Dr. Gary Mortimer on bending the rules of business

Jessica Genio-Ignacio

21 May 2019    |   

“Rules are important, but it’s just exactly how far we take those rules and how much flexibility or empowerment we give our team.” An Associate Professor at the Queensland University of Technology, Dr. Gary Mortimer is Australia’s leading retail expert and researcher. A regular media commentator with more than 70 published manuscripts, articles, and industry reports, he brings to the table more than 25 years of experience working with the biggest retail brands in the country. Ahead of his session at this year’s Workforce Success Conference, the specialist in food retail, retail operations, and consumer behaviour sat down with Tanda to talk about staff empowerment, bending the rules a little, and doing something new. Consumer-oriented Positive Deviance Dr. Mortimer isn’t against rules. They’re integral for function. “Rules are necessary, particularly if you’re running a financial organisation or a pharmacy or a retailer. You want to ensure there are some rules in place. You want your customers to walk in and have a positive experience, but also a consistent experience across your different brands, your different businesses.” But bending the rules in service of overall productivity isn’t messing with them for the sake of it. Managers and employees need to look at what they can do to help customers, and finding a balance between rule enforcement and leniency is key. He calls this “consumer-oriented positive deviance,” wherein team members are empowered enough that they can solve problems without needing a manager to sign off on every small decision. Employees enjoy this, and it results in a happier more satisfied team willing to stay longer at a job. (This topic would ring a bell to those who’ve heard his talk from last year’s Workforce Success Conference.) Not only does it same time for leaders whose schedules are full of other matters, but it’s a way of looking at running your business through a different lens–a more strategic one. “Differentiate, not demonstrate” Observing how a variety of businesses have been responding to disruption in their chosen markets, Dr. Gary Mortimer implores workers to “differentiate, not demonstrate.” Uber’s launch in Australia is a prime example of the consequences of too much demonstration: traditional taxi companies held demonstrations against the ride-hailing app’s entry, but at the end of the day it was the customers who wanted an alternative anyway. If customers clearly want the alternative, demonstrations are a negative way of responding to that challenge. That effort, according to Dr. Mortimer, could have instead been channeled into re-examining subpar business models and asking how they can differentiate moving forward: “Protest all you want, but it’s probably better to spend some positive energy looking at ‘how can I differentiate my business?’, ‘how can i understand my customers more?’” Most companies do make strides to grow with the times, but fall short because they view changes as what they’re “supposed to do” rather than sincerely believing in the changes. Mortimer gives social media customer service as one example—how many brands have accounts for show, but fail to respond when an individual actually engages with them through there? Truly differentiating your business from the rest means a commitment to thoroughly execute plans. Transforming the Retail Experience The ubiquity of e-commerce can give physical stores a run for their money. However, this has pushed certain retailers to think about inventive ways to utilise store space to keep up. Dr. Mortimer points out athleisure brand Lululemon. In theory, similar products can be found elsewhere for cheaper prices, but the brand builds loyalty by going beyond just selling products. “What they’re doing is they’re building community around their brand,” Dr. Mortimer says. They understand they can’t compete with other stores when it comes to price, so they tap into their customer base’s love for yoga and fitness instead by opening up their store after close of business and hosting free classes weekly. Entirely new businesses are sprouting to solve the problems of traditional retail companies, too. Speed is currency now that nearly every retailer has an ecommerce store, so innovative startups are utilising the gig economy to fix consumer pain points. “What we’re going to see, particularly in the retail space is that blending of physical and digital, and it has to be that way.” The Future of Australian Retail The takeaway from all of these observations? Longevity and name recall is not a savior. Many big retailers look the same to customers, so they will always tend towards the brand with the cheapest price unless it can differentiate and provide something other stores don’t have. As some retailers won’t be able to keep up with the pressure to evolve, expect rationalisation of the marketplace in 3-5 years. Downsizing, store closures, the works—and use it as motivation to push your business further.   Want to know how to empower your employees and take your business to the next level? Catch Dr. Gary Mortimer’s talk alongside other great speakers at the Workforce Success Conference 2019, to be held on the 26th of July, 2019.

“Rules are important, but it’s just exactly how far we take those rules and how much flexibility or empowerment we give our team.”

An Associate Professor at the Queensland University of Technology, Dr. Gary Mortimer is Australia’s leading retail expert and researcher. A regular media commentator with more than 70 published manuscripts, articles, and industry reports, he brings to the table more than 25 years of experience working with the biggest retail brands in the country. Ahead of his session at this year’s Workforce Success Conference, the specialist in food retail, retail operations, and consumer behaviour sat down with Tanda to talk about staff empowerment, bending the rules a little, and doing something new.

Consumer-oriented Positive Deviance

Dr. Mortimer isn’t against rules. They’re integral for function.

“Rules are necessary, particularly if you’re running a financial organisation or a pharmacy or a retailer. You want to ensure there are some rules in place. You want your customers to walk in and have a positive experience, but also a consistent experience across your different brands, your different businesses.”

But bending the rules in service of overall productivity isn’t messing with them for the sake of it. Managers and employees need to look at what they can do to help customers, and finding a balance between rule enforcement and leniency is key.

He calls this “consumer-oriented positive deviance,” wherein team members are empowered enough that they can solve problems without needing a manager to sign off on every small decision. Employees enjoy this, and it results in a happier more satisfied team willing to stay longer at a job. (This topic would ring a bell to those who’ve heard his talk from last year’s Workforce Success Conference.)

