Let’s be frank when it comes to the seasonality of hiring and training part-time retail employees...
All you really care about is that they show up when scheduled and don’t detract from your brand. Your seasonal retail sales employees are there to take a lot of the grunt work off your best trained regular staff. And that's important to recognize in your seasonal planning.
Don’t assume they can perform at the level of your permanent employees - they’ll only be there short term - or you’ll be disappointed again and again.
Seasonal part-time employees should free up your regular employees’ time and be well trained in what to do when your store is slammed and when it is calm.
Just because Billy quit and you need someone now, don’t throw a new hire into the pool to sink or swim with minimum training or expect them to shadow a sales associate to figure it out.
You, your customers, and your business deserve better.
Here are my nine tips for seasonal retail hiring and training:
When hiring ...
1. Hire more. Vacation and holiday times are demanding. Good people who sincerely think they could work it, find out they can’t, so do more seasonal hiring than you think you initially need. Then be quick to let go of those who can’t learn.
And do all of your seasonal retail hirings before Memorial Day pre-summer season and before Thanksgiving prior to the winter holidays; after then it is simply too late.
2. Long-term goals – You are not looking for a long-term relationship, so this is not important. Consider these part-time hires more like extended dates.
3. Previous experience – You should be able to train anyone the basics, so previous experience isn’t a factor. It’s a bonus if they’ve worked in your category, but don’t hold it as a high bar they have to meet.
4. Availability – HUGE. Most people looking for seasonal employment already have another job. That was a given, at least prior to the pandemic. But even this year, with greater than usual remote work and learning, they may have a set time schedule for when they are available.
Don’t pass them up because they can’t work at any and all times. You hire to fill the needs in your seasonal plan and on your schedule; you don’t alter it to match their availability.
5. Be honest. Tell your job seeker the job they are really going to do. That’s standing on their feet. That’s stocking shelves. That’s cleaning glass. And that’s reaching out to customers when needed.
There’s only time to teach them how to greet customers, not to make them into retail sales associates, and they have to know that.
6. Hold out the carrot. Tell them those who work diligently, do more than expected, and keep a positive attitude are on the top of the list to carry over into January after the holiday rush slows down and you have to let people go due to lower traffic.
7. Have a six-week schedule in ink. One of the most challenging parts to keeping part-timers is those who said they could work any and all hours suddenly remember they have to babysit, or they have a class, or you name it.
Therefore give them a printed calendar with hours you are open for every day from the week prior to Thanksgiving until January 1. Have them write any days they have conflicts and have them sign it. Then make your schedule that allots hours accordingly. Make sure they know right from the beginning that when they sign that schedule, they are bound to it.
Will it change the fact mom or dad sends them tickets home for Christmas the week prior? No, but it will let them know you expect them to hold to the hours they put on that calendar.
8. Hold them as accountable as regular employees. Just because they’ll only be with you six to eight weeks doesn’t mean you have a different performance scale - especially if they are tardy. Written warnings are still appropriate.
9. Train the basics. Their first job is to keep your store neat and clean - but that’s not their only job. [Video How To Train The Basics]. Your seasonal worker must get enough holiday retail sales training to greet and refer customers to your regulars.
Scan the floor to keep order
Help people out to their car
Greet and hand customers a basket
Pitch in behind the register
Everything stops when a customer asks a question or another employee asks for help
Phones are not their priority
Know where to park
Remember to have a procedure for how part-timers are to cover their shifts when they can’t make it in. There are several good apps like Wheniwork on the market for this. Make sure they know they have to speak to a manager to switch a shift. You don’t want your best employee switching a busy Saturday with a newbie.
Hiring and training seasonal retail sales help doesn’t have to be grueling, just have the right expectations going in and set the right expectations when they start. Think of it as a necessary part of seasonality and preparing for the holidays. Then everyone can make the most of every season.
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