Are seasonal employees your saving grace or worst nightmare?

Discussion
Nov 30, 2015

Presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article published with permission from the blog of Graff Retail, a specialist in retail training programs.

A common situation for retailers during this time of year: How do we successfully "man the oars" during this tidal wave of customers?

The common approach to this challenge is to race out and hire temporary staff to fill the store. Then we fervently hope and pray that these seasonal helpers will work out (or at least show up so you don’t have to work an 80-hour week).

But pity the poor customer who is confronted by one of these neophytes. What is she typically faced with? No product knowledge, no idea of where to find anything in the store, no clue about store policies, no authority to make a decision and, worst of all, no motivation to offer a superior shopping experience. Why? Because these helpers know that when January rolls around, they’re out the door. In this situation, how hard would you try?

But there’s no need to despair. A few simple ideas can get seasonal staff up to speed quickly and efficiently:

TRU hiring sign

Photo: Toys“R”Us

  • Determine the key information that these "new kids" will need to be successful. (There will be little time to develop skills.)
  • Consider running a series of two or three "mini-orientation" workshops for your new temp staff. Teaching them what they need in a group setting is a far more productive use of your time.
  • Make them feel like part of the team. At a minimum, do the obvious and introduce them to everyone. Do what you can to make them feel comfortable.
  • Give them highly structured tasks and roles. The more specific you can be about what you want them to do, the more likely they’ll succeed at doing it. Don’t even try to get them to "think outside the box."
  • Make sure that constant reporting and strong supervision are in place to boost individual accountability for performance.
  • Make it worthwhile … use plenty of contests, incentives and games.
  • And remember … have fun!

 

What advice would you have around improving the effectiveness of seasonal temp staff? Which tips in the article are most beneficial?

Braintrust
"Depending upon the retailer, seasonal help is often a saving grace to boost profitability for the year. I would add that you need to ensure all employees have a maniacal focus upon the shopper who is standing in an aisle obviously looking for something."
"I think the idea of "mini-orientation" workshops is one of the most helpful tips. But retailers are still going to struggle with the inevitable shallowness of product knowledge and lack of experience with seasonal staff."
"I especially agree with the group workshops, focused roles, and making the temp feel like part of the team. I also like to pair them up with a regular employee as a mentor."

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5 Comments on "Are seasonal employees your saving grace or worst nightmare?"

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Ralph Jacobson
Guest
2 years 12 days ago

These are some good tips in the article. Depending upon the retailer, seasonal help is often a saving grace to boost profitability for the year. I would add that you need to ensure all employees have a maniacal focus upon the shopper who is standing in an aisle obviously looking for something. If each employee helped just one more person fill their shopping list while in the store, overall store revenue would grow significantly.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
2 years 12 days ago
  1. If you are a retailer, you should have figured out that Christmas comes every year. Plan for the problem and develop a lot of best practices.
  2. Start early in the hiring process. Don’t cut corners here.
  3. Build a team of temps that will come back every year.
  4. Build a hiring process that does not hire bodies but hires people with a customer service attitude.
  5. Give them some training.
  6. Hold pre-shift meeting and quick training sessions, updates and goal setting.
  7. Give lots of recognition.
  8. Make it a game.
Kevin Leifer
Guest
2 years 12 days ago

This is a great topic. We strongly recommend retailers put as much thought into their ideal employee as they do their ideal customer. Start with the question, “Who is the face of our brand?” Flesh out your employee “persona,” and then hire to match it.

Matt Schmitt
Guest
2 years 12 days ago
I think the idea of “mini-orientation” workshops is one of the most helpful tips. But retailers are still going to struggle with the inevitable shallowness of product knowledge and lack of experience with seasonal staff. One thing not mentioned in the article is technology. Consumers are empowered with a lot of data and resources at their fingertips. If they are much more knowledgable and informed than the temp store staff, it can create frustrating interactions. Why not empower the seasonal staff with apps and product data (via tablets or smartphones) so they have quick access to “N + 1” data?… Read more »
Doug Fleener
Guest
2 years 12 days ago

Good list Kevin! I especially agree with the group workshops, focused roles, and making the temp feel like part of the team.

I also like to pair them up with a regular employee as a mentor. Having a non-manager help them navigate their new role makes it easier for the seasonal employee and the manager.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Depending upon the retailer, seasonal help is often a saving grace to boost profitability for the year. I would add that you need to ensure all employees have a maniacal focus upon the shopper who is standing in an aisle obviously looking for something."
"I think the idea of "mini-orientation" workshops is one of the most helpful tips. But retailers are still going to struggle with the inevitable shallowness of product knowledge and lack of experience with seasonal staff."
"I especially agree with the group workshops, focused roles, and making the temp feel like part of the team. I also like to pair them up with a regular employee as a mentor."

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