Make Today An Awesome Work Day, But Also Focus On the Future

A recent article by CBS News exposed the harmful labor practices at Juicy Couture in which they forced one student to quit her studies to take on more hours and then fired her one day when she was late. Instead of improving her life, she gave up her dreams just to keep her job. She was trying to be proactive and improve her life by giving her employer her best today, but her employer prevented her from doing that by limiting her options, instead.

Retailers complain about their 50% turnover rate, yet they treat employees poorly, by limiting their hours and their pay. If retailers only want part-time employees, to prevent giving them health care benefits, why not think of retail as a training ground or stepping stone to something better for employees? That attitude would improve the environment for both the company and the employee, if they knew that everyone was benefiting from the arrangement, instead of the company being the only one to benefit.

In order to make the most of your current job, look for an employer that treats employees well. If employers would focus on giving employees their best, no matter how long they were there to work, their customers would reap the benefit. Studies show that employee satisfaction leads to customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction leads to increased loyalty and sales, so that is a good thing all by itself.  One company we have studied for many years, Two Men and a Truck, know that their movers will not be with them forever, so they tell them, “give us your best now, and we will help you get where you want to be.” Because of this, they have tremendous employee loyalty and customer loyalty. That is a great attitude for all employers to have.

Don’t work where you are forced to choose between work and school. Retailers like Starbucks actually help employees pay for college by reimbursing them for college credits. When you continue your education, you focus on attaining your career and educational goals and your employer benefits from your new knowledge and skills today: it is a win/win.

Work for an employer that will provide you with training and give you the tools to be excellent. By taking the time to give you new skills in sales, communication, conflict resolution, and teamwork, you have confidence to succeed on the job.  These skills will help you treat your customers better, as well. Target might have gone a bit overboard in their training effort, but you can’t deny that their customer service pays off in enormous guest loyalty. This circles back to the first point — when employees are treated well, they treat customers well.

One of my former students, Chris, is a great example of doing his best now while also planning ahead to make the most of his career. His goal is to be a CTO, or chief technology officer. The first decision along that path was to accept a job with Apple in a retail store. Chris remembers a conversation with a mentor very soon after he arrived at Apple. 

"You need to be the very best in your role. Once you've attained this, start taking on additional responsibilities to get you to the next."

Chris followed this advice and was quickly promoted to Business Specialist.

He did such a great job as an Apple retail salesman, that he was recently recruited away by General Motors to become their in-house technology trainer, or a Connected Customer Specialist. Apple should be proud that they treated him so well and trained him so well (he had already received a killer education as my student!), that another company wanted him for his skills and his positive attitude. That says a lot about the way Apple takes care of their employees. Chris agrees, “Apple embraces change and by knowing that their employees are looking out for the best interest of the company, they'll allow you the flexibility needed to go where you need.”

If retailers employ these positive employment traits, they will not only engender the loyalty of their employees but create loyal customers, too. And, they might just find that those loyal employees become longer lasting loyal customers, if they treat them right. That is much more important in the long run.

Karen and Aneil Mishra are business school professors and authors of Trust is Everything (2008) and Becoming a Trustworthy Leader (2012)