Let’s be frank when it comes to hiring and training seasonal retail sales associates...
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 and figure it out.
You, your customers, and your business deserve better.
Here are my nine tips for seasonal retail hiring and training:
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, before Thanksgiving, and prior to the winter holidays. After that, it is simply too late.
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 is a bonus, but hardly a requirement
You should be able to train anyone in 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 must meet.
4. Availability is 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 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 your schedule; you don’t alter it to match their availability.
5. Be honest about the job description
Tell your job seeker the job they are really going to do.
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, you'll have to let people go due to lower traffic, so whoever wants to keep their job must work harder than the rest.
7. Have a six-week schedule in ink
One of the most challenging parts of keeping part-timers is those who said they could work any and all hours suddenly remember they have to babysit or have a class, or you name it.
Therefore, give them a printed calendar with the hours you are open for every day from the week before Thanksgiving until January 1. Have them write any days they have conflicts and have them sign it.
Then, make your schedule that allows hours accordingly. Ensure they know right from the beginning that they are bound to it when they sign that schedule.
Will it change the fact that Mom or Dad sends them tickets home for Christmas the week before? No, but it will let them know you expect them to hold to the hours they put on that calendar.
8. Hold seasonal retail sales associates as accountable as regular employees
Just because they’ll only be with you for 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. 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