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Staff Training: 5 Steps to Running a Successful Shift.

Not so very long ago, while reworking a training class for new supervisors, we had a belated glimpse of the obvious: Zingerman's 5 Steps to Effective On-shift Training (see Staff Training from July 2000) are also a great tool for explaining how to run a shift.

One of the big differences between being a supervisor rather than a staff person is the need for a view of the bigger picture -- a vision of the shift from beginning to end. Using these five steps makes it more likely that supervisors will develop, communicate and lead toward that vision, rather than just taking things as they come. Of course, there's still the need to respond to unexpected situations. But if you're planning for a surprise, you're better prepared when one comes, even if you don't know exactly what it will be.

And if you have a plan -- and other people who know what the plan is -- you have more breathing room to work on fixing the surprises, because you're not running around and trying to do everything else at the same time.

Step 1. PrepareStart off with a vision for how a successful shift looks. The vision should take into account any and all background information that you know:* What's the sales forecast? Are you expecting it to be especially busy or especially slow? When is the rush likely to come? The lull?* What's the weather forecast? Weather can have a huge positive or negative impact on sales.* Who is scheduled to work? Does your crew include strong, experienced performers or will you be working with newer, less skilled staff? Is there anyone scheduled to be trained on the shift? If so, how will you accommodate that? Are there personality conflicts you need to keep in mind or synergies that you can leverage? How will you schedule breaks? * Who was supervising the shift before you? Let's face it; some of our peers leave things in better shape than others. Will you need to do some extra cleaning up or will things be 100 percent ready to go?* Are there specific products or services that will be the sales focus? What is on special? Are there any store-wide promotions or products that were promoted in a recent ad? How about extra inventory items that need to be moved out? Are you going to run any kind of sales "game" to get staff focused?* Do you have a specific service goal that you want to focus on (e.g. every customer is greeted when they come within 10 feet of a staff member)?* Given all of the above, what are the most likely "surprises" that may crop up and what are the resources available to you if you need help? Find out which other supervisors and managers will be in the building and be sure you know the procedures for emergencies such as a customer or staff injury, power outage, or storm warning.

Step 2. TellNothing beats a quick, pre-shift meeting to get everyone on the same page, and it doesn't have to take more than five or 10 minutes. At the pre-shift meeting, share your vision for a successful shift, including sales targets and customer service goals along with products to be promoted and any key products that are out of stock. If you anticipate having to shift job duties around to accommodate training or an expected surge in business, this is the time to lay that out and see what questions people have. Take time to explain the "why" behind any changes you're making to the "usual" way of doing things -- it adds credibility to your vision when people understand the thinking behind it. To communicate with people who are scheduled to start in the middle of the shift, consider a white board near the time clock with bullet points of key info.

Step 3. ShowDuring the shift, model the behavior you're seeking. Keep your enthusiasm high and give great service to customers and crew members alike. Stay aware of the big picture, even as you perform specific tasks. Touch base with everyone as often as possible throughout the shift so that you can identify potential problems before they happen and so that your staff knows they have your support.

Step 4. DoIt's important to both live your vision for the shift and to stay flexible enough to modify as needed to reflect the reality that is unfolding. To figure out what you need to do, observe what's going on, orient yourself to the various options available and then act. If you staffed for a big lunch rush but an unexpected thunderstorm at 11:30 looks like it might keep most customers stuck in their offices, start asking who'd like to go home early so that if at 12:30 you need to send a few people home (to cut labor costs to match the lower-than-anticipated lunch sales), you already know who the top candidates are. Effective supervisors are always adjusting their supervisory style to reflect the current situation. Patrick, who teaches our Intro to Supervising class, likes to say that supervisors need to play three key roles: cheerleaders (to maintain positive momentum when things are going well, as well as to pump up the energy when things are slow), rocks of Gibraltar (to provide stability and exude confidence when the going gets rough), and disciplinarians (when, for whatever reason, people start to slack off).

Step 5. ReviewAt the end of the shift, it's always worth the time to do both a quick wrap-up with your crew and a reflection on the shift for yourself. The Liked Best/Next Time technique (see sidebar) is an excellent tool to give feedback to the crew as a whole or to individuals. It also works to evaluate yourself. How did the reality of the shift match up with your vision? Did you meet your sales targets and service goals? What adjustments did you need to make as you went along? Were there any staffing issues that you'll handle differently in the future? Most shifts require a series of judgment calls by the supervisor. As you think back over the calls that you made, are you satisfied with the results? Are there any that, in hindsight, you wish you had done differently? What did you learn that will help you plan your next shift? Or, if there was a key event such as a holiday, the comparable shift one year from now?

Good shift supervisors are frequently described as "being in the right place at the right time" and "a great team leader, whose crew is all working together," both of which are easier to accomplish with a clear vision for a successful shift. Very few people are born great supervisors, but any supervisor can become more effective by using the 5 Steps to Running a Successful Shift.

Liked Best/Next Time: Forward-focused feedback1. Ask your staff what they liked best about the shift. What went especially well?2. Tell them what you liked best about their performance in particular and about the shift overall.3. Ask the staff what they'd do differently next time. It's important that you listen carefully to their input, but you don't have to agree to implement every suggestion.4. Share what you'd like them to do differently next time, as well as anything you will do differently yourself. If there are ideas that you're considering but not yet sure about implementing, share that information as well as when you'll let them know about any future changes.

Maggie Bayless is the managing partner of ZingTrain, which is the consulting arm of Zingerman's, the specialty food retailer in Ann Arbor, Mich. If you have specific topics you would like to see addressed, please send your suggestions to Maggie at
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Author:Bayless, Maggie
Publication:Gourmet Retailer
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2007
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