Holiday Hiring is Well Underway. How Are Retailers Shifting?
The holiday shopping season will look a lot different in the age of COVID-19. For one, U.S. e-commerce sales are expected to grow 18 percent to $709.8 billion this year, according to a June report from eMarketer. However, despite the fact that shopping will largely take place online this year, seasonal hiring isn't slowing down. Companies from Amazon.com to FedEx have announced ambitious onboarding plans to prepare for the busy shopping season ahead.
Particularly in the wake of COVID-19, holiday shopping metrics will be a big indicator of whether businesses can survive in the new era of retail. Hiring up to prepare is a start, but it can’t stop there. When it comes to creating shopping experiences that deliver on consumers’ needs through a post-pandemic lens, it all comes down to training.
Embrace Remote Learning and Ditch the One-Size-Fits-All Approach
Getting teams trained quickly to prepare for the holiday season is critical. Seasonal training of the past included lecture-style learning lessons focused largely on technical skills required to get new workers up to speed quickly. In the wake of COVID-19, this type of onboarding will look completely different — and it’s actually for the better.
Because employers have to shift to remote learning models to onboard seasonal staff this year, they’ll be able to deliver more meaningful learning opportunities. Put simply, rather than depending on one-size-fits all learning models often delivered in person, virtual learning provides an opportunity for customization and more personalized learning overall. For example, with so many workers operating remotely within departments like customer support or crisis management, employers will be able to tailor training to focus more on the skills that matter to those unique roles (i.e., a great focus on soft skills development and less on how to operate the cash register).
To facilitate this, employers will be able to take advantage of a much wider range of learning tools to deliver fast, effective training. Artificial intelligence-powered learning tools, for example, can recognize patterns and behaviors of learners and are designed to adjust learning accordingly to ensure every training experience is meaningful. For example, if a learner displays a particularly delayed adoption of a given skill set or product category, an intuitive learning platform could guide that employee to additional, more basic learning content, or connect that learner with internal topic experts that can serve as tutors and provide guidance. In a historical in-person learning environment, this level of insight is simply not possible.
Assessing Learning Retention From Afar With the Power of AI
Utilizing AI-backed training tools ensures training is customized to unique learners. However, these tools are equally critical for HR and leadership executives as a resource to assess the effectiveness of learning in real time. Whereas in a traditional learning setting it’s often difficult to gauge learning retention, digital learning platforms allow HR professionals to explore individual employees’ progress, level of expertise, and knowledge retention daily based on day-to-day interactions with content on the platform. This insight allows them to understand how training content can be adjusted to be more effective, while also helping them determine the preparedness of a given worker to be customer-facing.
Integrating AI-powered platforms will give retailers an advantage during this remote onboarding phase, but also the next wave of retail in general. Depending on technology to facilitate development internally will significantly accelerate the onboarding process, positioning employers to react more effectively to industry changes ahead. For example, when it comes to seasonal training specifically, insights gained from these learning tools will help leadership recognize where employees excel, but also those that are struggling, giving them an opportunity to step in before mistakes that could impact customer experience arise.
The holiday shopping season and retail at large is going through a stage of massive change, but much of those changes will make the industry better so long as employers are able to embrace them and react accordingly. Retailers’ ability to do this will be tested during the upcoming seasonal hiring phase, and their investment in technology to enhance remote learning will be the biggest indicator of future success. With the right training tools, retailers can ensure workers are prepared with the skills they’ll need to persevere beyond uncertain times.
Jared Cook is the vice president of customer experience at Docebo, a company that helps deliver corporate training anytime, anywhere with its powerful, yet easy-to-use learning management platform.
Jared Cook has over 18 years of experience in education, customer, community and corporate strategy, including consulting leadership for high growth enterprises. Mr. Cook holds a BA at Brigham Young University and a MBA at the University of Utah. He began his journey as Docebo’s Vice President of Customer Experience in September 2020. Mr. Cook believes in over promising, and over delivering in all that he does, specializing in the customer’s experience.