I was saddened to hear that the UK Department store giant – Debenhams – are doing the hard yards in retail. I have a particular fondness for the company having spent a number of years in my early career with them.
At 22 I became a member of the senior management team of a 10M store and from there progressed into troubleshooting and audit assignments followed by nearly a year in Stores development. It was this experience that gave me significant insight into the operations of a complex, retail-based, multi-site businesses and the confidence to later launch the Australian Skin Clinics franchise.
Debenhams had one of the best training programs I have ever known. In rapid succession, I was trained in leadership, audit, technology, finance, business writing, presentation skills and many more. The company was thriving, with a new modern look and feel, and a culture of professionalism, quality and excellence.
My passion for collaborative working started back then too. I was mentored by several people to whom I’m incredibly grateful. Philip Robbins Jones, Gary Stevenson and David Thomas being the standouts. In fact, 30 years on I can still remember much of what they taught me and even Gary’s sarcastic, but humorous way of leading our team. Later, I too mentored managers at Debenhams and in every subsequent businesses since. I’ve done this partly because I believe that tomorrow’s successes depend upon today’s preparation but also because I get a buzz when I see people succeed.
Not all mentees learn the right lessons – a few over time have lost their path or lost faith in their quest – but that’s ok, we are human and humans are not perfect. On the other hand, a good number of them have gone on to great things and forged amazing careers.
I have also strived to provide the best possible training for my teams. This ultimately led to the founding of The Advanced Skills Academy – an RTO for the aesthetic industry. Again it was important to me not only to provide the technical skills for our franchisees and staff but also a platform where wider communication and life skills are encouraged too.
So back to the opening question – are businesses doomed by short-term career thinking? Never before have the rising generations been so fast to try multiple careers and to wander in and out of roles at such short intervals. I stayed with Debenhams for around 5 years. Maybe that wasn’t enough but it was three times more commitment than we typically see now.
For employers, training/development/coaching and mentorship are time-consuming and costly. At a time where staff struggle to commit for much more than a couple of years, how can businesses afford the training costs and the rapid cycle of recruit, train, lose staff?