Hiring and Training in Retail: How to Modernize Your Strategy

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All industries have been rocked by the ongoing forces of the pandemic, supply chain disruptions, the Great Resignation, and inflation. The retail sector, in particular, has seen incredible convergence of all these trends. 

While the impacts have been diverse and felt differently from business to business, one nearly universal theme is that recruiting new employees and retaining them over time has become more challenging than ever. In 2020, the retail sector’s turnover rate rose to 30.7%, 1.5 times the general industry rate. While retail always experiences higher turnover rates on average than other sectors, the gap has widened since the pandemic. 

There’s been a lot of movement and change over the past two years, and hopefully, adaptation for your own retail business. If recruitment and retention have been pain points for your business, now is the perfect time to revisit your strategies and improve. 

By updating your hiring and training processes, you’ll get the right new employees in the door and equip them with everything they need to feel successful and engaged over the long run. The benefits of improving your approaches to hiring and training are wide-reaching and interconnected: 

  • Better candidates
  • Better employee experiences
  • Better workplace cultures
  • Better customer experiences

These result in improved employee retention and business results over time. Making strategic improvements is worth the investment! But where do you start? We have a few ideas to get the ball rolling.

Improving Your Retail Business’s Approach to Hiring

It’s common sense that an effective hiring process will yield higher-quality candidates and more robust, more engaged teams. The challenge, however, is that effective hiring can be incredibly time-consuming. Higher than average turnover exacerbates this problem, leaving managers and leaders with more urgent hiring needs and less time to address them.

Building a modern retail hiring strategy revolves around two key ideas: recruiting more efficiently and improving the candidate experience. 

More efficient recruiting will save you time, and better candidate experiences have the power to drive long-term retention and engagement by setting the tone for the rest of your relationship. With these two core ideas in mind, here are a few top strategies to consider:

Update your recruiting tech. 

Recruiting experts recommend a holistic, data-driven Talent Intelligence approach to overcome today’s hiring challenges. The idea is to use more data on candidates, employees, competitors, and the local labor landscape to make smarter decisions. You’ll need tools to generate, store, and analyze all that data. Start by reviewing your current toolkit. Look for gaps that need to be filled to help you generate more data and make better sense of it.

Streamline management’s involvement. 

In retail environments, managers are typically heavily involved in the hiring process, but this time commitment quickly becomes unsustainable when turnover is high. Use technology to automate steps in your recruitment process as much as possible, for instance, by screening and filtering applications based on predefined criteria. This will allow managers to focus on offering a better candidate experience to those selected for calls and interviews. Robust hiring platforms today provide wide ranges of time-saving features to explore.

Give candidates a preview of the role. 

Much of improving the candidate experience involves making compelling cases to join your team, but remember that the quality of the experience itself plays a significant role. Does your business come off as organized? Respectful? Does your hiring process give candidates a real sense of the role’s day-to-day responsibilities? We argue this last point is crucial. Employees often depart because they’re dissatisfied with the difference between expectations and the job’s reality. Give them a realistic preview of the role early in the process so they’ll have time to think about it and back out before you hire them.

Improving Your Retail Business’s Approach to Training

You’ve hired the right candidates and are ready to show them the ropes. Now comes training, a critical process that will determine both the new hires’ success and satisfaction in the job. If your business hasn’t seriously upgraded or thought strategically about its training process recently, now is definitely the time to take a closer look.

Retail consultant Bob Phibbs defines three core elements of a retail training process:

  1. Onboarding and logistical training, like how to use your POS system and manage inventory.
  2. Product knowledge training, such as giving employees a standardized understanding of products, your customers, and the market.
  3. Behavioral skills, which are the soft skills needed for making sales and building relationships with customers.

Depending on the roles you’re hiring for, new employees may not need extensive training in all three areas, but each should still play a part in the bigger picture of your training process. Employees who are confident in your processes, tools, and products and can offer consistently positive customer experiences will impact the business and feel more engaged in the role. Here are a few strategies that cover all three aspects of training:

Give employees updated, intuitive tools.

The best training process can’t make up for clunky technology that frustrates employees, slows down their work, and damages the customer experience. Your point of sale system should be doing the heavy lifting, so consider if it’s time for an upgrade as you work to improve your training process. The right features specific to small retail businesses, customizable options, and ease of use will support the long-term success of your training improvements.

Create quick onboarding resources.

Streamline onboarding and logistical training by creating a library of how-to guides and videos that explain day-to-day tasks like making sales, processing returns, or opening and closing the store. This process has worked well for businesses onboarding new hires remotely and can easily be adapted for brick-and-mortar retail. Save these resources in a central location alongside a comprehensive policy book, and encourage employees to keep referencing them over time as needed.

Adapt to employee experience levels.

If you’re seeing an influx of applicants during this period of increased turnover, a good deal of your candidates likely already have experience in retail settings. Streamline the training process by tailoring it to their experience levels. Doublecheck for essential competencies, but remove or condense training relating to tasks that they’re already experts in. This results in a better, quicker experience for them and time saved for your business.

Offer point-of-need resources. 

Think carefully about which parts of your training truly require deep learning. Getting too bogged down in details can quickly derail the training process and create a worse employee experience. Technology can help again; intuitive and customizable POS software accessible on handheld devices can be an invaluable resource for employees to grow confident in their roles, especially in specialty retail settings. Product knowledge is a good example. If a customer has questions about a specific product, an employee quickly finding answers on a tablet won’t harm the sale, but making them wait or coming up with incorrect answers will.

Provide situational training and manager feedback. 

Test new hires’ knowledge of logistical processes and products with situational training and “what if” scenarios. This is also a natural way to demonstrate behavioral skills and how to handle unusual customer situations. Back up the training with plenty of feedback, both positive and constructive. This process is a meaningful way to build rapport between management, new hires, and current employees, so it can play a role in long-term engagement and retention beyond just giving new hires the know-how to hit the ground running in the store.

For many retail businesses, hiring, training, and retaining their employees has quickly become the number one concern for 2022. 

Revisit the processes that support your hiring, performance, and retention goals. Has your approach to hiring adapted to today’s challenges, or has it been untouched since before 2020? How are you using technology to support hiring, and where would more insight or new resources be valuable? Ask the same questions about your training process. 

The Bottom Line

Look for ways to boost the efficiency of your hiring and training, improve the candidate experience, and better equip employees to feel successful and engaged in their roles. Remember that technology can help with all three goals. These best practices can help any business drive better results and overcome today’s many hurdles. 

 

Spencer Hoffman is the Vice President of Sales and Product for POS Nation.

 

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In his 12 years at POS Nation, Spencer has climbed the sales ranks, excelling in every role he’s stepped into. His most recent role as vice president of sales includes mentorship and growth across the sales team and a growing portfolio of satisfied customers. In 2020, Spencer’s responsibilities grew to leverage his deep expertise in the retail point of sale space to continuously improve POS Nation’s small business solution as our vice president of product development. Outside of work, Spencer spends time with his wife and three children who are all avid driving range connoisseurs.