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Maintaining Corporate Image: Where Retail is Falling Short Today

department managers

Company culture is important to retain both employees and customers, but the COVID pandemic has made it difficult for large corporations to keep it up.

Working for the same retailer for over two years, I’ve watched expansion during a time of supply chain issues, labor shortages, and inflation place a strain on the company’s hold on its values.

Though the pandemic has led to a rise in profit for grocers and other retailers, losing sight of the culture that first allowed that growth to occur will have negative impacts in the long run.

Corporate image is the term used to describe how a company is viewed publicly. It’s what comes to mind when a customer thinks of the company. Ideally, that’ll include its outstanding customer care.

According to global executives, 63 percent of their company’s market value can be attributed to its reputation. Rated as the top contributing factors were the quality of products or services, employees, and customer service.

A company’s staff, then, plays a huge hand in sustaining its culture and growing its profit.

Keeping employees motivated

When considering how employees shape and are shaped by the company’s image, everyone needs to be taken into consideration.

In the retail world, department managers are the first line of support for their workers. That’s who they go to with requests or for assistance, and they’re the link between their workers and store management and above.

With that being the case, a lot of maintaining the company’s reputation on the sales floor falls back on department managers, as they’re the ones responsible for cultivating the culture in non-management employees.

However, department managers receive little incentive to do so.

Publix Supermarkets advertises that their average department manager makes 87k dollars annually, which comes out to about 30 dollars an hour after accounting for mandatory overtime, and many report making below this average by over ten thousand annually.

But according to data compiled by MIT in early 2021, a standard family of four requires an income of 21.50 dollars an hour per parent to live.

A position that typically requires years of working for the company can yield just over a liveable wage.

With the cost of living continually rising and pay not going up to match, it makes sense, then, that managers are lacking the motivation to pass on a passion for their company to their associates.

And even with salaries aside, managers as well as their clerks report feeling underappreciated. I hear often from the managers I work with that they feel their efforts are going unnoticed and that they aren’t being given the opportunity to advance their careers.

In order to maintain a company culture around treating employees like family, there needs to be a return to those founding values of ensuring that employees are well cared for.

The impact of worker shortages

Incentivizing good employees to stick around is now more important than ever.

A report published by the U.S. Department of Labor in June 2022 states that employment in the leisure and hospitality industry is down 1.3 million since February 2020.

The Great Resignation and ongoing worker shortages impact the state of large corporations in many less-than-obvious ways, and cultivating a corporate image is certainly hurt by it.

One of the most important pieces of maintaining company culture is hiring employees that believe in the mission and will carry it out enthusiastically. But when employers are desperate to get any new hires, they lack the allowance to be choosy. Simply showing up to a walk-in interview can immediately land you a job.

And once those new hires are taken in, training often gets rushed or forgotten completely. With short staffing issues in every corner, new hires frequently undergo a “trial by fire.”

The lack of proper guidance can have new employees feeling frustrated and already unenthused about the company they have just begun working for. Instilling a passion for the company image is left completely on the back burner.

The problem persists further down the line. After employers desperately hire whomever they can get, they can get stuck with a bad fit for their company due to the cost of trying to find a replacement.

In the end, it works out best to put the time into finding the right employee and giving them the attention they need to carry out the company’s mission.

The company image, frequently left behind in today’s scramble to keep growing businesses running on fewer employees, needs to be better emphasized.

This applies to the hiring process, the training process, and to moving up through management. Training doesn’t end after the new hire orientation; employees of all statuses can be coached per the company culture at every step of their career.

In the long term, a business will benefit when you work to build and uphold your company’s reputation.