Manager challenges for 1985 and beyond.
Every organization that hopes to be around at the end of the 1980s has to also meet the challenges of developing the skills of these managers, recognizing and rewarding the contributions they make, and keeping them motivated over the long haul. And they must determine how much to change themselves to accommodate this new breed of manager.
The role of the store manager of 1985 and beyond was recently examined in depth in a seven-month-long project conducted by Arthur D. Little Inc. on behalf of the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council.
In the study, the results of a survey of senior executives of the largest U.S. food retailing companies were combined with interviews of managers of high performing stores in companies across the country, the views of industry observers and associations, examinations of previously published studies, and the guidance of a blue-ribbon panel of retail and wholesaler executives who make up the Research Council. The final product pointed out key findings that have implications for everyone in food distribution. Among these points:
* The job of store manager in the mid-1980s and beyond will be different from what was required to successfully manage many supermarkets in the 1960s and 1970s. The 1980s manager will, typically, oversee a store with more customers, higher sales volume, greater product diversity and more capital investment. Managing this store will involve less of a hands-on approach with more attention given to delegation and management by exception.
* Along with the need to maintain company standards and store profitability, the manager will have additional key responsibilities, among them: building and maintaining a strong sense of the company's values and beliefs in store personnel, using automated information systems to develop plans and monitor results, and adapting the store's merchandise and services to the specific needs of its local customer base.
* Companies will find they need to provide greater education and training to these managers and to those potential managers who are moving up in the organization. The manager's job will be training-intensive, more analytical, less seat-of-the-pants. This training will emphasize both the nuts and bolts of management techniques and the development of leadership skills.
* Leadership skills that will help store managers apply their company philosophy to the store's day-to-day routines will be emphasized to a greater extent in training programs. Store managers will, through example, keep this philosophy alive as an active guide for the behavior of all store employees.
* In a period of slower growth, many companies will need to increase their efforts to design programs that recognize and reward the store manager's accomplishments and keep them motivated over the long term. The expanded role of the store manager will provide more opportunities for job enrichment, the creation of alternative career paths and the prevention of burnout.
* Future changes will also require full-fledged managers at the department level in many stores. A careful consideration of the extent that authority and responsibility are decentralized to the store level will also be necessary. In addition, many companies will review the job of the store manager's supervisor and adjust it to the new breed of managers.
"Point" Men and Women
The managers of 1985 and beyond are likely to be the "point men" (or women) for many changes as they occur. In addition to the key points raised above, they will have to wrestle with dominance of larger stores; relatively slow growth; customers who are concerned with convenience, variety and price; competitors who continually experiment with format variations within the large store format; higher education levels and raised expectations of the store's workforce; and even, in some areas, a reduction in the size of the available workforce.
The report focuses upon a type of store that is becoming increasingly common: a unit that ranges in size from 45,000 to 100,000 square feet with 50 to 100 or more full-timers and between 100 and 200 or more part timers, and an annual volume of more than $20 million.
"Getting their arms around" such a store, the way they did when store size was 15,000 to 25,000 square feet, will be impossible with such large numbers to contend with in volume, customer count, items, departments and employees.
Department managers will have to be much more expert as well. The bakery manager who might have managed a family-owned bakery before joining the company will find himself running a department with twice as many employees and twice the volume of the store that he left.
Several automated management systems will help him to manage more professionally, but the manager will have to learn how to use them profitably. Scan data from the front and back ends, automatic ordering, energy control systems, time and attendance and other computerbased systems will provide the store manager with ways to monitor and manage costs that previously were done by trial and error or with large measures of seat-of-the-pants judgment.
Many more types of routine purchases will be accommodated through expanded offerings. This new diversity will necessitate both an expansion of the company's marketing functions and an increase in merchandising skills.
In many communities the store will have an expanded role in the community it serves, having grown to be one of the major tax revenue sources and providers of local employment. Simply sponsoring a Little League team is not likely to be enough. The new manager will be more of a company ambassador.