Target is Staffing Up for the Holidays in an Effort to Beat Amazon. Will it Work?
The holiday shopping season looks a lot different in the age of Amazon.com. Retailers are battling to win shoppers back from the online shopping giant, and for companies like Target this means adding staff. The Minneapolis-based retailer recently announced plans to hire a staggering 130,000 seasonal staffers to handle things like restocking and customer service in-store.
The truth is, this holiday shopping season will be a big indicator of whether Target and other brick-and-mortars can compete with Amazon going forward. Hiring up is a start, but it’s not that simple. When it comes to creating a shopping experience that rivals the convenience of Amazon, it all comes down to training.
Start With a Course on Empathy
Workplace training has historically been defined by impersonal lecture-style learning sessions that don’t typically address the soft skills that are so critical to the success of retail employees. What’s more, retailers continue adopting flashy technology to make the in-store experience comparable to the convenience of online shopping. This means training tends to focus primarily on the technical skills needed to operate those new tools, rather than the skills needed to interact with real people.
To rival the convenience of online shopping, brick-and-mortars need to focus on developing their most important asset: their employees. Focusing on the behind-the-scenes development of employees from a soft skills perspective will be retailers’ biggest weapon against Amazon this holiday shopping season and beyond. The core difference between shopping online vs. in-store is the personal, humanized assistance that in-store experts can offer. And despite the rise of automation, most consumers would still rather speak with a human professional over a chatbot.
It’s up to retailers to ensure training efforts are focused on developing those soft skills that position employees to deliver optimal customer service. Enhancing the skills that chatbots will never adopt, like empathy, is the best way for retailers to compete. The reality is that employees are the greatest brand ambassadors for retailers, consistently on the front lines and setting the tone for the brand, day in and day out. It only makes sense that retailers’ top priority should be to arm those workers with the skills they need to meet customer expectations and create those personal connections with shoppers.
Striking a Balance Between the Pace and Effectiveness of Training
We’ve covered the types of skills that retailers should be prioritizing during training, but how do they execute them? Seasonal workers are hired to support the busiest shopping months, which means they need to get up to speed quickly. Doing so can often sacrifice quality and efficiency, if not facilitated by the appropriate learning tools.
Artificial intelligence-powered learning tools can recognize the 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 act as tutors and provide guidance.
How AI is Quickly Becoming HR’s ‘Watchdog’
Utilizing AI-backed training tools doesn’t just ensure learning is effective and personal to every learner, they also provide HR and leadership executives with the insights they need to assess the effectiveness of learning in real time. Via a traditional training approach, it would be very difficult to assess learner retention. Digital learning platforms allow HR to explore individual learners in depth and understand their progress, level of expertise, and knowledge retention. This not only helps them understand how training content can be adjusted to be more effective, but helps them gauge how prepared a given worker is to be customer-facing. Furthermore, these insights could also help leadership recognize where employees excel and determine where their expertise would be most useful in a store setting.
This insight is particularly valuable for retailers looking to assess the preparedness of new seasonal hires that are often scattered among various storefronts and departments, as opposed to a singular shared office space. Taking advantage of these AI-powered platforms gives retailers a leg up during the seasonal shopping season as it helps them identify experts, but also those that are struggling, giving them an opportunity to step in and provide those workers with additional training or attention before mistakes that could impact customer experience start happening on the ground.
Seasonal employers that can balance swift skills adoption and meaningful learning experiences will find the most success in positioning seasonal staffers to perform at the highest level this holiday season. With the right training tools, retailers can create learning opportunities that are accessible and relevant to the skills these workers will need to thrive in the industry going forward.
Massimo Canonico is director of solutions engineering at Docebo, the learning platform that's changing the way people learn with artificial intelligence (AI).