Manager's special

Bill Skeard, store manager at Colemans’ The Garden Market in Corner Brook, N.L., was the only Canadian among nine finalists in the Food Marketing Institute’s 12th Store Manager awards competition in May.

Train managers in all departments.
Throughout his 28-year career, Skeard has put his time into every grocery department. This wealth of experience gives him a window into each part of the store and its staff. "Having worked in all of the departments in my career, I know what each staff member goes through on a daily basis," says Skeard. At his store, all managers in training must learn about the centre store first, followed by three months in each department to make sure they're up to speed on each section.

Engage in team-building activities
Skeard knows that you're only as good as the team around you. "You don't become a great manager without an excellent staff, which you'll get through motivating and creating excitement in-store," says Skeard. When the Gardens store first opened, no one knew one another. So what better way to bond than over breakfast? Every Friday morning, Skeard provides breakfast for his staff. An average of 30 people show up, with some even dropping by on their days off. The result? Retention rates are sky high at 90%.

Provide feedback for staff.
Praising staff on good work, and showing them how to improve on weaknesses, is essential to getting the best out of your workers. Every month, Skeard gets a mystery shopper report that rates targeted staff out of 100 on criteria such as knowledge and customer service. Skeard recognizes staff members who score 100 in front of their department peers so the others can be inspired. They are also rewarded with a $50 gift certificate to be used at the company's furniture, clothing or grocery outlets.

Invest time in mentoring new hires.
Skeard personally gives new hires a store tour before they start. He matches up new employees with a senior employee from the department for a minimum of two weeks. After three months on the job, there is an employee review. "If they're failing, maybe it's because of the training that's provided." Skeard also likes feedback from new employees on what they think doesn't work in the store. "I've been able to get a lot of good ideas from new employees. They have a fresh set of eyes," he says.

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