How should retailers best on-board seasonal staff?

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Photo: RetailWire
May 28, 2019
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Mary Gordon and Kim McCutcheon

Through a special arrangement, what follows is an article from the blog of Graff Retail.

With summer just around the corner, many retailers are in full-force seasonal hiring mode. Yet beyond finding solid candidates to work your selling floor, shouldn’t it be just as important to train them?

Here are some ideas to get your seasonal staff up to speed quickly and efficiently:

  • Prepare a list of FAQ’s your seasonal staff should know before getting on the floor: Cover the basics on product, service and policies.
  • Run a series of “mini-orientation” workshops: For a large number of seasonal hires, group training can be productive.
  • Make seasonal staff feel like part of the team: Stay involved with your entire team, seasonal staff included.
  • Give seasonal staff highly-structured tasks and roles: The more specific, the more likely they’ll succeed at doing it.
  • Manage their performance from their start date: Constant reporting and strong supervision boost individual accountability for performance. Catch them “doing things right” early on.
  • Make it worthwhile and fun: Use plenty of contests, incentives and games to provide incentive for engagement and performance. Showing recognition and appreciation for a job well done is also important.

Remember, you know they’re only seasonal staff, but your customers don’t and won’t care.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What tips would you have for getting the most out of seasonal hires? How should the level of training and development differ from full-time staffers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Seasonal employees are still employees; shoppers have no idea who is there short term vs. full time. "
"Oftentimes, the biggest challenge with seasonal staff is finding enough of the right people to hire for temporary positions."
"Another idea is to take a cue from the other successful gig economy platforms–social ratings."

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9 Comments on "How should retailers best on-board seasonal staff?"


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Charles Dimov
BrainTrust

Great list of tips for store managers, retailers and brands. Train your staff, regardless of whether they are full time or seasonal. Always think about the customer experience. If training is going to help a customer have a more informed, pleasant, or effective buyers journey – then train all of your staff.

For full time staffers, you will want to provide greater depth. These folk are going to be with you longer. They need to have the expertise, and depth of knowing how to use your systems and all the ins-and-outs of your product lines.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Seasonal employees are still employees; shoppers have no idea who is there short term vs. full time. Training is key, yet too many retailers throw their new hires into the sales floor with a minimal amount of training, and sometimes none at all.

I would add a couple of things to the list, including teaming a new hire up with a buddy who can answer questions and guide him on the sales floor. Giving each new hire a task they can master on the first day is important, too. Everyone benefits from that confidence building victory.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

All great ideas above. One thing we need to remember about giving seasonal associates the responsibilities of delivering great experiences: no one can have responsibility to do a job without the authority to do it. That means, as many have said, training that must be followed up with observed actions. Once management is satisfied that the associate can execute the job and deliver the experience, utilizing what has been taught, then we make music and unique customer experiences.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

There are two things I emphasize with clients about hiring part time or seasonal employees. First is to hire right. Regardless of how few hours or how short their term will be, they represent you and your brand. Second is training. Yes, it costs to train them properly, but the cost of losing a customer to a bad experience by a poorly trained employee is more than the cost of doing it right (properly training the employee) in the first place.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Oftentimes, the biggest challenge with seasonal staff is finding enough of the right people to hire for temporary positions. If you can get past this hurdle, training is imperative. The difference between training seasonal workers and full-time staffers is the limited amount of time you have to train them and how much you can accomplish in this compressed time.

Most seasonal workers, especially for big box retailers, should be used for positions that require the least amount of training, such as greeters, traffic organizers for cashier lines and directional help for finding the right area of the store for products. One interesting approach I have seen is TaaS (Training as a Service), where for a monthly fee a company will provide ongoing training for both seasonal and regular employees. Given the high retail turnover rates and high seasonality, this model makes perfect sense.

Daniel Reynolds
Guest

These are excellent suggestions. Development of seasonal staff to provide great customer experiences must be a corporate priority. It’s too important to delegate to “district managers.”

Make some one to two minute “how-to” videos that seasonal employees can view on their smartphones. This will provide accessibility and uniformity of message. Follow up with short online quizzes with “swag” type rewards for successful completion.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

Interesting to note that every expert talks about how good this list is and I will go along with those observations. But I would like to look a the problem differently and create a slightly different list.

  1. Before great recruiting and hiring comes great retention. Most retailers are not even great at keeping their best employees on board. This is where it all starts. The number one things great employees want is a great boss and great coworkers. If you already have a great team it will be easier to get those seasonal employees up to speed and also make then enjoy what they are doing.
  2. Yes as Shep said you need to hire right. don’t cut corners or accept less because they are only seasonal or part time.
  3. Set expectations and create an AWESOME on-boarding experience. You only have one time to make a first impression.
Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

Great suggestions above. My addition — realize that while these employees are “temps” the will make a permanent impression on shoppers and are potential lifetime customers themselves.

Laura Davis-Taylor
BrainTrust

Another idea is to take a cue from the other successful gig economy platforms — social ratings. For years we’ve scratched our heads regarding why more brands in our industry haven’t figured out an easy-peasy way for a shopper to do a quick tag with an emoticon and comment box to rate how their interaction was with a specific associate. I could recommend at least 3 ways for this to happen via mobile right now, and now them there’s beacons, apps and even NFC. Tie ratings to $$$ and watch what happens….

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Seasonal employees are still employees; shoppers have no idea who is there short term vs. full time. "
"Oftentimes, the biggest challenge with seasonal staff is finding enough of the right people to hire for temporary positions."
"Another idea is to take a cue from the other successful gig economy platforms–social ratings."

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