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As we enter the height of holiday shopping mania, most news stories seem to focus on sales projections and shopping behaviors while paying little attention to the people on the front lines of the madness: retail employees and managers.

To understand how managers and employees think, feel, and prepare for the final months of the year, the learning management platform Bridge by Instructure surveyed more than 500 retail employees and 500 retail managers across the U.S. The results reveal the psyches of seasonal retail workers and how training for the forthcoming holiday season impacts their attitudes and confidence.

When It Comes to Training, Quality Matters More Than Quantity

In some cases, employers are doubling their workforces for the holiday shopping season and emphasizing the need for high-quality, effective training to get these new hires up to speed.

The quality of training outweighs the quantity of training hours according to the survey, which suggests there is no significant benefit in additional seasonal training beyond 6-10 hours. When managers spend 6-10 hours training employees for the holiday season, 73 percent feel “very confident” their teams will reach their goals, and 67 percent of employees receiving the same amount of training hours feel the same way. Creating engaging training – rather than longer training – results in higher employee participation, thus better preparing employees for the holiday rush.

“Proper training before the start of the holiday season will make employees more prepared to handle the demands of the seasonal rush,” says Matt Bingham, vice president of product at Bridge. “And happy employees usually result in happy customers.”

The Disconnect: Employees Are Less Confident About the Season Than Managers Are

Both managers and employees agree that the holiday season is chaotic. To help employees remain engaged despite the potential stresses of holiday business, managers may want to add incentives like food, parties, and bonuses to the mix.

However, managers and employees disagree about the prevalence of incentives to keep motivation high during the grueling holiday retail season. Employees are three times more likely than managers to report that their organization offers no incentives during the holiday shopping season.

PresentThere is also a significant disconnect between how prepared managers and employees feel about handling the additional demands of the holiday season, with employees feeling significantly less confident. This disconnect is perhaps because employees report receiving less training than their managers report providing.

Top Concerns This Season: Fraud, Hiring, and Burnout 

When asked about their biggest concerns for the 2016 holiday shopping season, shoplifting/fraud came in at No. 1 for both managers and employees. Hiring enough qualified employees ranks second in both employees’ and managers’ eyes.

The holiday season is stressful all around for retailers. It is a short season responsible for a lot of revenue – which is perhaps why employee burnout is also among managers’ top concerns.

“Push employees too far, and you will lose them,” says Bingham. “And you won’t have a lot of time to train a replacement.”

But the survey also shows that managers are more concerned about hiring and training enough qualified workers than they are about employees burning out.

“This could indicate that managers are confident that if they can hire and properly train employees, employee burnout will be less of a major concern,” Bingham says.

Surprisingly, handling rude, upset or angry customers did not rank highly in the list of holiday concerns for both managers and employees. In fact, it was one of the lowest concerns on the list.

“The majority of both managers and employees feel very confident their teams will reach their goals for the 2016 holiday season,” says Bingham. “This seems to show that negative customer interactions do not make managers or employees lose confidence in their abilities to reach the overarching goal.”



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