9 Tips For Hiring And Training Holiday Retail Sales Employees

By Bob Phibbs

seasonal retail sales employees hiring and trainingLet’s be frank when it comes to hiring and training seasonal retail employees...

All you really care about is that they show up when scheduled and don’t detract from your brand. They are there to take a lot of the grunt work off your best trained regular employees. And that's important to recognize.

Don’t assume they can perform at the level of that regular employee - they’ll only be there 6 weeks - 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 another employee to figure it out.

You, your customers, and your business deserve better.

The phrase “Happy Holidays” has to be more than something on a greeting card. You have to train employees that is the spirit you want to create in your store.

Here are my nine tips...

Hiring

Hire more. The holidays are demanding. Good people who sincerely think they could work it, find out they can’t, so hire more than you think you initially need. Then be quick to let go of those who can’t learn. And do all of your hiring before Thanksgiving; after that it is simply too late.

When Interviewing

Long term goals – You are not looking for a long term relationship, so this is not important. Consider these hires more like extended dates.

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.

Availability – HUGE.  Most people looking for temporary work already have another job. That should be a given. They will have a set time schedule they can work. Don’t pass them up because they can’t work at any and all times. You hire to fill the needs on your schedule; you don’t alter it to match their availability.

Be honest. Tell them 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 a salesperson, and they have to know that.

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 when you have to let people go due to lower traffic.


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When Training

Have a six-week schedule in ink. One of the most challenging parts to keeping part-timers is those that 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.

Hold them as accountable as regular employees. Just because they’ll only be with you 6-8 weeks doesn’t mean you have a different performance scale - especially if they are tardy. Written warnings are still appropriate.

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]They must get enough 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.

See also,  Your First Holiday Season As A Retail Manager

In Sum

Hiring and training retail holiday sales help doesn’t have to be grueling, just have the right expectations going in and set the right expectations when they start.

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