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Fourteen Ways to Find & Retain Employees

Furniture World Magazine


Most retail businesses have systems in place to attract external customers. Why should processes to attract and keep internal customers be much different?

Home furnishings retailers are having more trouble finding and retaining employees, also known as “internal customers,” now, more than ever before.

The reason I like to use the term “internal customers” instead of employees is because it signifies that both employees and customers are equally important. Internal customers should, therefore, be treated on par with external customers.

You can avoid this scenario by adopting the following twelve practices.

Most retail furniture operations have systems to attract and keep external customers. It generally goes something like this: marketing/advertising, welcoming, understanding needs and aspirations, suggesting options, closing, and follow up.

My question is, Why should processes to attract and keep internal customers—finding, interviewing, on-boarding, developing, and retaining—be any different?”

One reason is that retailers tend to view employees as an expense of doing business. Customers, on the other hand are seen as revenue-generating. That’s a short-sighted view because there’s a direct relationship between those businesses that grow the number of productive managers and employees and growth in sales and profit.

Best Practices

So, what are best practices to attract and retain internal customer talent? Here is a list of thoughts and practices.

  1. Move some of your recruiting budget to marketing. Human Resources Departments are mostly tasked with performing necessary compliance work and is not necessarily best suited for recruiting. Consider either moving some of your recruiting budget over to marketing or, better yet, allocate a portion of your advertising spend to ads geared towards attracting talent that may be a good fit for your team. As a business owner or manager, you should always be on the lookout for sales and service talent. On multiple occasions I’ve witnessed business owners who, after getting exceptional service from a server at a restaurant, engage with that person and exchange contact information. That, furniture people, is how to do it right! If you rely solely on posting ads for resumes on recruiting services such as Indeed, it may cost you more than you can imagine.

    Build a database of those in your community who might be a good fit for your business. Create a network of future possible Internal Customers.
  2. Build recruiting into your CRM/CXM. Recent articles in this Furniture World series discussed ways to enhance the Customer eXperience (CX). You can find them here. These kinds of enhancements can be adapted to Internal CX. Put all new internal customer leads into your CRM/CXM just as you would new external customer leads. Communicate with your candidates as you would regular customers. Organize your candidates under criteria of your choosing. Digitally catalog and rate resumes and any relevant information such as social media links. Build a database of those in your community who might be a good fit for your business. Create a network of future possible Internal Customers.

  3. Start with people you know. Turn all of your employees into recruiters. Everyone has their own personal network—offline and online. People usually associate with people who share similar interests. So, if you are happy with your current internal customers, there is no better place to start than close to home. Referral bonuses are common in all industries. These can be cash payments for new hires, or limited-time offers structured as referral bonuses based on a new salesperson’s written sales or a delivery driver’s delivered sales. Give all your people business cards that include a QR code on the backside that connects new prospects to your CRM/CXM system where they can fill out a short questionnaire and schedule an interview. Ask your people to share employment opportunities with others in their social networks.

  4. Ask your external customers to help.Happy, satisfied customers are often glad to spread the word that you are hiring. Some of them may even be interested in joining your team. Most retail operations have sizable customer databases. It is unfortunate that many of these lists are used to send the same email blasts to everyone. Segmenting your lists to communicate with targeted personal messages will produce better results. Here is one simple idea: Send a thank you message to customers after delivery and with it, a request to forward a message link to anyone they know who might want to work in your organization. Or, if you want to be more aggressive, tell your customers that you will give them a five percent discount off of their next purchase if they give you any referral. Think outside the box.

  5. Make a different kind of initial recruiting appointment. When candidates do not show up for scheduled interviews many business owners take it as a sign that these candidates are not serious about going to work in retail. Another possibility is that they do not feel that the opportunity is worthwhile. To separate serious candidates from others, consider scheduling a first appointment interview via Zoom. Use an appointment calendar to confirm and remind them of the time. Then, if you both wish to continue, follow up with an in-person meeting, perhaps on neutral ground, at a coffee shop as opposed to a stuffy office. Or do a walking interview that includes a tour of your showroom and/or warehouse. Think of interviews as conversations. This is a buyers’ market.

