Annualized attrition of front end staff in retail is between 90 to 95% and finding the right talent and retaining them is a challenge…. No! I would say a nightmare these days….Young talent are not easy to retain, they need change and excitement everyday and of course the moolah! A day in the life of a HR Manager is not complete without cribbing about rising attrition
On one such a day I received a call from one of our trainers – “Mam, have you seen the new floor staff your team has recruited yesterday”? I first thought he was appreciating my team for having selected a wonderful sales person… Even before I could reply, came the next missile “ Please ask them to select and send some young energetic people mam…. This one is pathetic, I don’t think she will be able to work under pressure…. What do I do with her mam? Send her back?”…. I realized that the new recruit was a female and was sure it was not a gender bias because we do believe and practise equal employment….. “But tell me what is wrong with the staff”? I wanted to know what has upset the trainer that he has decided to send her back…. “She is old mam…. May be 40 or 45, she is too slow and besides …. she cant wear our uniform mam”. Our uniforms are shirts and trousers which are worn by men and women…. I understood that there is a serious problem here…. A middle aged lady, from south of the Country who may look and feel uncomfortable in pants and shirt; one who would not have the confidence to talk to customers….. while such thoughts were running through my mind, I found myself telling the trainer “let me have a look at her!” I said and hung up.
The lady was definitely in her mid 40s, and looked older than her age, she wore a faded brown sari, curly oiled hair tied up in a pony tail, a bindi on her forehead, a streak of kumkum above the bindi, and definitely did not look like the profile of our customer care executive. She looked at me as if I was going to ask her some tough questions about the planet and had a melancholic look in her eyes…….“Have you worked before? ”… I expected a reply in native language, but she surprised me by saying “Yes mam, I have worked 8 years with a music retailer and had to leave the company as they have shifted out of city”…. “are you comfortable with our timings … I mean the two shifts and also the uniforms that you will have to wear”… “I have no problem with all that mam, I will do my best if given the opportunity… Unaccented English again, I found myself quite liking this new recruit…. What about your family, are they okay with your working on the shop floor?”…”My husband is unemployed mam and I would like to work and support my children who are in college!” I admired the lady’s determination and had no second thoughts on having her on board…. Here was a candidate who had the will to work, had decent communication skills, and barring that she was over 40 which I am sure she did not consider as a drawback, why cant we try her? …. You may have to work with staff who will be almost half your age, is that fine with you… “That is okay mam…. Can I start tomorrow”?
I decided to have her own board after speaking to the head operations who kindly gave a go ahead as he too believed in having staff with a right attitude… the trainer did not appear convinced till date…..
Last week during one of my store visits, I observed the same lady who had joined us, she was looking smart in her uniform. She was talking to a lady customer …. “Mam this is the CD mam…. Venkatesa Suprabatham rendered by M S Subbulakshmi”… the customer was impressed with her and chatted for a while and then bought the CD. She accompanied her till the cash counter and from there to the exit, smiled and walked back.
She noticed me and came running saying “Good morning mam, how are you?”
“Your 8 years of retail experience in music is helping you isn’t it? I asked her… “Yes mam, I am a graduate in Karnataka music and just love talking about ragas and great singers”….
I am so glad we have decided to retain this talent who is young at heart !!
If we can over look the age factor and start employing the right attitude by hiring housewives and pensioners, I am sure the attrition issues can be tackled to a great extent.