Blog Post

Kmart and Sears stores closing 68 stores


Do the powers that be really believe that closing 68 Kmart and Sears stores is the answer to saving the company from its seemingly inevitable demise?

In blindly closing stores, the root of the problem has not truly been addressed and likely stems from the poor handling of employee communication. From the top down as well as the bottom up, communication between the people on the ground and the powers that be is broken. The owners of the company often have very little idea of what actually works and what doesn’t because of simple neglect of communication: somewhere along the way a manager neglects to pass on information to the next level up. In addition, the next level up can either be many layers high or can simply be one layer directly from the employee to the owner of the company. When an environment of open conversation between the employees and higher ups is not allowed to develop, the owners miss valuable information that could be coming directly from the customers through employees. And while focus groups and market research can be utilized to gather pieces of this information, the results are not as timely and pin-point accurate as can be gathered by an employee who passes on the information directly from a customer. How embarrassing is it for a company to find out, via a rant on social media, information that an unheard employee already knew?

The solution to this quandary is as simple as the problem:

As easy as it would be to simply point fingers and toss blame at a few noted people, such a fix is as artificial as selecting 68 stores and closing them down. It’s tossing criticism at a problem in the hopes that it feels ashamed of itself and walks away. In addition, even just refining the lines of communication throughout the ranks of a company to keep them open and receiving will not suffice. We must be able listen to the essence of the information. As the communication makes its way up to the owners through the different layers of management, it must be able to be traced back to its original source to be properly addressed. Secondly, the company needs to strive to create an environment where any employee feels comfortable sharing the necessary information–be it an alarming error, or a local tweak to suit a specific community–with the highest level of management. The employee must be able to speak his or her mind freely and share his or her true experiences and interactions with the customers. Different levels of communication need to be allowed to flourish within a company. Only then can a company become a functional “body” where even the smallest problems are immediately recognized and remedies can be put into effect before major problems crop up.

Does this mean that the owner of the company should address every problem, big and small, that is shared by employees at all levels? Such a strategy would be inefficient and for larger companies impossible. Fortunately, if the information is passed through the various levels of management and handled properly–where each level responds to what they can fix and only passes up the issues “above their pay grade”–it is unlikely the “smaller” issues will make it all the way to the top at all, as they will have already been addressed. Additionally, if employees and owners are trained properly to address local responsibilities, then issues won’t need to be handled by the next level of management at all, no matter the size of the company, since the employees themselves will have already taken care of most, if not all issues that need attention.

While this is only a facet of fixing the issues that Kmart and Sears face, and the decision to close down stores or businesses for any company is often much more complex than is stated above, simply closing down stores (in the hope that the only solution needed is less problems to deal with) is short-sighted and does not get to the root of the problem at hand. Kmart and Sears’ problem is a simple issue of human relations that has faced many companies that have lost their way–either they care about the people that their businesses touch–directly or indirectly–or they don’t.


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