Personnel

employee engagement

Practical Advice on How to Improve Employee Engagement

Maintaining a positive, productive, and profitable workplace requires employees who are engaged in their job and committed to giving their best every day. Engaged employees work harder and are willing to go the extra mile because they feel connected to their company. In a retail environment, such as furniture sales, employees who are committed and dedicated to their work help to increase sales and annual revenues while promoting customer loyalty and satisfaction. Satisfied employees are also much less likely to leave their jobs. Reduced employee turnover means that furniture retailers can save on the significant costs associated with hiring and training new workers.

Despite the many benefits that come with employee engagement, many business owners are failing or simply not trying to cultivate an engaged workplace. In fact, recent research found that nearly 35 percent of the American retail workforce is disengaged from their jobs. Fortunately, retail business leaders who are interested in boosting engagement among their employees can find success by following a few simple tips.

 

employee

 

Make Communication and Positivity a Priority

Communication is a crucial aspect of business operations for companies of all sizes. Business leaders who communicate their expectations to each employee will have greater success in attaining overall company goals. In addition to providing clear guidance and instruction, prioritizing communication in the workplace also involves embracing transparency and accessibility. Retail employees who view managers and owners as another part of the team that is available to assist them will have a deeper sense of investment in their work and the company.

Focusing on positive communication and taking time out to thank employees for their work are other ways that business leaders can improve workplace morale and engagement. Overly critical work environments are stressful and prevent employees from speaking their minds. Supportive and positive workplaces, on the other hand, foster engagement and motivate employees to perform at their very best.

 

Hire and Provide Support for Strong Managerial Staff

Much of the responsibility for promoting employee engagement lies with managers. The most successful managerial staff members are those who want their people to succeed and will provide the support and guidance they need to do so. Effective managers also understand their employees’ strengths and value their contributions to the company.

When hiring from outside sources or promoting from within, business leaders should focus on finding managers who possess the leadership traits needed to improve engagement among workers. Providing ongoing coaching and holding managers accountable for employee engagement are keys to continued success. Research has shown that companies with supportive managerial staff have employees that are 67 percent more engaged than those at non-supportive organizations.

 

management team

 

Implement Recognition and Reward Programs

It should go without saying that an employee who feels respected and valued for his or her work will be more motivated to continue supporting the company’s goals. Offering a simple verbal “thank you” can go a long way in showing appreciation for outstanding employees, but managers and business owners can take things a step further by providing employee rewards and incentives.

Recognizing employees with a “Wall of Fame” board, an employee of the month party, or shout out on social media can all be part of a rewards program. In the furniture retail industry, employers can motivate associates with leaderboards for top sales or number of hours worked during a busy season. Offering employee discounts for outstanding work is another way that retailers can engage sales associates while making them feel valued.

 

Give Employees Room to Grow

The potential for internal growth plays an important role in driving employee engagement. Regardless of the type of work that one does, it is difficult to remain engaged when daily tasks never change. For this reason, business owners looking to attract and retain top talent should examine the growth opportunities they provide to potential and current employees.

Although managers often correlate growth opportunities with a salary increase or a new job title, many employees can get the same satisfaction from growing within their current position. Providing employees with training and new leadership opportunities can be all that is needed to increase their engagement and break up the monotony of their day-to-day work.

 

employee

 

Do Something outside of Work

Along with allowing a little time for fun in the workplace, business leaders can promote employee engagement by organizing social events. Social activities outside of work give employees the chance to interact and develop personal relationships with one another in a relaxed environment. When teams of workers enjoy each other’s company, they are often more productive professionally.

Employees’ personal schedules can sometimes make it difficult for everyone to attend any one event, so companies should try to organize several throughout the year. Activities can include a company softball tournament or barbecue, weekly happy hour, or an evening at a professional sports venue. Bringing employees and managers together for volunteer projects also provides a way to increase engagement while maintaining a positive presence in the local community.

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living room

This Is How Ashley Furniture Gives Back to the Community

ashley furniture logoDedicated to social responsibility, Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., works to give back to the customers and communities that have helped it become one of the largest home furnishings manufacturers in the world. The company’s charitable giving programs have focused on a variety of areas, including art, health care, education, and youth development. Ashley Furniture also contributes time and resources to assist individuals and families affected by natural disasters.

