We interviewed our members to hear their insights and adventures in the retail world. Meet Emma Miller, HR Manager of Boardriders Inc, previously know as Billabong Group.
How long have you been in retail? / How did your retail career begin?
My first job was in a retail environment, whilst still in school. My first role was as a checkout operator in a supermarket, moving to duty manager for late night trade and weekends. Before I finished Year 12, I had moved into apparel and really enjoyed it, so decided to have a break from schooling and work full time in retail for a stint.
I moved into a general administration office role for a Government department and it’s there that I “fell” into Human Resources. I realised that I had an aptitude for HR and commenced my formalised studies. I’ve now been working in a HR role for longer than I would like to admit in various industries and was lucky enough to score a role as a HR Consultant for Billabong Group (now Boardriders Inc) 4.5 years ago, bringing me back into the retail industry!
What is the biggest challenge working in retail and in your opinion what steps to overcome this challenge are.
The rise of mental health issues impacting our team members, and the lack of understanding or awareness of how our retail leaders should be supporting in these instances. We have such a young workforce in our retail stores, including our leaders, and they just aren’t well equipped or confident to be able to manage these instances with the care and compassion needed, whilst maintaining business expectations.
We have a range of tools to assist our managers and employees in these circumstances but in many cases these rely on the employee coming forward and asking for help, which isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do. We have developed a guide for our retail leaders that provides some practical tools in recognising the signs your team member needs help; we have an Employee Assistance Provider; and we also provide coaching to our managers. However, I still think there is so much more we can do including ongoing awareness campaigns and online, easily accessible help. I am looking forward to seeing our team continue to build capabilities in our leaders in this space.
How do you keep your team motivated?
For me, it’s about making sure my team feel like they are adding value or making a difference in some way. I know that what I value or what motivates me isn’t the same for everyone in the team, so I make time to speak with my team about how they are feeling at work, and not just focusing on tasks and outcomes. I provide frequent opportunity for them to speak out if there are any barriers to their motivation. I provide space and support for them to work on passion projects as much as we can, and I give them autonomy and responsibility where possible. I ensure that we take moments to celebrate our wins as individuals and as a team.
On the flip side, I encourage the team to be open about when we haven’t been as successful, or when they are feeling in a rut. Generally, we have all experienced those times, and I find sharing in this helps put the team member at ease. It’s okay to not be “on” 100% of the time. It’s what makes us human and provides great opportunities for us to demonstrate a level of care and support as a team. Using the power of shared experiences helps team members feel like they belong.
Most importantly though, we make time to have fun.
Retail is a very competitive industry – How do you stay current and what trends are you focusing on at present and why?
We are fortunate enough to have so many strong identifiable brands that attracts team members to want to work for us, and consumers to want to buy from us. It’s very easy to get caught up in trends and through this lose sight of who you are as a brand. My focus and that of our wider HR team is to ensure that the outside perception of our brands is reflective of the internal culture our employees experience when they come on board.
To stay ahead of trends, I subscribe to a range of industry and professional groups and use LinkedIn to get insight into some of the innovative employment practices with our retail competitors. However, my favourite is Disrupt HR (https://disrupthr.co/) – think the TED talks of the HR world. The challenge can be to dedicate time as a professional to your own growth, and it really does take a conscious effort on my behalf to commit to this. I certainly could do better at practising what I preach!