Get your retail employees up to speed in just 5 minutes
As a retail manager, you have a lot on your plate. Merchandising, managing inventory, and planning schedules. Taking care of turnover, hiring good employees, and setting those employees up for success. All during what is arguably the most volatile retail climate we’ve ever seen.
The companies who are succeeding in retail — companies like Nordstrom and Best Buy — all sell very different products. But whether selling watches or wireless routers, they do have one thing in common: creating a superior customer experience that keeps those customers coming back. And how do they do it? By empowering their employees with the tools that will ensure success.
It might appear that such investment requires a lot of time for managers — time away from backfilling a poor employee who needed to be let go, or solving a big problem for an upset customer, or reworking the schedule for Black Friday with a smaller-than-normal employee roster. Can you really justify doing more for your employee development when some of the other tasks seem to affect the bottom line more?
Before we answer that, let’s provide some context.
The median turnover rate for part-time retail employees is a whopping 67%, and on average it costs over $3,300 to find, hire, and train one minimum wage employee.
You can’t afford that sort of turnover, and you certainly can’t afford it going into the all-important fourth quarter.
It may feel as though there isn’t a lot of time to onboard a new employee beyond throwing them a handbook and telling them to be nice to customers, but not giving them what they need to sell your products, treat customers well, and ultimately take ownership over their role in the company drives them from the position.
And those problems you need to solve — backfilling an employee, taking care of a customer who wasn’t given great service, and filling your Q4 schedule without enough employees — are all solved when you start with the basics of hiring the right people and investing early and often in their training and education. It definitely doesn’t need to take a lot of time, and the early investment will set not only your employees up for success, but your location will succeed, too.
Quick and succinct
Keep the brand and product education short, with lots of opportunities to go back often to review. Quick hits with immediate testing of their knowledge not only keeps new information fresh, it reinforces what they’re learning.
Keep it interesting
Don’t just hand them a manual and tell them to read. They won’t read it, they won’t sell the products, and they won’t stick around for very long. Provide compelling content through multiple mediums. Hint: everyone learns differently, so give them a chance to read a little, to watch a video, and to synthesize concepts through both verbal and written methods.
This oldie-but-goodie sales technique is still around for a reason. It will take five minutes of your day, and will provide them the confidence boost they need to do it in real life with a real customer.
According to 2016 labor force statistics, more than half of your employees are either Gen Xers, or Millennials. And at least 96% of those two groups own and use a smartphone. Educational content using technology is imperative (not to mention much easier for you).
Take advantage of the slower days
Whether it’s Tuesday evenings, or Wednesday afternoons, every retailer has a few times with that familiar lull of no customers in sight. Instead of giving your employees free reign to lean on the counter shooting the breeze with each other, use those slow times to your advantage. Have them role-play with each other, watch a quick video on the newest jacket technology, or search the Internet for examples of the latest cosmetics trend to share with customers. When the customers walk in the door, your employees will have the skills and education needed to better serve them.
Track progress through a system
One of the pain points of education is tracking an employee’s progress. What have they completed? What is left to finish? Have they retained what they’re learning? A system that keeps you up to date on which content they’ve consumed, and what they’ve retained is invaluable. Not only will you discover the areas they naturally excel (and reward their progress accordingly), you’ll identify opportunities for assistance in their development, ensuring a more well-rounded employee.
Great brands know how important it is to educate the retail employees influencing the choices customers make, and they therefore provide consistent updates regarding their technologies, product lines, and brand stories. If an employee only learns about one brand, they run the risk of only ever speaking to that brand. Provide them the opportunity to learn about many different brands and not only will they have a larger arsenal to pull from, they’ll be more confident.
Investing in your retail employees is an early commitment that provides great benefits later. When you build your employee’s skill sets and knowledge, they’ll develop more passion and expertise for the brands and products. And not only will you retain better employees, you’ll see results in the bottom line.