Staffing Up for the Holidays Means Adjusting Internal Comms Strategy
The retail industry has faced numerous challenges during the pandemic. As a result, Glassdoor has seen a nearly 25 percent decrease in listings in retail industry jobs as of June 2020. While retailers like Walmart have actually hired more temporary workers, J.C. Penney and Macy’s have resorted to letting go of staff in order to stay afloat.
This makes forecasting sales patterns increasingly complex. The ecosystem has been disrupted such that past trends can no longer be mathematically projected to predict future outcomes, making it difficult to make decisions pertaining to staffing budgets, inventory and employee recruitment.
However, consumer spending is projected to grow during the holiday season. Optimizing inventory, rethinking pricing, and rolling out curbside pickup and other “contactless” safety measures is top of mind for retailers. All of this has unintentionally put employee communication on the back burner.
Communicating Through Uncertainty
The in-store experience is new and unprecedented, even for employees. Added safety measures like contactless retail in the form of self-scanning and scan-and-go are now the norm, requiring additional training with new tools, technologies and processes.
New protocols and policies also have to be communicated to the entire workforce with feedback-based assurance. With two-way channels of communication, workers’ concerns and grievances can be addressed on a timely basis.
Relentless employee engagement is needed to ensure employees are on board with company regulations and their individual tasks.
- Leadership Comms: Employees need guidance, so engaging retail staff with timely leadership messages from top executives is a must. Video communication is more effective in this case as it's easy to consume, personable and more reassuring in times of crisis. Common FAQs can also be efficiently shared across multiple channels.
- Back-to-Work Safety: Scheduling, shift rosters and other logistical details will have to be reworked and communicated accordingly with the recruitment of minimum wage/hourly workers for tasks related to heightened safety requirements. These workers must have access to the company comms tool, as well as any necessary training. To ensure employee well-being is a priority, send your staff regular health surveys and daily feedback surveys, while showcasing best practices to maintain safety (e.g., hand washing and sanitization, social distancing, etc.) through crisp and routine messages.
- A Multichannel Approach: While email reaches managers and team leads, digital channels like intranets and employee apps are the best way to reach desk-less workers without a corporate email address. Do this alongside social media and email campaigns while keeping the company website updated with crucial information like reopening dates and other store policies to align on all fronts.
Staffing Up for the Holidays
Depending on COVID-19, online stores must be ready to staff up and ship products even if brick-and-mortar operations are on hold. When hiring seasonal workers or switching hourly/part-time workers to full time for the season, having simple training modules are key for workflow, scheduling practices and technology, COVID-19 safety measures, shop floor rules, and customer service.
Checklists are great for minimizing errors and increasing process efficiency — training lessons are converted into simple lists that workers can understand and follow easily. Digital checklists go a step further by giving supervisors the option to evaluate task progress in real time.
Scheduling apps can be used to set shift schedules, too. Notifying and prepping staff for important, high-volume dates is extremely helpful. Historically, there's evidence of a spike in retail sales just before Christmas. Being aware of when customers are likely to splurge on a specific category of products helps businesses prep employees and shift schedules accordingly.
Experts are predicting a second wave of the virus, meaning businesses should be all the more vigilant to health and safety while managing increased demand during the holidays. Be it full-time staff and supervisors or temporary seasonal workers, the onus of ensuring all are trained and aware of best practices and safety protocols are on the employer.
Praveen Kanyadi, is the co-founder and vice president of product at Groupe.io, an all-in-one employee app that connects your entire workforce.
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