Fred'll fix it

Q I am having trouble holding on to the younger members of staff in my shop. What can I do? GW

A It is surprising that you are losing staff at this particular time. With a recession on, most people are desperate to hang on to whatever job they have got.

It is well-known in the butchery trade that some young people do not like the idea of working weekends or starting at the earlier hours that butchers keep and it can be quite a shock to the system for some. Consequently, it would not be surprising to lose the occasional member of staff. But it sounds like you have a more far-reaching issue in the shop.

It could be any number of issues. While you will have to be careful with your total wages bill if the youngsters are on the minimum level they may well be moving on when they find a better-paid job. There is always a certain amount of teasing among staff, but are you sure some of it is not verging on bullying by another member of staff?

Other causes could be boredom, a feeling they are not valued or a lack of opportunities to progress or develop. A structured job development programme involving training and regular appraisals is something all staff should have. It can be difficult to promote people within a small team but giving young members of staff additional responsibilities and some extra rewards as they develop is usually possible even within the smallest businesses.

The word 'appraisal' can sometimes frighten people, but provided a simple evaluation system is set up it can be easy to do and not too time-consuming. The greatest benefit is that everyone knows where they stand and where they are going.

Before embarking on any appraisals make sure each member of staff has a written job description setting out what is expected of them. If none exists, it is advisable to sit down with staff and discuss what you are doing and why you are doing it before implementing an appraisal system. It is important to point out that it is for their benefit as much as yours.

Once there is a general understanding of what is being done, and why, draw up a simple appraisal form that can be a template for all staff. Set realistic objectives and timescales for each member of staff. Monitor progress. Work out how you can reward those who achieve their goals and how you can tackle any shortcomings. Appraisals should be done at least once a year. Do remember that it is a two way process, a chance for you to comment on staff performance, but also an opportunity for them to make observations on your business and how it is run.

Further information on appraisal schemes can be found at www.businesslink.gov.uk (employing people, motivation).

Q Is it very expensive to produce a video for playing in my shop? SMcT

A The short answer is 'yes.' Professional video production can cost several thousand pounds even for just a few minutes of footage. Having said that, even sophisticated video cameras are relatively inexpensive compared to a few years ago and there are some clever software editing kits on the market today. Even so putting together a storyboard, writing a script, getting the lighting and sound balance correct and making the whole thing look professional is quite a time-consuming task.

A well-edited video would make an impact but, once produced, it is frozen in time. Far better, cheaper and easier to quickly update information for your customers is a Powerpoint presentation that can run continuously. This can incorporate photographs as well as words to 'sell' products and services to your customers. Powerpoint presentations are reasonably straightforward to put together and once the editing technique is mastered impressive productions can be achieved.

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