Dr. John Sherlock to Share Actionable Steps to Address Human Resources Challenges

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Dr. John Sherlock, who will be leading the American Booksellers Association’s Human Resources Workshops this October in the New England and Pacific Northwest regions, recently spoke to Bookselling This Week about the importance of bookstore owners and managers taking steps to implement human resources strategies in their stores.

Between booksellers’ business and profit goals and their passion for the industry, “they have this very balanced perspective,” said Sherlock, who first worked with booksellers at this year’s Winter Institute, where he presented the popular advanced learning session “Human Resources for Small Business.”

At the two upcoming HR workshops, Sherlock will discuss the essentials of human resources, including tips for recruiting the best bookstore talent, insight on how to maintain top performance from employees, and reference points from the legal side of human resources.

Thinking about human resources is imperative for a small business because there’s so much more at stake; for example, losing a single employee or hiring one who is not dedicated “creates a gaping hole in your business operation,” said Sherlock. “That is why [these workshops] are worth booksellers’ time. They need to dig into strategic human resources for their small business.”

Sherlock is a tenured associate professor and serves as the director of the master’s degree program in human resources at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. He has published 40 articles and given more than 75 presentations on human resources and management. Prior to academia, Sherlock spent two decades in the wireless communications industry in various management roles, where he had hands-on experience in overseeing business development, operations, and human resources.

Based on his education and research, Sherlock strives to help entrepreneurs understand human resources as an entire strategy and how it fits into their businesses in a practical manner that will allow them to start doing things differently as soon as they return to the store.

“What we want to do is integrate the human resources component into an otherwise dynamic and solid business plan,” explained Sherlock. A major step, he noted, is to remember “the importance of reflecting on and having conversations about each employee’s role in the organization.”

Because bookstores often have a small staff and philosophies that include everyone contributing to a number of store projects or functions as needed, the discussion about each employee’s role is even more critical.

“And don’t underestimate the importance of your role as owner and manager,” said Sherlock. “Because of your passion and knowledge and experience, there are probably unique roles only you can fill.”

Sherlock has requested that booksellers attending the sessions this fall come prepared to tackle real-life scenarios from their stores. “I want them to come to the sessions with specific human resources challenges that they’ve got in their businesses, and I want them to be able to walk away at the end of these seminars with real, actionable steps that they can take to address those challenges,” he said.

The first Human Resources Workshop will be presented at the Holiday Inn Portland-Airport in Portland, Oregon, on Thursday, October 1, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., just prior to the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association trade show.

The second workshop will take place over two days: on Tuesday, October 6, from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Wednesday, October 7, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at the Biltmore Hotel Providence. The workshop is being held in conjunction with the New England Independent Booksellers Association trade show at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

Registration for both workshops is separate from registration for the trade shows and is open to all ABA member bookstore owners and managers. The registration fee for the workshops is $75 per person and the deadline is September 21.

To learn more about the Human Resources Workshops and to register, click here