Samantha was an experienced retail manager in a large department store but after almost ten years in the job, she decided a change of direction. What she wanted was more autonomy and less face-to-face contact with the public. A casual conversation with a friend encouraged her to apply for the newly created position of general manager of Big Bytes – a chain of stores selling and repairing computer equipment plus IT related accessories. All Big Bytes stores were located in large heartland malls. The owner of Big Bytes, Brian Lam, created the position because he felt the number of shops (ten) was now beyond his span of control.
Then, too, a recent change in shopping hour regulations meant all Big Bytes stores were now open seven days a week. Until Samantha was appointed, Brian was a relatively hands-off manager who, as the number of stores increased, gradually ceded more and more control to his store managers. He was not unduly perturbed by this because turnover and profits were satisfactory and, according to his accountant, all tax and other regulatory requirements were met. When Samantha was appointed, his only instruction to her was rather vague, ‘see how each store is going and let me know what you think’.
After two months of meetings and visits Samantha realised that Brian’s increasingly laissez-faire approach had resulted in his shops being managed satisfactorily at best and at worst, poorly. In preparing her report for Brian, she drafted the following list of issues to discuss
- Store managers lacked commitment. Typically, they were in their positions because they were the longest serving employee at the time the manager’s position became available.
- Managers appointed staff by word-of-mouth. That is, another employee ‘had a friend who wanted a job’ and thought they would be ‘okay’.
- All stores reported high levels of absenteeism and lateness for nebulous, difficult to prove reasons such as ‘my car broke down’ or “I didn’t feel well’. Because most of the staff were students, absenteeism peaked towards the end of each semester. The Christmas/New Year period was particularly bad.
- Staff morale varied from store to store and seemed to correlate largely with each manager’s style.
- Sales were falling due to competition from online sales. The only thing in Big Bytes’ favour was the presence of in-store technicians.
- All store managers admitted that their financial management skills could be better.
- Despite Brian saying the company had a formal appraisal process, the reality was that each manager determined when and how it would be carried out. There was no formal appraisal process for managers.
- Although some employees had been with Big Bytes for several years, staff turnover was higher than the industry average.
- The company operated an annual employee opinion survey. In the last survey employees raised concerns over a lack of training. Because of this, Brian allocated extra funds for employee development but it was not spent. Instead, managers thought that training could be conducted in-store and, as most of the staff were casuals, anything other than the most basic training was a waste of both time and money.
Acting as a HR consultant, you were called in to help Brian deal with the ‘problems’ brought up by Samantha. Write a HR report to address the following:
- Critically analyse the current situation and the implications to the company’s future success.
- Based on her findings, Samantha told Brian that she wanted to try out some of her ideas at the Mega Mall stores. In your opinion, what issues must be addressed in the short-term, mid-term and long-term and how might they be addressed?
- Provide a HR plan to address the future HR needs, including developing a training and development programme and a plan to introduce a proper performance management system.