Updated: Nov 16, 2021
The Retail Duo has always been interested in connecting with industry experts and dynamic people. We reached out to Ron Thurston Author of "Retail Pride" to chat about all things RETAIL. Of course, Ron didn't disappoint and provided us with so many amazing insights that we just had to share.
"THE SINGLE MOST PRECIOUS RESOURCE FOR ANY GROWING ORGANIZATION IS TALENTED PEOPLE SUPPORTED BY A UNIQUE AND ENGAGING CULTURE"
THE RETAIL DUO: Can you speak to one or two of the best examples of a company culture you have witnessed or speak to an example that you think is a good starting point in building culture?
RON: I will pull some insight from my friends at JobPixel, who have created the best-in-class video hiring solution for retailers.
Here are some things that they recently said on this topic, which I love:
"Maintaining the status quo is easy for those of us who have played an active role in hiring throughout our careers, but hiring shouldn't be easy if you want it to be successful. In many industries, including retail, we are witnessing a shift away from the traditional objective of hiring for "culture fit" and moving more towards hiring for "culture add." This shift won't happen overnight, but companies need to push themselves in this new direction, one "culture add" hire at a time.” Ron Thurston, Author
Hiring only for fit perpetuates biases and can lead to discrimination in the hiring process (intentional or unintentional). But beyond that, companies who wish to operate creatively, boost innovation, and be more productive can only do so when their employees can approach challenges from all angles and thought processes. That requires diverse teams, not "diverse" in terms of simply checking the box on gender or race, but going further to find those hires that you know to address the areas in which your company lacks. Hiring for culture add is more about how a potential candidate sees the world, not how the world sees them.
Taking the time to answer these questions (thoroughly and honestly!) is critical to ensuring success, along with keeping these tips in mind...
· Don't rely too heavily on employee referrals for new hires. While it can be a cost &
time savings in the short term, it's far more likely that those employees will refer
people with the same backgrounds, which is counterproductive to hiring for
culture add in the long term.
· Embrace "non-traditional resumes" Often, in interviews, we shrug off candidates
that think differently, but those are precisely the kinds of people your team can
benefit from. That comes with an important caveat, though...if you hire "weird,"
you must make sure those people are allowed to stay weird. That means fighting
the urge to force them into a box or shut down their unique ideas because "
we've always done it this way."
· Be Patient Hiring more diverse teams can frequently lead to short-term
headaches - Maybe the teams don't gel right away. But have no fear, though
your diverse teams may not feel as effective initially, countless studies have
shown that they are more effective in the long run.
· Cast a Wider Net Consider hiring outside your field. Much like companies, areas
of interest can also self-select for a particular type of person. If a candidate
meets the basic job requirements and has demonstrated the ability to succeed
in past jobs, don't put so much weight on what profession they are coming from.
THE RETAIL DUO: Oftentimes, our careers do take us in different directions. How does one keep positive and continue to learn from each opportunity, and continue to rise to the occasion to be self-taught and learn new things?
RON: “What does it mean to be self-taught? And why should you be proud of it? We no longer live in a time when information is difficult to find. Yet, the industry is still short on formal education programs for retail leaders, which puts us somewhere between self-guided and instructed. This is an excellent place to be; it's the best of both worlds.
" ONE DAY YOU ARE A HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER; THE NEXT DAY YOU ARE STYLING THE MANNEQUINS IN THE WINDOW, THE DAY AFTER THAT, YOU ARE OPENING DOZENS OF BOXES. YOU THINK STRATEGICALLY AND GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY AT THE SAME TIME. "
No specific college degree guarantees that you will excel at all of these things or have the broad skill set necessary to succeed in retail. I studied Retail Management, but that qualification is certainly not what has kept me learning and growing over the last thirty years. There are various relevant degrees in merchandising, business, marketing, or even psychology, but most true retail field leaders are self-taught and proud of it.”
QUESTION: How can part-time careers translate onto a resume for someone like a student who is just starting in the industry? How can you articulate and quantitate skill sets and results?
RON: “In many other industries, success is linked to education. Does being self-taught make your success less valid? Absolutely not! This can be why so many people feel that a career in retail is temporary while they wait to begin their "real profession," the one they may have studied for in college.
This widespread perception is far from the truth because a great retail employee or leader, even part-time, must possess an expansive skill set, including many of the following:
· Visual merchandising expertise
· Human resources and employee relations skills
· Expert store operational knowledge
· A love of the product they sell
· The ability to motivate a team
· A passion for the customer and serving others
· Exceptional training abilities
· Loss prevention and detection
· Being a great listener
· and even more!”
QUESTION: What advice do you have for independent retailers who are struggling with finding and retaining staff during this challenging pandemic? What can they do to attract the right people?
RON: “The most impactful thing any independent retailer can do to retain your staff is to invest in the best possible training programs. This can be as simple as purchasing retail training programs through platforms like RETAILU (Canadian) or by ensuring that you have your team work side by side with you for every action you take as a business owner. Attracting the right people will almost always come down to how much time, energy, and money you are willing to invest in training. And from my point of view, it is ALWAYS money well spent.”
QUESTION: True or False? Do you think the world of retail will be one of the most exciting places to be in the coming years?
Right now, the entire industry is resetting itself in every aspect of how it operates.
· New business models are being developed based on the increase in direct-to-
consumer brands and the growth of e-commerce.
· There are new product categories in sustainability, cannabis, re-selling, and
· There is new technology being developed for how we hire, how we train, how we
reach out to the customer, how we merchandise the stores, and even how we
track customer behavior.
There is no question about how exciting the retail industry will be in the coming
years and how many great careers will be created because of it!”
After speaking with Ron we couldn't help but be reminded of our own retail pride. Thanks Ron! We truly love retail, and like Ron, we see think the world of retail has a lot of promise. We highly recommend snagging yourself a copy of Ron's book RETAIL PRIDE: The Guide to Celebrating Your Accidental Career.
Ron Thurston loves retail. And he's proud of it. Ron has led the retail teams for some of America's most prominent brands, inspired thousands of store employees, and traveled relentlessly across the country to sit and listen to what they have to say.
From a part-time sales associate to a vice president of stores, Ron has put in the hard work that a retail career requires and wrote this book to share what he learned along the way.
Ron is a fourth-generation Californian, but he and his husband now live in Manhattan.
Ron Thurston’s LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rthurston/
Retail Pride Website: https://www.retailpride.com