Thursday 15 January 2015

Trader Engagement Needs To Be More Than Just Work Related

Trader engagement at QVM has a high profile. Right from the start of the renewal process, the CoM and QVM have talked about the importance of consultation and engagement with traders so as to avoid the disasters of the past (the unsuccessful supermarket proposal in 2000 as an example). The result has been a comprehensive trader engagement process highlighted by the current one to one interview program.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggested that employee (trader) engagement programs had a very poor success rate. The author suggested that was because employee (trader) engagement often only looked at the work environment and not the employee (trader).

The article points out some common outside work experiences that could impact significantly on work itself –
1.     A study found a strong connection between increased age and an increased desire to keep work separate from after hours. Most Gen Xers and baby Boomers just wanted to finish work and get back to their home lives and family.
2.     In one study the contributors cited individual activities like cooking, running, knitting, cycling or reading as strong interest away from work. When these contributors were expected to join in group engagement activities at work it was a problem for them.
3.     One workforce under review involved mainly females whose relationships outside work were often with female friends. Some of the emotional issues of female friendships were being transferred to the workplace with unfavourable results.
4.     One experience involved employees who tended to have a casual, laid-back lifestyle outside work and a CEO who assumed they wanted the same at work. In fact the employees valued the contrasting rigours of process and rules when they worked. Once again the engagement process was being impeded by incorrect assumptions.

At QVM we can probably add in a number of different circumstances that might be relevant. We have a proportion of young traders with young families who have family realities outside their trading hours. Perhaps both partners work, and at least one needs the flexibility to manage children’s school and leisure activities. A change in trading hours at QVM could have a significant impact on family life. A strict adherence to profitability and work ethic is important for any small business, particularly struggling retailers, but we cannot ignore other demands.

There are many aspects of the experiences noted above that have relevance for QVM. We all know traders in the older age group who appear to have lost their enthusiasm for retailing. We all know traders who are more solitary in their pursuits and have difficulty joining in group projects. There are traders who bring their away-from-work troubles into the market. There are traders who are concerned by the lack of policing new market rules and maintaining order and process in our market. And there are traders who find it very difficult to manage the competing interests of retailing and a young family. There are also many traders who are business driven and look for every opportunity to meet customer needs and expand their business exposure no matter what the cost to after-work lifestyles.

The point of this discussion is that true trader engagement needs understanding of a whole range of factors. A robust engagement process, including things like one to one interviews, can find the best way forward. But one thing is very clear, and that is that flexible working arrangements will be the key. Giving traders choices in their working arrangements will give us the best chance of meeting the needs of consumers in 2015. Consumers have raised the bar. But this is not just about working longer – it is about working smarter.