3 Approaches to Fast Tracking Retail Leaders

3 Approaches to Fast Tracking Retail Leaders

Today’s retailers are juggling many employee challenges: high turnover, longer time to fill rates and employee burnout. With increased business demands, a retailer’s hiring needs might be outpacing their ability to recruit and hire talent. Many retailers are struggling with onboarding quality talent at the rate needed to build the bench strength for future business growth. 

Early in my career during an annual planning meeting, my retail regional director enthusiastically declared, “It’s all about the People!” She was the last person to speak at the end of a daylong session where each director shared their strategic plan for achieving their annual goals.

Throughout the day, each leader presented impressive data and shared new operational processes and innovative tools, all intended to help them attain their revenue goals. My leader’s comments underscored our real challenge and our true opportunity – our people. As a large multinational, billion-dollar organization with over 10,000 employees and 1000 locations, we had to focus our resources, our time and our energy on our team. More specifically, we had to invest in our people’s development in order to engage, develop, and retain them. It was a wake-up call. For retail organizations today, these words ring even more true.

It is all about the people, now more than ever.

How can a retailer break out from this cycle of talent challenges?
Introduce on-the-job leadership development experiences.

Research has shown that most adults learn best by experiences coupled with built-in time for reflection, feedback and support. “When it comes to learning how to lead, experience has better rewards than leadership academies – if leaders are conscientious about how and what they are learning,” a recent Harvard Business Review article reported.

With those components in mind, below are three experiential learning approaches designed to engage your leaders, invest in their growth, and add real value to your company.

Identify a group of leaders equipped to assume an additional scope of responsibility – an assignment designed to help the organization while investing in the development of the individual. This might be a Corporate Manager taking on an assignment of managing an additional department, a District Manager managing two districts, or a General Manager managing several stores. Collaborate with each leader to create developmental plans and goals. Be clear with the expectations of the learning experience and assign a coach or mentor to integrate a cycle of practice, feedback, reinforcement, and accountability. Lastly, create opportunities for this cohort of leaders to share their experience and learn from each other.



Implementing new technology tools nationwide? Revamping your customer experience? Introducing new operational tools to gain efficiencies? Select a group of leaders who are ready to assume increased responsibilities and offer them an opportunity to step out of their comfort zone, integrate with new work groups and hone their leadership skills. As part of the assignment, ensure goals are well defined and support the leader on creating an individual development plan designed around the competencies the leader needs in this unique assignment. Provide a support resource, a mentor or coach, to integrate a cycle of practice, feedback, reinforcement, and accountability.



Given the increase in hiring that many retailers are facing, consider forming an internal mentorship team to support new employees. Identify a group of leaders equipped to assume these additional responsibilities and establish role clarity, expectations and outcomes. Support the leader on structuring an individual development plan, designed around the leader’s needs and the competencies needed in the mentorship role. Assign a coach or mentor to integrate a cycle of practice, feedback, reinforcement, and accountability. Provide opportunities for the mentor group to share learnings and be a resource for each other.



Each of these approaches offer leaders an individualized learning experience with clarity, structure and ongoingsupport. Investing in your people today will give you the ROI you need to ensure future business success and growth. As my regional director taught me long ago, it is all about the people.


Want to learn more about how you can implement these strategies in your organization supported by leadership coaching? Contact us at: – we look forward to helping!