The following programs and activities outline just a few of the ways the company is working to make the world a better place:

 

Advancing Disaster Relief Efforts

Since its founding more than seven decades ago, the company has directed hundreds of volunteer service hours and millions of dollars toward natural disaster recovery efforts worldwide. Ashley Furniture most recently announced that it would help distribute over 4,700 mattresses throughout Puerto Rican communities ravaged by Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that made landfall in late September 2017, pummeling the island territory and leaving many residents without shelter and other necessities.

Ashley Furniture donated approximately $1 million worth of mattresses in partnership with local Ashley Furniture HomeStores operated by the family-owned Puerto Rican company Mueblerías Berríos. With support from the US Army National Guard and Puerto Rico’s First Lady, Beatriz Isabel Rosselló, Mueblerías Berríos employees delivered the mattresses to homes in more than 70 cities across the island.

In addition to helping people recover from Hurricane Maria, Ashley Furniture provided much needed relief to individuals recovering from Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, which severely damaged communities in Texas and Florida in 2017. Ashley donated $2 million in furniture products and discounts through local Ashley HomeStores to help families get back on their feet.

 

Spreading Holiday Cheer

Alongside its work in disaster relief, Ashley Furniture oversees a variety of activities to help those who are less fortunate. For the last two decades, company employees have supported these efforts through Ashley’s Angels, a volunteer-led nonprofit group that distributes food, clothing, and toys to children from disadvantaged backgrounds each holiday season.

kids

Ashley’s Angels works in partnership with dozens of school districts in Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to identify families that will benefit from the program. After the group selects the recipients, volunteer shoppers from the Ashley community come together to purchase, wrap, and load the gifts onto Ashley trucks, which deliver the items to families in mid-December. In 2017, Ashley employees raised over $262,000 to provide holiday cheer for more than 1,350 children from 60 school districts. Ashley’s Angels has raised over $3 million, benefiting more than 20,000 children, since its creation in 1997.

 

Improving the Lives of Children in Need

Another way Ashley Furniture demonstrates its commitment to the community is through its Hope to Dream program. Launched in 2010, the program provides mattresses, bed frames, and bedding for underprivileged children aged 3 to 16. Throughout the year, over 430 Ashley HomeStores across the country donate a portion of each mattress sold to help support the program. Ashley also partners with professional sports teams and organizations such as United Way, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to ensure that Hope to Dream benefits as many children as possible.

In 2017, Hope to Dream participants across the country celebrated the program’s seventh anniversary by working toward a goal of providing brand-new beds for 10,000 children. By the end of the year, they had exceeded their goal with a total of just over 12,000 beds. Ashley Furniture continues to advance the program, adding to the more than 50,000 beds it has provided to children nationwide.

 

Supporting Arts, Entertainment, and Family Fun

Each August, tens of thousands of people gather in Arcadia, Wisconsin, for three days of music and fun activities during the Ashley for the Arts festival. First held in 2009, the event provides low-cost family entertainment while raising money for Ashley for the Arts, an initiative that supports Wisconsin schools, children’s charities, and other nonprofit organizations.

Alongside a lineup of great musicians, the festival, which takes place at Arcadia’s Memorial Park, features a car show, fireworks, circus performers, interactive children’s activities, and an art and craft fair with over 100 vendors. The festival also includes the annual Pursuit of a Cure 5K Run/Walk benefitting the American Cancer Society and local emergency response services.

In its first decade, the Ashley for the Arts festival grew from a relatively small event attended by a few hundred people into one of Wisconsin’s largest fundraisers. The 2017 festival attracted over 50,000 attendees and raised more than $425,000. All of the proceeds from the event went to a group of over 40 organizations. In addition to more than a dozen area school districts, beneficiaries included local churches, youth groups, and various community organizations.

shopping

The Most Common Reasons That Customers Leave without Buying

Watching a customer enter your store, browse for a while, and then leave without buying anything can be a vexing experience for a furniture retailer. Based on the customer’s decision to enter your store, you might assume that you carry an item that he or she is interested in. So what prevented this potential customer from making a purchase?

