Orienting and training new employees properly pays off in retention, productivity, and customer satisfaction. The process of hiring, familiarizing, and acclimating new employees into your retail environment is sometimes called "onboarding." Essentially, onboarding covers everything you do to make a new employee feel confident about performing the job. It's an important process, because new employees cannot be expected to perform well unless they are integrated into your business and become part of "the team."
Successfully introducing a new hire takes more than just a quick tour and an overview of their tasks. Taking the extra time to acquaint them with how the various departments operate can make a new employee feel a greater sense of involvement.
For tips on where to focus your efforts, read How Do I Set Employee Training Priorities?
Put Out the Welcome Mat
It's important to introduce new employees to their immediate supervisors. Don't just say their names; try to start a conversation that will make the process more personal and help your new employees relax. A lunch for newcomers or a social function of some type can make them feel at home.
Post a welcome for new employees on a bulletin board in the break room. Include photos, names, and titles of the newbies as they arrive. Including a rotating collection of similar photos of current staffers can help not only new employees but also the rank and file to remember who's who. Posting photos from company events is a nice way to build camaraderie while helping newcomers delve into the company culture.
If you have a company Web site and the staff to maintain it, create a few password-protected pages on the site to introduce new employees to the business in a friendly manner.
Keep It Simple
Busy retailers may find it difficult to carve out the time to train employees while running a busy store. But training new employees correctly as soon as they come on board can save you money: Companies that implement onboarding procedures can see a big reduction in employee turnover. You'll also save time and money by avoiding the need to retrain a struggling worker. Finally, competent employees increase customer satisfaction.
At first, the employee orientation should focus on the big picture. A newcomer can't be expected to remember the details of how every department operates. The key to successful training is not to move forward too quickly. New employees need to keep pace and absorb that which you are teaching them.
If you don't already have them, produce some written introductory materials, including a store history and a general overview of what you sell, along with the rules, regulations, and policies for employees. Make sure to keep all orientation materials straightforward, interesting, and uncomplicated. Let eager hires get a jump-start by providing some of this written material before day one.
There are computer- or Internet-based training tools specially designed for training retail employees. While such high-tech methods are certainly helpful, walking through mock interactions with customers will help familiarize your salespeople with the sales process and allow them to hone their communication skills. The final step should be in-store training, providing the opportunity to interact face-to-face with actual customers.
To understand just how important training employees is to your retail operation, read Why Employee Training Is Critical.
The Whole Picture
Besides sales, you will need to train staffers in several areas, including;
- Customer relations skills
- Product/inventory knowledge
- Using in-store technology and equipment
- Store policies and procedures
- Security measures
Plan for the Future
Your onboard process is only the beginning of employee training. But it's not too soon to plan for upcoming staffing needs, as well as defining career paths for excellent workers. Cross-training individuals in various facets of the business is smart: You'll have capable people up-to-speed and ready to jump in when someone is out sick or on vacation, as well as for those times when you simply need more help in a busy department.
You can also identify some employees for potential management training or as good candidates for moving into non-sales roles, such as advertising, promotions, or bookkeeping.
No matter how you handle the onboard process, make sure to maintain the personal touch. It's the best way to make the new hire feel "at home."