Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Know Their Roles

Not to worry; I'll have plenty of observations next week on the Prerelease and release weekends for Magic: the Gathering's new Oath of the Gatewatch expansion.

I reached something of a breakthrough this week in terms of staff processes.  Our staff is relatively small right now, owing to our ability to have role-only specialists for Comics and Media and for Online Fulfillment.  With those tasks "insourced" to dedicated staff, the regular staff coverage is not nearly as onerous on a worker by worker basis.  The drawback is that the regular staff lost one way in which they could distinguish themselves and take on greater roles in the company, leading to more hours and higher pay.  And as our operations continue to grow, we realize on paper that we are more understaffed than we "feel," due to the current core group's extensive experience level.  It was a bear trying to get the Prerelease scheduled up to adequate coverage with as few human beings as we had available, never mind that each could be utterly relied on for their shifts.

The breakthrough was understanding that the roles could be made modular.  I'm still in the process of nailing down every definition and part of the role job descriptions.  But I have the mechanism set. Staff have the baseline role of General Coverage once they pass their probationary time period.  A new staff prospect will also generally be hired with a specific role in mind, such as Joe, whom we hired to be our "Warhammer Guy."  (I ended up titling the role "Wargaming Specialist.")  Every staff member has to know the basics of selling Warhammer, but it's up to Joe to run the league, publicize available play times, curate the inventory, merchandise the displays, tell me when I need to order something off the beaten path, serve as sales rep to our wargaming clientele, and like such.

The staff member's first quarter of employment will be to see if they can hit competency on the general role and their specific role.  If they do, the second quarter is for mastery of the specific role.  That completion leads to a pay raise and the staff member may continue to advance that role or add another one, first for proficiency, then for mastery.

Every two quarters, provided progress occurs, there's another raise built in there.  However, a quarter won't be credited if the staff member doesn't perform at metrics (and these must be measurable).  There's a realistic limit to how much role a given staffer can take on, though I'm happy to let them prove to us how much they think they can handle.  In theory if a staff member has consecutive quarters under metrics, a role could be reassigned away from him or her.  I can't see that happening with anyone I employ right now but the mechanism has to account for it.  "Bite off more than you can chew" and we'll relax that workload, but the staff member is expected to get dialed back in either retrenching to their bread and butter or otherwise working under the guidance of management to develop.

An assistant manager has four or more roles; three of his or her own and oversight of completion of roles on shift by other staff.  A manager has all unassigned roles plus oversight.  It's in the manager's best interest to get all processes the store requires, defined into a role's purview.

The thing that excites me most about building this process is that it's replicable and it scales.  Future roles will include Inventory Specialist (does all receiving and deployment); Marketing Specialist (might be role-only and not a Brand Ambassador); Console Technician (i.e. doing small repairs and mods on video game consoles and battery replacements on cartridges and such); down the road an Information Technology Specialist (though Lord knows how I'm ever going to afford such an employee) and so on.

Some roles are Bahr-only at this stage: Human Resources, Accounting, Payroll, Procurement, and Legal.  At this stage in the business, I cannot reliably relinquish any of these.  (Well, I could outsource some of it, but I have found it's worth the money for me just to do it for now.)  From among that group, assuming I don't go outside the company, I speculate the first of those duties that I'll delegate any part of will be Procurement.  At some stage people are going to have to be able to order things when I'm out of town on my 10th anniversary vacation or whatever.

This entire framework is going to take some shaking out before I can tell whether it's going to work for the long haul, but I'm excited because now I have something more definitive that reaches beyond core coverage and gets the staff involved and invested in the higher expertise tasks, and generally it's work they already want to be given, such as specializing in a given game category and being responsible for nurturing it.  We'll see how this plays out and whether I am able to serve up a fully-baked entree for Patrick to execute.

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