Many lost sales opportunities lie in between a customer’s decision to browse a store and his or her decision to leave empty handed. In order to make the most of every customer relationship, it is necessary to explore the following most common barriers to making a sale:

 

  1. Customers Can’t Find What They’re Looking For.

The rise of digital retail has allowed consumers to become better informed and, therefore, more independent shoppers. A rising number of customers feel that they don’t need a sales person’s assistance to locate the items they plan to evaluate. For this reason, when well-informed customers fail to find what they’re looking for on their own, they may be more likely to assume that you simply do not have it in stock than to request assistance from one of your sales representatives.

While furniture showrooms typically feature a significant cross section of a retailer’s merchandise, home furnishings companies typically stock additional options in their warehouses. This is increasingly true as digitization across the supply chain allows companies to efficiently sell from warehouses in multiple regional locations. If a customer can’t find what he or she is looking for in your showroom, it is likely that you’ll have a suitable option in a physical catalog or on your website. In order to connect them to these options, however, you will first need to get them face to face with a sales professional.

Furniture salespeople face the challenge of providing shoppers with adequate support without being too overbearing. When a new customer enters your store, your associates should strive to find out what kind of pieces he or she is searching for, even if his or her stated reason for coming in is “just browsing.” This provides an introduction to the sales process and allows your employees to set customers on the right path to finding what they need and to make themselves available for additional assistance.

shoppers
  1. Sales Professionals Don’t Adequately Assess Customers’ Needs.

Finding out what attracted a prospective customer to your store is an extremely important step in the sales process. However, as customers become more knowledgeable, traditional methods of qualifying customers are quickly becoming outdated. Most consumers are already well-acquainted with the retail sector that they are shopping within and are likely armed with some degree of research regarding your brand and products. Thus, it is necessary for you and your sales associates to delve deeper to truly analyze the unique needs of each customer.

In order to accomplish this, you must ask strategic questions that seek to uncover not simply what piece of furniture a customer is looking for, but also the finer details of their unique consumer journey. Questions such as, “Have you been shopping long?” and “Did you see anything you liked at any other stores?” can help provide a clearer view of how quickly a customer hopes to make a purchase, as well as his or her tastes in the context of current industry trends. Afterwards, asking questions about—and perhaps even creating a sketch of—the room that the new piece of furniture will fit into can provide further insight into a customer’s needs.

 

  1. The Price Isn’t Right.

A customer’s decision to check the price on an item can often be a turning point in whether or not he or she will consider making a purchase. As such, an inability to locate accurate pricing information is an obvious impediment to a sale. However, customers may also leave your store if they believe that all of your items are above their ideal price point. It can be difficult to surmount this sales barrier, as large items like furniture are rarely priced at a level to encourage impulse buys, nor are many customers seeking to buy furniture on a whim. However, you can help alleviate financial woes by offering home furnishings at a wide range of price points and prominently featuring trendy, affordable entry products, such as small pieces of home décor, to entice budget-conscious shoppers.

pricing
  1. The Sales Professionals Lack Knowledge.

It isn’t enough to simply begin a conversation with a customer. It is also necessary for your sales representatives to be capable of providing value that your digitally empowered customers can’t gain on their own time. A salesperson’s knowledge must extend beyond what is on your showroom floor to comprise your broader inventory, industry trends, and noteworthy activities by competing brands.

When customers reflect on exceptional retail experiences, they most often cite shopping trips when they received efficient service and smart recommendations. Knowledgeable, savvy sales professionals can provide a valuable reason for customers to keep browsing your store, so ensure that you equip your team members with the tools they need to be home furnishings industry experts.

Millennials

7 of the Best Recruiting Tips for Furniture Business Leaders

The Internet has transformed the recruitment process over the past two decades, greatly expanding the variety of opportunities available to companies and job seekers alike. Online recruiting tools have enabled business leaders to pore through an international expanse of qualified candidates with more speed and accuracy than ever before, while at the same time empowering professionals to thoroughly research a multitude of employment options.

The World Wide Web has greatly expanded the recruiting playing field, and while this has its benefits for companies seeking top talent, it also requires business leaders to be extremely diligent in their hiring efforts. In order to keep up with the competition, furniture companies of all sizes must take an active approach to recruiting that not only responds to the firm’s current needs, but also anticipates future challenges and growth.

