A retail employee and a customer pictured at checkout.

Who is Responsible for a Retail Company’s Culture?

Sarah Greesonbach | 4 min read

Are you ready for a controversial opinion?

We won’t lead you on about this topic, which is near and dear to our hearts because of the company culture work and employee experience work we do with our LMS customers.

And here’s our take: despite the increase in culture-related titles like Chief People Officer and Head of Talent & Culture, no one person within your retail business is responsible for its culture.

For better or worse, every person you hire and every person you retain adds to your culture, allowing it to evolve over time and deliver benefits like increased productivity, profitability, and employee retention – or not.

When you approach the topic of company culture as a retailer, who’s responsible is less important than who’s involved. That is, how do you make sure that everyone who comes on board your retail organization and everyone currently on your roster is a “culture add” of value for your company?

A retail employee hanging clothes on a clothing rack.

The Danger of High Turnover on Company Culture in Retail

For many retail organizations, company culture represents an enormous opportunity to build relationships with customers and generally drive more success for the business. But unfortunately, more often than not it remains a frustratingly elusive thing to have an impact on.

Why? Because your culture is only as strong as the people who participate in it, and the retail industry has historically had to manage extremely high turnover rates, both on the frontline and on the administrative side.

Ultimately, that’s what makes company culture such a powerful amplifier for brands that get it right and a disastrous downward spiral for companies that get it wrong: a significant number of employees come into the culture, interact for a short time, and then leave quickly.

If that existing culture is positive, the positive energy can raise the whole company and deliver those documented benefits. If that existing culture is negative, it’s a spiral that’s difficult to improve.

Everyone Plays a Role in Company Culture

Fortunately, the default operating model for traditional retailers provides a clear path to building and improving a company culture. You can distribute culture-building responsibilities among your senior leadership, middle management, and frontline worker teams and, with consistent effort, have a real impact.

Based on our experience working with retailers across the country, here’s how the most successful businesses share the responsibility of building or improving company culture:

Senior leadership

  • Defines and lives out the organization’s vision, mission, and values
  • Meets basic standards of employee morale such as compensating fairly, supporting growth, and adapting to employee needs
  • Supports company culture initiatives with time, resources, and technology

Middle management

  • Reinforces and lives out the organization’s vision, mission, and values
  • Encourages employee growth and open communication
  • Supports company culture efforts by setting aside time and resources for employees to participate

Frontline employees

  • Understand and live out the organization’s vision, mission, and values
  • Bring a positive attitude and a willingness to learn to every shift
  • Support company culture efforts by taking the time to participate in initiatives and engage with co-workers

Reviewing this list of responsibilities makes it clear why no one person can lead the charge. Some roles need to be more strategic and some need to be more demonstrative — but every role plays an important part in building culture.

A retail display with bracelets and sprays at a store.

Technology Brings Your Company Culture Together

Each layer of leadership within a retail organization has its own company culture-related responsibilities. But the biggest impact will come from uniting these efforts in one place. For many retailers, an LMS serves this function perfectly.

Using an LMS as a central portal for communication, community-building, and work-related updates allows these layers of your organization to engage in their different levels of company culture responsibilities at the same time. And as each layer contributes, they’re building something bigger and stronger than themselves that will last through every hiring cycle you have.

For example, L&M Supply is using its LMS to give employees more ownership — a company culture value — and drive more sales.

Outdoor Voices uses its LMS to build culture in a few key ways. Kailey Gursoy, OV’s Retail Training & Development Manager, says they use the LMS to amplify one consistent message company-wide. And to focus on in-depth brand and product training, as well as highlight cross-functional work experience that improves understanding and empathy between teams.

Building Intentional Culture in Retail

No matter how inspiring or skilled an individual may be, no one person can turn a retail organization’s company culture around. From the top of the company to the bottom, every employee has a responsibility to contribute to the best of their abilities — and the organization as a whole must support these efforts with the resources, support, and technology those individuals need.

BY SARAH GREESONBACH

Sarah is a writer for Wisetail. By analyzing and condensing cutting-edge research and data, she helps L&D professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and training. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR. 

 

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