If Only Seasonal Workers Came Already Trained

Discussion
May 23, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson

A survey conducted by StorePerform Technologies found that nearly half of all retailers plan on hiring summer help. That’s the easy part. It’s training them that causes the most headaches.

More than half (54 percent) of senior retail executives responding to the survey said their major concern when hiring seasonal workers was the training that was involved in getting new hires up to speed. In many cases, stores make the investment in resources and time only to have employees leave after a short period on the job either by the individual’s choice or that of the company.

The average amount of time retailers spend training new store-level hires is 20 hours. According to StorePerform’s research, 46 percent of retailers conduct hands-on training and 15 percent use hard copy manuals.

Having well-trained employees is especially important, say executives, because of the time invested (one to six months) in preparing for promotions and the critical role store-level execution plays in a program’s success.

The most important holidays from retailers’ perspectives are:

1. Christmas

2. Thanksgiving

3. Labor Day

4. Easter

5. July 4 and Memorial Day (tied)

6. Valentine’s Day

7. Halloween

8. New Year’s Eve

9. President’s Day

“Solid SEM (store execution management) paired with a well trained staff paves the way for improved sales volume and the opportunity for employees to spend time with their customers,” said Srikant Vasan, president and CEO, StorePerform Technologies in a released statement.

“SEM reduces staff turnover and increases staff productivity,” he added.


Moderator’s Comment: How can retailers train seasonal employees to get the most from them during the limited periods of time they are expected to work
in stores? Should the training for seasonal workers be any different than, for example, full-time employees who are expected to be with a company for a longer period of time?

– George Anderson – Moderator

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8 Comments on "If Only Seasonal Workers Came Already Trained"


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Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 9 months ago
My thoughts take off from foundations laid by Ben and Odonna. To Ben’s suggestion, I would add an observation that cooperation between retailers would enable consistency of training so that seasonal employees could either come back to the same company and/or move onto others. That way each retailer is contributing to and benefiting from training and a better trained workforce would be available next holiday season. This is also self-perpetuating so each holiday there may be a new intake but they could be mentored by some of the previous season’s staff Which leads onto Odonna’s point that some of those trained people could even take up a career in retail and maybe even improve the standards of customer service overall. Some of them might even go on to become trainers. Also leading on from Odonna’s suggestions, it strikes me that there are opportunities for a specially devised incentive program that would encourage seasonal workers to come back over and over again. Especially if there was a consistent program shared between a number of retail outlets.… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

Retailers can reduce seasonal staff turnover by giving bonuses for those people who stay until a predetermined end point. The few retailers who measure performance can also give performance bonuses. Whole Foods, in at least some locations, asks the veteran crew members to vote on whether the performance of the newly hired people is acceptable. Many retailers minimize their already-low screening, training, and performance standards for seasonal staffers. Some loss prevention professionals claim a high proportion of seasonal people are thieves taking advantage of the reduced standards and supervisors spread thin due to the seasonally high traffic. As a customer, I’ve often been appalled at the amateurishness of seasonal workers.

Mark Burr
Guest
14 years 9 months ago
I think I could certainly agree with some or all of the comments so far. They are all valid. One thing that I think gets lost in the process called training is the fact the it’s assumed that there is a beginning and an end to the process. That is to say, give the employee their designated time, push them through a designed program or CBT and you’re done. Poof! Complete! Out of the oven jumps a perfectly trained employee ready to carry out your procedures and programs (To Race’s comments – That isn’t always the case as he points out). Training and mentoring in my early career seemed always continuous. When I worked a job that was similar to what could be filled by a summer employee, the training and mentoring never ended. At the time, management and ownership was always present, side-by-side, continuously reinforcing and teaching. Whether or not it’s a regular or a temporary summer employee, I am wondering if that’s the missing component. Thus, to the question in the survey, “so… Read more »
Race Cowgill
Guest
Race Cowgill
14 years 9 months ago
Our data suggests that one of the biggest challenges in all types of corporate training is getting those trained to actually use the new behaviors and procedures. We have found very low usage rates of these new behaviors (25% or less) in 87% of trainees, which is why we have concluded that the current models used in training are not as effective as we might hope. The current training models seem to derive from the same basic concept: tell the trainees what you want (books, presentations, handouts, etc.) and maybe have them practice these behaviors, inside a classroom or on the job. Some kinds of behaviors seem to be adopted more readily with this kind of training (such as checkout procedures) and some seem to be adopted less readily (such as customer service behaviors). Further, our research strongly suggests that the reason training doesn’t work well overall is that the organization’s Master System determines how even new hires will behave, not the training — if the Master System and the desired training outcomes match, the… Read more »
Ben Ball
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

This topic is a bit afield from our usual haunts, but in the “for what it’s worth” column…

…how about standardizing the roles of all summer help (i.e. stocking and promotional display building) and then training all uniformly in a one or two day centralized or webcast training session? This would provide a uniform expected role for both the seasonal workers and their full time counterparts.

Or take that one step further and set up a third party training provider (funded by a consortium or retailers or set up as a for-profit by a training firm) that would “certify” prospective seasonal retail workers. This could be a short (one week or less) course offered in central locations or maybe even on college campuses that would teach seasonal workers “retail 101.” At least then employers would have a minimum ingoing expectation of seasonal employees.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
14 years 9 months ago
It is always a challenge to train new staffers, whether they be viewed as temporary or permanent. It seems to me that if more retailers put the same investment into training seasonal help, the customers would benefit from better service and the staffers would feel more valued and give better service. Since there is a need for seasonal employees throughout the year, investing in training early on can lead to employees who come back again and again during the year, and possibly enter a career in retail eventually. Of course screening for basic customer service skills is essential, but training should be more than that. Since more and more temporary employees are young people and many are from diverse backgrounds, retailers need to develop new and interesting ways to “train” them and instill the company values from day one. Making the training relevant to this audience of new staffers is important. Having existing staffers serve as mentors to new associates can create meaningful relationships and camaraderie and provide someone to go to with questions. Posting… Read more »
Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
14 years 9 months ago

All businesspeople must weigh cost and effect of all programs. On the one hand, the argument can be made that since the summer help is temporary, less training is acceptable and cost effective. On the other hand the argument can be made that the consumer doesn’t know if store personnel are summer help, temporary or permanent. Thus by not fully training the summer/temporary employees, the retailer runs the risk of alienating consumers and damaging their brand name and image. Not training is taking a shortcut and as we all know, shortcuts in business usually end up going in the wrong direction.

Ganapathy Subramanian
Guest
Ganapathy Subramanian
14 years 9 months ago

Most of the points discussed here are valid and important but, at the same time, I would like to share my own experience. In my previous assignment, I organised an employee training program and lot of staff attended with great interest.

The program went off very well and the trainer confirmed at the end of the program that most of the staff were good and picked up the material in a short time.

But after one month, a lot of the trained employees applied to another new retail company for a good salary and resigned their jobs.

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