retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Fortune has an excerpt from "Conscious Capitalism," the new book by Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey and Raj Sisodia, in which they write about the importance of hiring smart and building teamwork.

Some excerpts from the excerpt...

"Conscious companies take great care in the initial hiring. It's much harder today to remedy hiring mistakes than it used to be, so companies should invest a great deal of time and effort to make sure they hire people who are a good fit with the organization—those who believe in the purpose of the business and resonate with its values and culture. For example, The Container Store puts candidates through eight interviews with eight people. The company primarily looks for good judgment and sound integrity; everything else, it believes, is a commodity or can be taught.

"At Whole Foods Market, everyone is hired into a particular team on a probationary basis for 30 to 90 days, at the end of which a two-thirds positive vote by the entire team is required before a new hire is granted full team member status. The logic is simple: anyone is capable of fooling a team leader for a while, but it is much more difficult to deceive the entire team ... It is no coincidence that many conscious businesses organize their people into teams. Working in teams creates familiarity and trust and comes naturally to people. Humans evolved over hundreds of thousands of years in small bands and tribes. It's deeply fulfilling for people to be part of a team, where their contributions are valued and the team encourages them to be creative and make contributions. A well-designed team structure taps into otherwise dormant sources of synergy, so that the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. The team culture of sharing and collaboration is not only fundamentally fulfilling to basic human nature, it is also critical for creating excellence within the workplace."

This is the opposite approach from one espoused by some other companies...

"An employment practice based on fear became quite well known over the last two decades, with the financial success that Jack Welch experienced as the longtime CEO of General Electric until 2001. Rooted in its rating system for team members, GE's policy was to fire the bottom 10 percent of its workforce every year (Enron had a similar policy). The rationale is that people are so scared of being in the bottom 10 percent that they work really hard to make sure they're not. But even if people are working hard and think they are doing okay, they can't be sure. People can be so afraid of being in the bottom 10 percent that they begin to see coworkers as rivals rather than as fellow teammates."
KC's View:
The Whole Foods approach supports a basic retail truism ... that a store is only as effective as the people on the front lines, interacting with customers and making the experience either superior or dismal, or a wide variety of things in between.

Retailers that forget this do so at their own peril.