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Is it fair to treat un-equals as equals?

Not in retail, that’s for sure.

by Matt Parmaks, Senior Management Consultant

Some managers believe that fairness means all employees must be treated the same, or equally.  I suggest that this belief represents a misguided understanding of fairness.

In fact, there is nothing more unfair than treating un-equals as equals. In the retail environment you will seriously, and adversely, affect the morale and performance in the store by applying this old idea of being fair. 

Performance of sales associates depends on many, many things. Some of those things are out of the Managers control. Things such as emotional problems, personal life issues and health concerns – things which tend to weigh heavily on an individual and could affect their ability to perform in their work – are out of a Store Managers control. That is why it is so important to capitalize on the things that are within a Managers control. They include incentives, recognition, treatment, scheduling and training, among other things.

High performers deserve to be treated differently than mediocre or poor performers. This is not to say that fairness suffers. On the contrary, it supports the meaning of fairness. Is it not fair that those who achieve great results receive greater rewards? Is it not fair that those who achieve great results receive the ‘fruits of their labor’ in other ways also? Of course it is. Not providing greater rewards and recognition to these individuals would be very unfair.

Now let’s look at some of the ways in which the high performer can be fairly treated, recognized or compensated in the retail environment.

First, and foremost, is compensation. You do not need to follow guidelines which treat all individuals the same. Just as experience and length of time with a company count, level of performance must also count. When all other things are equal, performance must be the differentiator. Performance must be taken into account when looking at compensation packages and promotions.

Beyond compensation, the high performer should reap other, non-monetary rewards. For example, if a particular shift is coveted by employees then the high performer should get that shift. If a particular day off or, perhaps, a special assignment is desirable then the high performer should receive it. Some would say that this is unfair but it is not. High performance is what we want, what we strive for, what we talk about, what we pay for, what we expect, what delivers the best ROI and what we need to build, or maintain, a thriving business. How could it possibly be unfair to provide good things for those who are clearly and consistently delivering high performance?

Management who claim that it is only fair to treat un-equals equally are probably unsure as to how to deal with things any other way. They believe that everyone should be treated the same. They don’t know how to tell the staff that the high performer for the week does not have to clean the stock room or the wash room. They don’t know how to deal with the complaints of the mediocre or poor performers. They take the path of least resistance and treat everyone the same.

High performers who are treated the same as everyone else will look for a place where they are recognized for who and what they are.

You can reach Matt Parmaks at mparmaks@dmsretail.com

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