  6. Create a pipeline. You encourage your salespeople to continuously develop, manage, and grow their pipeline of customers, right? Businesses should do the same with prospective employees. How many times over the years have you made an offer to a candidate who chose not to accept? How many times have you received a perfect resume from a candidate who was unresponsive when you followed up? Have you ever known someone who would be a great addition to your team, but the timing wasn’t right? Just like reaching regularly to potential buyers, It’s hard to know when a potential employee is in the market for employment. You don’t delete customers from your database if they don’t buy right away, so why would you do that with potential team members?

  7. Often, the best people are working somewhere else. People who are satisfied with their current employment are not polishing up their resumes and browsing help wanted ads. Right now, retailers must look in untraditional places. Proactively search out people through mutual social media contacts and postings. Ask them if they know someone who is interested, or if they would like to hear about an opportunity to join your team.

  8. Look for fit within your culture. Look for fit within your culture. Most often, good attitude and work ethic trumps experience. If you can find people with all three of these attributes, that is fantastic. In some cases though you may need to compromise. If your business has a decent onboarding process, when filling many positions, experience is the least important attribute. If you are looking for a manager with leadership qualities, your own organization is often the best place to start.

  9. Ensure you have solid onboarding systems and processes. A solid approach to selling new customers is essential for any retail organization. Your onboarding process should be well thought out and executed. With new hires: Welcome them to the team. Follow a defined training plan. Have them work alongside a mentor. Make sure they understand what success in your organization looks like and how to achieve it. Ensure that they understand how they are paid with respect to bonuses. Training should be real-world and provide respectful feedback.

  10. Do not tolerate territorial behavior. Although many businesses would not care to admit it, sometimes current employees exhibit clan-like behavior, making it difficult for new people to fit in. Often, new hires treated in this way will abruptly leave, contributing to the high turnover rates that plague retail.

  11. Lead people and manage processes. A common theme seen in companies that have high-performance metrics and few problems finding and keeping good people is that they make sure that their people know what they must do and how to do it. Instead of managing individual employees’ personalities, they manage business processes. Good leadership elevates the way in which internal customers approach their work and the satisfaction they get from working in the organization.

  12. Pay at or more than the market rate. Recognize and bonus for exceptional performance. People know what others are making for similar employment. No matter how great you believe your organization is, you will only attract and keep top talent if you compensate them appropriately for their role. There should be incentives and recognition as well, for those people who exceed normal performance measures—prizes, money, and personal or public recognition. Some business owners may ask how they can afford to do this. My answer to this is that affordability comes from internal customers enabling their organizations to surpass business objectives.

  13. You don’t delete customers from your database if they don’t buy immediately, so why would you do that with potential team members.
  14. Understand people’s “why” and show them a path for growth. Everyone who works in retail has their own answer to the question of “why” they come to work every day. Retail leaders who take the time to understand this on an individual level can develop personalized career growth paths for each of their employees. No matter what your business size is, you do not want good people to get stuck in a rut with nowhere to go. Help them to grow whether it be by providing education, job growth or income opportunities.

  15. Track turnover under each manager. For an in-depth conversation of employee turnover metrics, check out “The Turnover Challenge” article at www.furninfo.com/furniture-world-articles/3830 from the November/December 2019 issue of Furniture World. Note that employee turnover can be calculated with the formula: employees who left or were let go for any reason / [(Employee number, at the start + Employee number, at the end) / 2)] x 100.

    We know that often people leave a business because they are not happy with a company’s leadership. As with anything worth improving, a first step is measurement so that benchmarks can be set and actions taken to make improvements. Sales managers measure close rates and warehouse managers measure inventory accuracy and perfect delivery percent. So too should retail managers measure their internal customer turnover. Decreasing this percent over time while keeping and growing your team will translate to sales growth, happier external customers and satisfied, performing internal customers.


About David McMahon 
David McMahon is founder of PerformNOW Inc.  PerformNOW has three main products that help home furnishings businesses improve and innovate: Performance Groups (Owners, Sales managers, Operations), PerformNOW CXM (Customer eXperience Management systems and processes), Furniture business consulting.  Your can reach David at david@performnow.com.

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