Not only does it same time for leaders whose schedules are full of other matters, but it’s a way of looking at running your business through a different lens–a more strategic one.

“Differentiate, not demonstrate”

Observing how a variety of businesses have been responding to disruption in their chosen markets, Dr. Gary Mortimer implores workers to “differentiate, not demonstrate.” Uber’s launch in Australia is a prime example of the consequences of too much demonstration: traditional taxi companies held demonstrations against the ride-hailing app’s entry, but at the end of the day it was the customers who wanted an alternative anyway.

If customers clearly want the alternative, demonstrations are a negative way of responding to that challenge. That effort, according to Dr. Mortimer, could have instead been channeled into re-examining subpar business models and asking how they can differentiate moving forward: “Protest all you want, but it’s probably better to spend some positive energy looking at ‘how can I differentiate my business?’, ‘how can i understand my customers more?’”

Most companies do make strides to grow with the times, but fall short because they view changes as what they’re “supposed to do” rather than sincerely believing in the changes. Mortimer gives social media customer service as one example—how many brands have accounts for show, but fail to respond when an individual actually engages with them through there? Truly differentiating your business from the rest means a commitment to thoroughly execute plans.

Transforming the Retail Experience

The ubiquity of e-commerce can give physical stores a run for their money. However, this has pushed certain retailers to think about inventive ways to utilise store space to keep up.

Dr. Mortimer points out athleisure brand Lululemon. In theory, similar products can be found elsewhere for cheaper prices, but the brand builds loyalty by going beyond just selling products. “What they’re doing is they’re building community around their brand,” Dr. Mortimer says. They understand they can’t compete with other stores when it comes to price, so they tap into their customer base’s love for yoga and fitness instead by opening up their store after close of business and hosting free classes weekly.

Entirely new businesses are sprouting to solve the problems of traditional retail companies, too. Speed is currency now that nearly every retailer has an ecommerce store, so innovative startups are utilising the gig economy to fix consumer pain points.

“What we’re going to see, particularly in the retail space is that blending of physical and digital, and it has to be that way.”

The Future of Australian Retail

The takeaway from all of these observations? Longevity and name recall is not a savior. Many big retailers look the same to customers, so they will always tend towards the brand with the cheapest price unless it can differentiate and provide something other stores don’t have.

As some retailers won’t be able to keep up with the pressure to evolve, expect rationalisation of the marketplace in 3-5 years. Downsizing, store closures, the works—and use it as motivation to push your business further.

 

Want to know how to empower your employees and take your business to the next level? Catch Dr. Gary Mortimer’s talk alongside other great speakers at the Workforce Success Conference 2019, to be held on the 26th of July, 2019.

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When you shift to a cloud-based HR platform, you can expect reduced administrative costs. You can also expect automated onboarding for new employees, and more accurate timesheets. You will no longer need to manually track leaves, sort out onboarding documents and attendance records, or calculate payroll manually. Best of all, you will never need to worry about wage theft accusations. Read more: Taking Back Time: Solving the enduring wage theft problem in Australia Wage theft, and the millions in back pay some businesses have had to comply with, is not an issue with the correct automation software. With all this out of the way, managers can spend more resources planning for the business and improving morale. Integrating automation  Besides time and attendance, management firm Ascentis also recommends automating benefit calculation and legal compliance. Optimizing shifts and shift swapping Cloud-based HR can also help you optimize shifts by ensuring that you have the right person, in the right place, at the right time without having to physically check in on your employees. Software like Tanda can predict staff counts: it determines staffing levels with smart algorithms and facilitates updating your roster to reflect that. This way, you can save money on labor while delivering the best possible service to your customers. Even better, Tanda’s new feature, Shift Swapping, takes shift management in service-oriented industries to another level. Hospitality staff, for example, can request to drop or cover a shift right from their app, while the manager controls all swap approvals and roster updates. Absences are inevitable, but unfilled shifts are not, so the shift swapping feature is a useful addition to service-oriented industries. Read more: Achieving Workforce Success: Shift Swapping for Managers Using data to expand business Finally, a data-driven workforce means being able to use data to not only succeed in the day-to-day tasks but also to expand the business. More systems today are being integrated, facilitating a better analysis of how the business works. They make it easy for owners and managers to generate financial and operations reports. Seeing the big picture and planning for the future is easier with the right data at hand. With cloud-based HR, managers and business owners have access to insights that were not available before. You can correlate different types of data for better benchmarking purposes. For example, Tanda lets managers track business revenue and labor costs in real time while complying with all the labor and data privacy laws. Managers can make smarter decisions and ensure that the business will grow over time, without having to do excessive administrative work. Read more: The Digital Workforce Success Revolution: Why you need to shift to cloud-based HR today Data has had an unprecedented impact over the way we do things at work. Indeed, it is almost impossible to imagine a time before the cloud, analytics, mobile, and social technologies. The long-term benefits are more than worth the initial birthing pains, as most businesses see an increase in workforce productivity and savings. Taking advantage of these innovations may well determine if a business will succeed in this increasingly fast-paced world.   Ready to find out what Tanda can do for your business? Book a demo today.

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About the author

Jessica Genio-Ignacio

Jessie is a PR and Content Writer interested in the impact of tech and digital on people and businesses.

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