Retail staff are at the coalface of your business; when they are happy and productive, you’ll see the results in your bottom line.
And yet the social distancing and store closures that came with COVID-19 during 2020 have been enough to challenge even the highest-performing members of your team. Here’s how to keep staff on track – and boost productivity – in time for Christmas trading.
Given the sporadic trading that came with lockdowns, it may be worth re-running the onboarding process with all staff.
This will ensure team members know exactly what’s expected of them, says Aileen Day, who has led customer experience for brands such as Bunnings and Officeworks, and now runs retail consultancy The Value Driven Brand.
Retail leaders need to ensure they have clear, defined roles on the shop floor, says Day. In the lead-up to the busy sales period, she recommends scheduling in a pre-Christmas onboarding session for each staff member – regardless of how long they’ve been employed. “This will serve as a clear reminder of your expectations and what you need from staff.”
The session could outline what good customer service looks like in your store, which will vary between retailers. “As a leader, you have the ability to hold your team accountable and refresh their memory on what their role encompasses,” says Day.
Retail environments can be frantic, with staff often in reactive mode as they handle a range of customer requests. This oftens mean that few stop to take the time to consider proactive initiatives, says Day.
To break these patterns, regularly invite staff to point out which tasks need to be done and suggest any improvements that can be made, suggests Day. This will help create an autonomous workplace environment.
Over time, these small actions ultimately lead to a culture that promotes initiative, and will also give staff greater ownership over their role. “Team leaders can then ask staff when these tasks have been completed,” adds Day.
Not all staff are created equal. And by understanding that one staff member is motivated by praise and another prefers to be rostered on early shifts, team leaders can incentivise staff in small ways that count.
Everyone likes to be valued, points out Day: “Get to know what’s important to them. It’s OK to treat staff differently based on what motivates them, as long as it’s all even when it comes out in the wash.”
“Get to know what’s important to them. It’s OK to treat staff differently based on what motivates them, as long as it’s all even when it comes out in the wash.”
Just as McDonald’s famously asks whether you’d like fries with your order, retailers can create an upsell checklist to maximise sales when customers head to the cash register.
Suggesting a belt that works with a pair of jeans being purchased, or a matching piece of jewellery or bag, can be an effective way of bolstering sales and reaching targets for staff, says Day.
Retailers can create a checklist of upsell options the team can refer to, which can ultimately improve the customer experience. “Customers want to be reminded if you’re running a buy-two-for-one offer,” says Day. “They want to be asked for their loyalty points, so this upsell checklist can be an important tool when closing a sale.”
Your staff are assets to your business, as much as the products and services that you sell – which is why it’s important to invest in staff training.
It doesn’t have to be expensive, says Melbourne customer service expert Monique Richardson, who suggests looking for low-cost options like online tutorial videos. Training should always be completed during paid working hours, she adds, and shorter, sharper sessions are often more valuable.
With training in place, you can then set sales targets for staff, says Richardson. They key is to ensure that you clearly communicate what the targets are – and how staff can achieve them.
But there’s a balance. Rewarding staff for reaching sales targets can make some staff too pushy on the shop floor, so tread carefully. “You don’t want to create a fear around not reaching those targets,” warns Richardson.
Make sure staff are rostered on 15 minutes before the front door opens to allow enough time for a quick “morning huddle”. This is a good opportunity to communicate anything important about the day ahead, from specials to stock shortages or tasks.
It can also be a powerful motivator for staff, especially when leaders are transparent about budgets and sales targets – and it’s the perfect opportunity to acknowledge birthdays, employment anniversaries or celebrate team members who have performed well.
“People love being made a fuss of, so consider public praise if they’ve made the highest sales for the day, if you have that data available.”
Changing the way that you communicate can prove effective, too. “I’ve had success posting basic information in the staff bathrooms, such as tasks for the day,” says Day. “It stops people coming up and asking questions over things we’ve already covered. Over time, you will start to see a visible difference to the productivity of your team.”