The Differing Perspectives of Hourly Associates and Salaried Managers in Retail Sales

Each employee of a retail store has a slightly different perspective based upon their job description.

As the popular saying goes, money talks, and employee payment methods play a critical role in determining how employees work and their level of motivation. Take, for example, the difference between a factory and a retail sales store. The factory's concern is maximum productivity coupled with maximum safety. Here, workers can often receive compensation based upon productivity, because it is easy to quantify in an environment that has predictable steps and predictable results.

But how does one quantify productivity in a retail store?

There are a few areas where this can be done, such as the receiving area (the place where goods are shipped in and sent to the store's departments. As a general rule, however, retail sales associates do not engage in predictable, quantifiable tasks that can be easily quantified into productivity figures. Retail employees participate in various tasks, including cashiering, pricing (putting the correct prices on merchandise), zoning (putting merchandise back in the correct locations), and of course, customer service. This makes a retail employee's role more of a departmental caretaker than an agent of production. Therefore, employees at retail stores are paid at hourly rates.

 From a theoretical perspective, evaluating human nature in tandem with an hourly rate of pay lends to the idea that most hourly employees will try to get away with doing as little work as possible, because it's not in their interest to take on a large workload. Indeed, there are a number of pieces of evidence that confirm this idea to a certain extent. For example, you will rarely see a retail sales worker running to meet a customer's demands. The fact that I ran to find the correct price of an item at every opportunity was for the sheer heretical joy of it, but I also had a purpose behind it. If you think about the checkout process carefully, you can see that this area is where the most time and money can be lost. If a customer wants to know the correct price of an item, they must wait to complete their checkout until the associate can find the item and return with the correct price. If this is done at a walking pace in a store as large as WalMart, the item can be at least 200 yards from the register and take five minutes or more to find and return with. Customers lose patience quickly when in a checkout line, and they will often leave their items and go if things take too long.

The above scenario is what hourly associates are rarely concerned about, because their pay is not linked to productivity. They are generally only concerned with fulfilling their job requirements. Salaried managers, however, would point to productivity and speed as important factors. Why is this? Managers are given specific tasks that they must complete, and they are often prevented from going home in order to do them. So, they are going to push the associates' pace in order to complete tasks as rapidly as possible. Because a salaried manager does not receive any more money for staying longer and working more hours, they are much more inclined to achieve tasks rapidly so they can spend as little time as possible.

As a customer, it is important to recognize what type of employee or manager you are dealing with so that you can understand the nuances and attitudes behind a worker's smile. Most likely, you will get the best service from the hourly associates at the bottom of the totem pole. They are the newest and most enthusiastic members of the retail team, and they are much less likely to be pre-occupied with tasks. Each employee and manager is supposed to have a "customer first" attitude, but some do not. Also, the lowest level associates are typically the ones placing merchandise, so they are more likely to know exactly where an item is. Department managers (still hourly) have a decent idea, while salaried managers rarely place items themselves and will probably not know exactly where an item is. Cashiers, as a rule, will only be able to give you a general description of an item's location, because they spend most of their time at the front end checking out customers.


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