Natural Foods Merchandiser

In Praise of Praise, Mentoring and Evaluations

Produce Perspectives

Most of us would love it if our new and part-time employees would stick around and be a positive part of our crew for a long time. It saves us time and money, can create a better shopping environment and is definitely better for morale. In fact, those who really like working at our store often become our next round of managers.

There are several things you can do to keep ?em around—apart from the obvious things like running a thorough training program and providing solid job descriptions and guidelines.

Start a mentorship program. Your older staff members stay fresh and connected by passing on their skills and ideas, and the new people have someone to bounce ideas off of about how to solve department problems, or perhaps suggest a more efficient way of doing something. Building relationships between more experienced staff and your newer employees can enhance teamwork and crystallize your commitment to investing in the people who work for you. It also keeps them interested and committed because they are always learning and growing.

Do regular evaluations. I know that word invokes dread. But evaluations are less daunting if you do them quarterly instead of yearly. You can evaluate performance over a shorter period of time, and it shows your staff that you are interested in what is pertinent in their world right now. In addition to acknowledging employees? progress and identifying areas for improvement, evaluations are a good way to discuss their concerns: Ask what they like best about working in your department. What would they like to learn during the next few months? Are there new ideas that they and their mentor have thought up?

It?s well proven that one of the top reasons people leave is feeling that they are not part of a bigger picture or cannot make a difference or grow in their jobs.

Give praise. We don?t give or get enough praise, and this has dramatic effects, according to How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life, by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton (Gallup Press, 2004). Both authors worked for The Gallup Organization and studied more than 50 years of research on positive psychology. They found that:

  • Praise can be a very powerful leadership strategy.
  • All sorts of bad things happen when people don?t feel appreciated. They whine. They complain. They bring others down with them. And then they leave their jobs.
  • Negative employees can scare off, for good, any customers they speak with.
  • The No. 3 reason Americans leave their jobs: They don?t feel appreciated.

Even more amazing, 65 percent of the people polled said they received no recognition last year for good work.

Those who do receive praise show tangible benefits. After surveying more than 4 million workers worldwide, Gallup found that people who give and get praise:

  • Increase both individual and group productivity
  • Are more likely to stay with their current organization
  • Receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from their customers
  • Have better safety records and fewer accidents on the job.

Research also indicated that workplaces were more productive when the ratio of positive to negative interactions was 3-1.

Keep it real. ?If you want people to understand the value of their contributions and that they are important, the recognition and praise you provide must have meaning that is specific to each individual,? say Rath and Clifton. So the praise has to be real and genuine—not just that ?good job? remark you say in passing, but, ?Wow, the greens section looks fantastic this morning, Jane. The way you arranged the colors will really increase sales. I think your eye for display is really getting better by the day.?

Thanks for letting me be a part of your work world again this year. I enjoy the writing and hope it makes a difference for you.

Mark Mulcahy runs an organic education and produce consulting firm. He can be reached at 707.939.8355 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 11/p. 38

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