How to Identify a Competent Retail Employee
With the holiday season upon us, the challenges retailers are facing aren't just about having enough of the right products stocked and ready. Often, the most pressing challenge is having enough staff on hand to service customers. An understaffed retail team causes customers to be underserved, so employers should do all they can to make sure their team members stay.
Turnover can most often be traced to a simple mismatch in the hiring process between a candidate’s work values and attitude, and what it takes to be successful on the job. Getting a deep understanding of a candidate’s work values, attitude and capabilities greatly increases the likelihood that they will stay engaged during the peak holiday period.
Knowing this, what should employers be looking for in new hires to reduce turnover? Here are the top five work values and attitudes to look for in retail candidates:
1. Achievement focus: The candidate should demonstrate a strong work ethic through a consistently high level of energy and focus; thrive in a fast-paced environment; seek challenges; be self-motivated; keep a clear focus on achieving targets; comfortable performing physically demanding tasks; enthusiastic, optimistic and committed to reaching goals by "following the system"; able to recover quickly from rejection or disappointment; and starts each new opportunity with renewed energy.
2. Open communication, integrity and responsibility: A good retail employee is open, approachable and outgoing when interacting with customers. He or she works to establish immediate credibility and builds long-lasting relationships with customers. The candidate should demonstrate an honest desire to provide friendly, efficient, quality service to the customer; resolve customer complaints and issues quickly by listening, expressing understanding and taking the appropriate actions; and build trust by behaving in a manner that builds the company’s reputation for honest dealings.
3. Positive attitude and product passion: Look for someone that shows a passion for the company's products and encourages team members to share this passion; displays a personal sense of style that fits the image and values of the company; applies product knowledge, training and experience to enhance the team's performance; and stays informed of developments in the industry and knowledgable of competitors’ practices and uses such information in day-to-day work.
4. Coachability: A new hire should be open to learning new skills, knowledge and better ways to perform tasks, as well as be willing to change and respond positively to suggestions for improvement and constructive criticism. The candidate should show the ability to learn and apply new skills on the job; quickly learns new skills and product knowledge, and apply them to on-the-job situations. He or she should actively seek out job-related skill development and product knowledge.
5. Empathy and aggression control: A new employee should work effectively with other team members by being cooperative and committed to meeting team goals; display warmth and a sense of humor; show genuine interest in and sensitivity to others; listen well and value the opinions and perspectives of others; show flexibility and team spirit by "pitching in" to help co-workers without being asked; be helpful and patient with new team members; show appreciation for the contributions of co-workers; and stay optimistic and avoid involvement in gossip, negative talk and unhealthy competition between team members.
Identifying which team members have what it takes to survive and thrive through the holidays will prevent unwanted staff disruptions. This should be done as early as possible, ideally in the hiring process with well-constructed behavioral interviews (i.e., questions about how they handled past situations) and validated personality assessments.
Your team should run like a well-oiled machine during your busiest time of the year. To do this, you’ll need to have all team members aligned in their values and attitude. Those who aren’t aligned may drop off when you need them most.
Stephen Race is the chief technology officer and co-founder of TalentClick, and head of product development and client services.
Stephen Race is the chief technology officer and co-founder of TalentClick and head of product development and client services. Within the area of industrial psychology, Stephen has specialized in behavioral assessments and personality testing for the past 19 years, and he is recognized as one of the top specialists in North America. He holds a BA Psychology from the University of British Columbia and a Master of Science in Occupational Psychology from Birkbeck College, University of London, UK.