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What to Do About Employees Leaving and More of Your Questions Answered

Can you ban workers from talking politics? Yes, but there may be a better solution.




staff training

We’ve had a number of employees leave in the last six months, people in whom we invested heavily in terms of time and training. Should we just give up on the training?

These are strange times. The economy is strong, the labor market is tight, and the pandemic and lockdowns seem to have encouraged people to think about making a change in their life. That said, we still think the old saw about training holds: Train employees well enough that they could get another job, but treat them well enough so they never want to. So, yes, keep on investing in training, because the reality is you have no choice. Do you want poorly trained staff tending to your best customers? At the same time, if you’re bleeding staff, you need to find out the reason. Are your pay rates no longer competitive? Is there an issue with a manager or a particular co-worker? Conduct exit interviews with leaving staff to see if you can uncover the reason (although keep in mind that leaving employees will often be strategic with the truth – they may tell you the commute is too long, but it’s your overbearing brother who runs the shop that they can’t get along with). Finally, take reassurance from the fact that this period of disruption won’t last forever. Some of these employees may well decide their passion project or online trading dreams are not going to work out and will return hat in hand, hoping to get back that job with the employer who was willing to invest in their potential.

Our team is bitterly divided politically. I thought after the election it would get better, but it seems to be getting worse. Can I ban talking politics in our store?

Based on federal law, you can, especially if it has the potential to cause divisions among staff, harm their performance or hurt your overall business, although not if it involves the discussion of labor issues like the formation of unions or the national wage. That said, it’s usually better to stop short of that nuclear option — people generally don’t respond well to the perception that their right to express an opinion is being impinged. Call a meeting and say that for the sake of harmony, you don’t want politics discussed in the store. Tell your bench workers they can’t play conservative shock jocks on the radio and outlaw the sharing of Jon Stewart clips on the sales floor. Your workers most likely have much more in common than whatever it is that divides them politically. Encourage those areas of commonality. Let everyone sneak a view of “the game” in the backroom when the local college or baseball team is playing. Hold potlucks where everyone brings in a family favorite to share once a month. (Even better if people can share stories about their upbringing at the same time.) When people can see beyond the labels and understand how someone may have formed a world view, it’s easier to establish common ground and cut them some slack.

How many days should I aim to take off a year?

According to INSTORE’s Big Survey, the typical American independent jeweler works 50 or more hours a week. That sort of load demands a week off every three months to reboot your brain, rest your body, and give staff some room to shine. A better question to ask yourself may be, what have I done to prepare my staff to take over so I can take a vacation? That comes down to three things: training, empowerment and trust. If your staff is not ready to step up and take over while you’re away, your store will never reach its full potential — and you’ll never get a proper break.

When you do you know it’s time to dump the client?

It’s pretty easy to work out when a client is financially not worth the effort based on how many minutes, hours, and days they suck up asking for custom design redos, free appraisals, or to look at that silver chain one more time. The cost to your creative energy or staff morale is a little harder to determine, but basically if they’re never happy with what you’ve done, you find yourself itself constantly defending your work, or your staff members don’t want to deal with the person because they are so unpleasant, then you should suggest they take their business elsewhere. Life is too short.

How do I get my staff to read our company policy?

Make it fun. At your weekly meeting, offer to buy a large premium coffee for the first person who can correctly answer a question from the employee manual. The key is to have everyone participating, so put names in a hat and draw one — that way, every staff member knows there is a chance he or she could be called upon to provide the answer.

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When There’s No Succession Plan, Call Wilkerson

Bob Wesley, owner of Robert C. Wesley Jewelers in Scottsdale, Ariz., was a third-generation jeweler. When it was time to enjoy life on the other side of the counter, he weighed his options. His lease was nearing renewal time and with no succession plan, he decided it was time to call Wilkerson. There was plenty of inventory to sell and at first, says Wesley, he thought he might try to manage a sale himself. But he’s glad he didn’t. “There’s no way I could have done this as well as Wilkerson,” he says. Wilkerson took responsibility for the entire event, with every detail — from advertising to accounting — done, dusted and managed by the Wilkerson team. “It’s the complete package,” he says of the Wilkerson method of helping jewelers to easily go on to the next phase of their lives. “There’s no way any retailer can duplicate what they’ve done.”

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