We’ve all heard the saying: “The customer is king.” It’s been written in retail articles, plastered on the walls of offices, and cited in motivational speeches from company owners. But while retail is about keeping customers happy, there’s another key factor that’s often deprioritized: Retail employee training.
Your employees are the most significant touchpoint between your product and your customers. When employees are positively engaged, they are your best brand ambassadors, creating a domino effect of brand evangelism that rubs off on to your customers, strengthening your brand perception and sales in the process.
How to create a solid employee training program
- Create a detailed training curriculum
- Celebrate your employees’ successes
- Train employees on omnichannel
- Monitor their performance
- Establish routine performance reviews
Do: Plan your training curriculum for new hires
When introducing new employees to your team, it’s vital to have a clear procedure for training them on all the necessary aspects of your business. This should include everything from day-to-day operations to how to greet customers.
Some key items you should be incorporating in your Training Curriculum:
- Training Timeline: Include an overview of the formal training process and a timeline.
- Company Mission and Vision: Help your employees understand who you are as a company by educating them on your reason for existing, as well as your vision for the future.
- Product Information and Training: Educate your employees on the different products your company offers. It’s key for them to have an in-depth understanding of what they’re selling before they’re on the shopping floor talking to customers.
- Employee Roles: Define, explain, and even write out each employees responsibilities and expectations. This is a good time to talk about workflows and how an employees role fits in the overall ecosystem of your business.
- Technology Training: Incorporate an in-depth training on all hardware/software that’s a part of an employees day-to-day.
- Company Policies: Inform employees about workplace best practices, reviews, and company policies such as workplace rules and dress codes.
Consider what the average day looks like for each role among your employee team. Your training plan should support your larger business goals but also include specific details for each role on your team.
Think about publishing this information in an employee handbook that employees can turn to at any time. Don’t have a handbook yet? We’ve got you covered with our guide to making an employee handbook.
Don’t: Underestimate the value of employee appreciation during training
Recognizing employees for a job well done is key to establishing trust and loyalty, and reducing turnover. 79% of employees cite lack of appreciation as a reason for quitting their jobs. Let that number sink in for a minute.
Creating a culture of appreciation starts during training. Does that mean you need to start handing out rewards to trainees left and right? No. The secret is simple (and less expensive): show them you care.
Recognition runs deeper than a gift card— it’s about giving praise and acknowledging a job well done. Our need for praise is deeply rooted in our psychology and self-esteem—receiving approval from people we respect verifies our sense of inner worth. Fostering a culture of appreciation is essential to a productive and happy workforce.
Motivate employees and trainees by making time for the following:
- Applaud employee efforts and strong performances
- Express gratitude on a regular basis
- Check-in with employees and ask questions
- Implement a peer-to-peer recognition program: this type of program is “35.7% more likely to have a positive impact on financial results than manager-only recognition”
- Set time aside for social employee events: celebrate life achievements, birthdays, or other social occasions.
Employee appreciation is a never-ending process, so consider this your ongoing task as a business owner or manager. Your trainees should know that their efforts are appreciated right from the start. Sometimes it’s all about just saying “Hey, great job today!”
Do: Provide role-specific employee training
The retail industry is well-known for inconsistent training, with 32% of retail employees saying they didn’t receive any formal training or training did not make them better at their jobs. Many employers see training as an unnecessary expense, when in reality the expense of having untrained staff is even higher, adding up to more mistakes, lower productivity, higher turnover, lower sales and customer churn. Ouch!
So, how do we turn this untrained ship around?
Your new hires may or may not have industry experience, so it’s important to make sure they get training on their specific role as well as your unique company processes. It’s all about smart planning, coordination, and attention to detail. Turns out giving new hires what they want is a win-win.
Make sure to include the following training techniques into your plan:
- Ask previous employees for feedback on their training experience
- Create simple training materials (without dumbing it down)
- Provide guided on-the-job training
- Coordinate shadowing with star employees
Another key component of role-specific training is educating new hires on workplace technology. This will vary from role to role, but an important task for any retail business is teaching the ins and outs of using a point of sale (POS). A POS will likely be one of the main touchpoints for an employee, and whether they’re interacting with customers through a mobile POS, or stationed at the checkout counter, you should be teaching them how to use these workplace tools through shadowing, tutorials, and even through training support from your POS supplier.
Learning is an ongoing process, but having a structured and personalized training plan will allow new hires to get quickly acquainted, feel more connected, and ultimately do a better job.
Don’t: Forget about regular employee monitoring and reviews
Setting clear expectations–-and communicating them to your employees–-is crucial to effectively train and build relationships with your employees.
Make sure to establish:
- Specific goals
- Timelines to meet those goals
- Routine informal check-ins to monitor performance
- Formal reviews to go over overall performance, manager reviews, and compensation
Regularly sharing details of employee performances is a great way to give trainees clarity on how well they’re doing their jobs, and where they need to improve. What many have termed the “never-ending performance review” is slowly becoming the norm, as companies opt for more frequent and informal reviews that allow for routine feedback, instead of just having one annual review. Routine feedback is a great opportunity to reinforce employee appreciation, acknowledging improvements and successes.
Tips for monitoring employee and new trainee performance:
- Use a POS system to create staff and sales reports
- Collect manager and employee feedback
- Gather customer feedback
Customers are a great resource to help you build employee reviews. Gaining insight on what consumers think of the people that represent your business is extremely valuable in improving upon employee management and training.
Some helpful tips to gather customer feedback include:
- Customer satisfaction surveys: Incorporate customer surveys into your email marketing strategy. These surveys will help you understand what your customers like, dislike or what they’d like to see improved when it comes to their employee interaction and overall support.
- Online feedback: Encourage customers to leave online reviews via sites like Google or Facebook, and be sure to look at them regularly.
- In-store feedback: Take some time to talk to your customers! Not every customer enjoys writing lengthy online feedback, so make sure to interact with your customers and ask about their customer experience. Tip: have comment cards on your store!
Employee training matters
Employees are the face of your company. Providing them with the proper tools and training ensures they can put their best foot forward from day one. Think of training as an investment in the future of your company—if you genuinely invest in your employees and inspire them to share your passion, they’ll come to work every day ready, and excited to give you their best–-and will share that enthusiasm not just with your customers, but with the next round of trainees ready to become your star employees.