Which newspapers went out of business? Were those
newspapers widely distributed in the market area? Now that the company is using
different newspapers for their ads, are this store’s customers still getting the
The Store Manager must get involved with promotion to some degree to make sure
that his store is still getting the same benefit from advertising as it did
previously. If he ensures that his employees are maintaining a credible email
list then he can ask for special emails to his customers. He also needs to look
into the area being served by the new newspapers to ensure that the same market
area is still being covered. He should also make sure that brand new customers
in his growing market area are being specifically targeted.
Price – Are the prices the same, or better, than competitors? Does this store
offer customer service to the degree that customers would see the price as
better due to the value added?
If pricing is not an issue in the market, then customer service must be the
value add. The Store Manager must be certain that the service in his store is
much better than other stores, not just moderately better. He should be shopping
the other stores in the market regularly to see what their customer service is
like and then come back to his store with ideas to make sure his store stays
ahead in terms of the customer service offered.
Pixel – Is the company getting the best it can get from its technology? Has the
company given a reason for not implementing some of the Store Manager’s ideas
for reporting? Are those reasons valid? Could a better argument be made by the
Store Managers? If so, why haven’t they made that argument?
It is possible that the information systems could provide more and better
information to Store Managers. Sometimes information systems professionals do
not see things from the user point of view and may not be studying the situation
seriously enough. It is up to Store Managers to make a strong business case, to
their superiors, if they really feel that they can increase store performance by
receiving certain additional information.
People – Does the Store Manager have the respect of the employees? Is this
Manager too close and too friendly with his associates? Does he treat some
associates better than others? Does he lead by example in sales performance? Is
he monitoring each individuals sales results and all kpi’s.
Does he know who is
performing and who is not? Is he rewarding the performers and coaching and/or
disciplining the non performers? Is he paying attention to the needs of the
newer employees? Why is he not willing to discuss the newer employees’ ideas?
What proof does he have for his belief that the lack of sales performance is
caused by external factors that he cannot control? What are those external
In this case study, this seems to be the most relevant pillar. It could be
argued that the Store Manager and the employees have become too friendly and
that the Manager has lost all objectivity regarding the performance of each team
The Manager appears to be too close to the situation to analyze it
properly. The fact that he believes the lack of performance is due, solely, to
external factors and that he and his team are doing everything they can means he
is not open to the fact that there are actions to be taken, inside the store,
that will increase business.
What was done:
The Regional Manager had a serious discussion with the Store Manager regarding
accountability for the poor performance of the team and the store. He discovered
that the Manager was somewhat bored in his position as it was no longer
challenging and he felt that he was no longer making a contribution.
The Regional Manager arranged a meeting which included the Store Manager, and
representatives from the marketing department, the information systems
department and the human resources department for a round table discussion
regarding the performance of this store.
Together they decided on the following:
1) Get the basics down pat. Associates must be held accountable for the general
maintenance and cleanliness of the store and that a checklist would be used at
opening and closing each day to ensure all tasks had been done. The Manager
would do spot checks every day and follow up immediately if any area was not
being maintained up to standards.
2) The Manager was to review individual sales and KPI performance (from a
manually generated report at this point) weekly and have a discussion with each
associate to provide feedback and/or coaching. The Regional Manager would coach
the Store Manager prior to the first few weekly discussions. The Store Manager
would be held directly accountable for store performance.
3) The marketing department representative agreed to investigate the possibility
of email blasts to the stores market area if the Store Manager committed to
ensure the email list was 90% accurate. The Manager would accomplish this by
providing training to the associates and check each entry until he felt
comfortable that all associates were entering the data properly. Also, marketing
would find out more about the newspapers readership to ensure they were getting
the most they could from that form of advertising. To help get this store on
track, they agreed to invest in additional direct marketing one time only – a
slightly less expensive piece would be sent to the entire market area and the
results would be carefully monitored.
4) The information systems department representative agreed to meet with several
Store Managers to better understand what they would like to see on the reports
and, if feasible and approved by senior management, information systems would
make required changes.
5) The Store Manager was to speak with the Regional Manager weekly, following
discussions with sales associates, to determine next steps regarding any
associate who was not performing up to standard.
6) The Store Manager admitted that he felt too much like a friend and no longer
like a leader to his associates. He decided that he needed to make changes in
his behavior to put things back on track. He said he realized that he could
build a strong team without abandoning his leadership role. The Store Manager
and the Human Resources Manager would have telephone discussions, weekly, to
assist the Manager in modifying his leadership style.
7) The Store Manager decided to hold short meetings with each associate to get
ideas for increasing store performance. This way all employees, the old and the
new ones, would have the opportunity to contribute to the overall plan. Also,
the Store Manager would ensure the newer employees were not being treated any
differently than the older employees.
8) The Regional Manager agreed to meet with the Distribution Centre management
and correct the problem of late deliveries.
How it worked out:
The plans were put on paper and timelines were established. All parties did what
they had committed to doing. The store’s results began to improve. Some
associates improved their performance drastically once they were being held
accountable and praised for exceeding targets. Also, when they realized that
other departments were contributing to help their store, they became much more
involved; new ideas started to flow.
One employee did not make it through the
weekly performance discussions; he resigned when he realized the expectations of
the position. The Manager began enjoying his position once again as he was now
equipped with tools to help him meet the challenges he faced.
Manager believes that the Store Manager and associates are now motivated to
continue increasing sales performance and to look for new and different ways to
make that happen.
Of course, there are many other details that could have been included in this
case study but, in the interest of keeping it brief and manageable, only the
most important issues have been covered.
Please feel free to ask questions and/or make comments. Send an email to:
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