So there's this little thing that I've noticed a lot of retailers doing. They give their people dated nametags. Instead of just saying the person's name, they now say something like, "Team member since 2004."
Tamika at FedEx Kinko's was kind enough to let me take a picture of her nametag. But like Tamika, so many nametags I see say "Member since 2006." Last year, they all said 2005. Point being: when the person started this year, I think the nametag works against the store's favor.
Now maybe a new employee, upon receiving their "Member since 2006" nametag in April, thinks "Gosh, only 8 more months until I appear to have been here a year!" Maybe a new employee who arrives in December thinks "Sweet. I will have seniority so soon."
But whatever positive or negative effect this program has on morale, I don't suspect it's improved employee retention. Sure, all stores want their workers to commit. The costs to train new staff are high. But I doubt the nametags have improved motivation or loyalty - those issues run deeper than nametags.
So why else would a store make dated nametags? Maybe because, in theory, when someone's been there for a few years, we treat them with more respect. I mean, who doesn't love the old man with "Elmer. Member since 1962."
But from a shopper's perspective, we rarely run into Elmer at the local Jewel. And it looks really bad when every single employee is a member since 2006! It's like revealing their weaknesses! Putting "Untrained and inexperienced" signs on their backs! Putting "Nobody likes to work here" on their registers! Putting "This place is a revolving door" on their revolving doors!
Maybe if, instead of saying how long they've been here in years, they could say it in months. "Member since March 2005" is way more experienced than "Member since December 2005." Or they could make it future-facing: "My one-year anniversary is April 2007." Or they could tell us the employee's specialty in the store: "Tamika. Computers and printers." Or just something unique and human about them: "Tamika. My friends call me Mika." "Tamika. I'm also a volleyball instructor." "Tamika. Originally from Atlanta."
Retailers have tons of issues - hell, we all have tons of issues. But the issue of employee retention is, from what I hear, top of mind for some. These stores could start by finding ways to make their employees appear more human - through nametags, apparel, ways of showing off their strengths rather than their weaknesses. It takes a long time for a "Member since 2006" to feel important, and by that time, she's probably gone. Personalized gear could be the first step towards more human treatment from both shoppers and corporate. It could even become the tiny gesture that helps them decide not to quit.