The following are some key tips to keep in mind when seeking out new team members for your furniture business:

  1. Be Proactive.

It may be tempting to delay serious recruiting efforts until they become a necessity. However, if you wait until your business has a clear need to fill a particular role, it’s likely that the empty position will have already caused operational delays and lost sales.

businesswoman

To avoid the negative repercussions of an understaffed team, you must approach recruiting proactively. It is not enough to simply set aside time and resources for recruiting at a later date; in order to connect with the best candidates, you should make a habit of conducting recruiting activities on a regular basis. In doing so, you should make a clear distinction between hiring and recruiting. While you’ll only hire when you’ve identified a need to expand your team, your recruiting activities should be an ongoing effort shared by multiple members of your company.

Business leaders should allow mid-level managers to share some of the recruiting responsibilities. In fact, their job descriptions should include regularly scheduled recruiting tasks. These individuals are in the best position to detect gaps in their current teams and aid in the development of job listings that capture the essence of their departmental goals. In order to keep your managers accountable to your broader recruitment game plan, you might consider scheduling regular recruiting strategy meetings to ensure that all managers are on the same page regarding the company’s objectives and are working diligently to meet them.

  1. Practice Networking.

Recruiting is one operational area in which you should never hesitate to ask for help. A significant portion of the recruitment process is networking, and business leaders should explore every avenue when seeking the candidates who could one day become their most valued employees.

You most likely will not be able to offer employment to every qualified candidate that you interview, and the same fact holds true for your competitors. For this reason, it can be effective to develop a rapport with other businesses in your sector in order to share qualified candidates for open roles. While some business leaders may hesitate to share attractive candidates with their competitors, research has demonstrated this practice to be mutually beneficial. According to Scott Wintrip, author of High Velocity Hiring: How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant, business owners who introduce talent to at least eight other companies describe hiring leading candidates at a much faster pace than their peers who overlook the value of networking.

Your current employees are an extremely valuable—yet often overlooked—recruiting resource. By encouraging them to search their networks, both personal and professional, for qualified job-seekers, you can greatly expand your recruitment potential. You might even consider introducing an incentive program for referrals, offering employees bonuses for recommending new hires who remain with the company for a specified period of time.

Former employees who left the company under positive circumstances can also help you connect with other skilled workers in the industry. When seeking ideal candidates for positions in sales, you might even find attractive prospects elsewhere in your company. Individuals working in various aspects of your operations will often possess the knowledge and enthusiasm to excel in customer-facing roles and may be eager to apply these skills to increase their earnings in a sales environment.

  1. Know What You’re Looking for

To make the most of your recruiting efforts, it is important to be specific in your job listings and requests for employee referrals. Each position should have a detailed, task-oriented description that clearly outlines the skills and experience required for the role. You should also carefully consider the type of attitude that your ideal candidate would have, thus ensuring that you are seeking out individuals whose personalities will mesh well with your existing team and company culture.

research

The time you invest in creating a highly detailed job listing will result in a much more efficient recruiting process, thus enabling you to fine-tune your recruitment strategy. Rather than simply asking your industry contacts if they know anyone who is searching for a job, you will be able to take a more direct approach by inquiring after individuals who, for example, have experience managing a retail environment or providing fast-paced customer support.

  1. Conduct Hands-On Interviews.

While a typical verbal interview can provide a valuable introduction to a candidate’s personality, it rarely offers an opportunity to assess his or her skills. Including a hands-on portion in your interview process will enable you to evaluate candidates with a greater degree of confidence. For example, you might design sample exercises to observe how candidates handle sales calls or customer service scenarios, or you might give them the opportunity to showcase their abilities alongside one of your existing team members by allowing them to assist with real customer interactions.

  1. Cultivate an Inspiring Culture.

In order to attract high-quality employees, your business must be a place where experienced, skilled individuals want to work. As a business leader, you hold the responsibility for creating an empowering, structured, and rewarding work environment that will give your employees the tools they need to thrive. You should ensure that your managers approach their jobs with a positive, uplifting attitude and are capable of leading with clarity, empathy, and vision. You should also take the time to create and communicate your company’s mission, policies, and values.

In order to attract the best candidates, your recruiting strategies should center on the mutual goal fulfillment. While seeking qualified candidates to support your business’ continued success, you should also operate with a dedication to helping employees meet their highest potential and fulfill their professional objectives.