How I empower and develop my staff – IAA #CommunityStars with Jacqui Dales

The Independent Achievers Academy (IAA) ran its fourth virtual #CommunityStars event to help retailers gain insight and discover tools to improving their business. This month, we’re joined by Jacqui Dales who explains how she develops and empowers her staff and excels in customer service

IAA #CommunityStars is a monthly interactive session that helps retailers overcome challenges including coronavirus by offering new insights and tools they can apply in their businesses.

This month’s session was led by Jacqui Dales, of London Road Bakery (Spar) in Boston, Lincolnshire who was recognised in two IAA categories last year: customer service and staff development.

Jacqui’s parents took over London Road Bakery (Spar) in 1980, but the store has been in Boston, Lincolnshire since the 1850s. “The store is embedded into the community and we’re a labour-intensive store,” she says. Looking after a team of 24, Jacqui has had to find innovative ways to develop her staff and keep retention low.

Here are six ways Jacqui keeps staff motivation high and ensures customers continue to visit.

Adapting to change

“Our food to go and bakery sales halted overnight,” explains Jacqui. “We had to shift our focus and it became less about fresh and more about grocery.”

To drive sales lost from other categories, Jacqui knew she’d have to react quickly. While it’s been a big change for the business, Jacqui launched a home delivery service and focused on ways to set herself apart.

“We were completing 30 deliveries every day and now offer afternoon tea deliveries as a way of making use of our bakery,” she says. The team have now prepared more than 500 afternoon tea deliveries.

Jacqui has taken part in the IAA for several years and felt the skills she’s learnt helped her prepare for the challenges she faced. “We’ve slowly built our skills from benchmarking, which helped us overcome the issues we experienced when we entered lockdown in March,” Jacqui adds.

Openly communicate with your team

“My team have been crucial for the day-to-day running of the business during coronavirus,” Jacqui says. “Surviving the pandemic relied heavily on their co-operation to work flexibly.”

Some of Jacqui’s team worked through coronavirus restrictions, while others were furloughed but Jacqui says communication was vital during that period. “We used Slack to talk to each other as a team and I had a private chat for those on furlough to ask them how they were,” she says.

Keeping them up to date about the business was the most important thing for Jacqui. “When they’re sat at home, it’s hard not to worry about your future but I kept them informed about how the business was performing.”

Performance-related bonus scheme

When the living wage increased, Jacqui introduced a performance-related bonus scheme to reward and develop staff. “We’ve always paid above the minimum wage, but the scheme became a way for us to retain staff, make them more efficient and earn those higher wages,” she says.

The team of 24 have two appraisals a year, which covers how the individual is doing and to identify any training needs or desires they have. “The scheme recognises hard work and it’s encouraged the team to focus on their own personal development. It’s been very positive.”

The scheme covers three key areas, including customer service, legal compliance and in-store and supplier relationships. “Customer service covers cleanliness, merchandising and other areas that build store experience, while legal compliance covers health and safety,” Jacqui explains. “We’ll add to scheme over time, too. It’s key to offer specifics so staff have clear expectations.”

Detailed job descriptions

Jacqui created detailed job descriptions for each role, such as a supervisor or sales assistant, so staff know what’s expected of them. As a result of both this and the performance-related bonus scheme, productivity has increased by 10%.

“Each job description has a level of ‘good, better, and best’ responsibilities,” Jacqui says. “I consider the ‘good’ responsibilities what we already pay for hourly, but when they go above this, that’s when they can start to earn the performance-related bonus.”

For Jacqui, being clear is key. “When you’ve got your expectations written down, I find it brings a sense of clarity to that individual.”

Invest in training

Developing, rewarding and training your staff can create a thriving team. Jacqui invested in training for her team by partnering with the local college to offer NVQs. “The team who choose to complete their NVQs have often come up with new ideas for us to try in the business.”

In addition to this, Jacqui pays for her team to complete first aid training and alcohol license training. “Blakemore also provide us with online training tools to develop our team,” she says.

Jacqui also created supervisor roles for those looking to expand their responsibilities. “For some, it’s not always about the money, it’s the challenge of taking on a new role,” Jacqui explains. “A supervisor role gives the team the opportunity to try something new.”

Customer service is key

Offering exceptional customer service is at the heart of Jacqui’s business, resulting in her embedding standards throughout the business. “A member of the team was studying for an NVQ and as a result of benchmarking, we created a customer service strategy.”

Once the standards were in place, they were used in inductions, jobs descriptions and the team undergo refresher training every year. “It’s a constant reminder of what we’re looking for,” Jacqui adds. In addition to this, Jacqui is also part of a mystery shopper scheme run by Spar distribution company, Blakemore.

Maintaining customer service standards has been a challenge for Jacqui and her team since the coronavirus pandemic, though. “We’re used to making customers feel welcome in store but reducing the number of customers in store and reminders about face masks has made delivering exceptional customer service a challenge,” she says.

“It feels like we’re going against the standards we’ve been honing down on for the past few years.”

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