3 Tactics to Train Workers of All Ages to Handle Retail’s Holiday Rush
Ah, the holidays, considered by many to be "the most wonderful time of the year." However, retail managers across the nation who face long hours, new hires and potentially cranky consumers might beg to differ during retail’s holiday rush. Unfortunately for them, there's no way to avoid the holiday rush. Whether you run a brick-and-mortar store or an e-commerce shop, it's time to boost your staffing to prepare for the year's busiest shopping season.
What's the first thing that should come to mind as you're getting ready to boost your seasonal workforce? Training. And if you think winging it is going to be enough to help you meet your holiday sales goals, think again.
Research shows that retailers that fail to invest in training seasonal employees aren’t taking responsibility for customer interactions with their brand. According to Forbes, businesses lose $62 billion per year due to poor customer service, which could be resolved with a better employee onboarding process. Holiday sales are nearly a quarter of the annual revenue for many large retailers, with $682 billion on the table for 2017. You literally can’t afford to let lousy employee training impact your bottom line.
The Generations of the Modern Workforce
According to one report, 88 percent of workers agree that a multigenerational workforce is a boon. However, all of these workers can't be trained with the same methods. During the fast-paced holiday season, the only way to provide effective training for everyone is to understand generational dynamics.
Take baby boomers (born between the early 1940s and the late 1960s) for example. This group appreciates a collaborative training style that also gives them the freedom to experiment with new skills. In contrast, Generation Xers (born between the 1960s and 1980) often get impatient in group learning environments and want to understand the training's relevance. Meanwhile, millennials (born between the early 1980s and early 2000s) and Gen Zers (born in the late 2000s and on) like technology-enabled learning and group activities with individual evaluation. Given these diverse learning styles, a one-size-fits-all training approach won’t work.
To avoid the most common pitfalls involved with hiring and training seasonal retail employees, here are three best practices that facilitate effective learning and top performance:
1. Use a mix of training methods and tools.
One way to ensure that employees comprehend and retain information is to implement modular training in short, flexible segments. Instead of long-winded sessions, mix and match smaller training workshops with ancillary methods like handouts, videos or hands-on exercises. For example, a common training challenge is teaching employees how to use a new software application. Conducting an in-person demo followed by videos that staff can come back and review is a best practice. This allows your early adopters of technology to grasp the training and move on, while giving slower learners more time.
2. Know that attitude > aptitude.
While it’s nice to find candidates exhibiting both qualities, research shows that you can train for skill but not attitude. As Bruce Nordstrom put it, “We can hire nice people and teach them to sell, but we can’t hire salespeople and teach them to be nice.” Group interviews can help spot candidates with positive attitudes. Assess potential employees’ communication and people skills by watching how they interact with others.
3. Role play real-world scenarios.
I can hear the groans in the room now when mentioning role playing, but it’s still one of the most effective ways to train. Role playing is used by emergency response professionals and military branches to facilitate quick decision-making skills. So why not use it to strengthen your staff’s customer service during the holidays? Try running employee training drills about setting up for Super Saturday madness, engaging in difficult discussions with customers, or caring for clients when lines get long. These scenarios build confidence and develop listening skills. Best of all, they're beneficial to any generation of workers.
With the right tactics, generational differences shouldn't affect successful retail trainings this holiday season. And that's a win for your team, your customers and the bottom line.
Anati Zubia is the the director of marketing for AppointmentPlus, online appointment scheduling software.
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