Are your associates ready for the retail holiday crunch?

Posted on: September 13, 2022Updated on: April 18, 2024By: Maliyah Bernard

Retail workers know that being on-shift over the holidays is not for the faint of heart. It means a higher volume of stressed shoppers, keeping in-demand items stocked and generally running from one task to another as associates try to manage increased customer requests.

When retailers don’t adequately prepare their staff for rush periods, the combination of a high-pressure situation and shoppers who are already worried about the cost of it all can make tensions reach a fever pitch.

So how can you stress-test your workforce to make sure they’re ready to deliver a jolly shopping experience that everyone will enjoy?

If you’re properly preparing for the holiday retail rush, you’re going to need to do more than stock extra inventory or slash prices. You’ll need to ensure that your staff are up to the task of meeting expectations during the peak time your business will undoubtedly face. And the best time to start that holiday planning and training is now.

People Walking Around Mall

A seamless holiday experience begins with an early start

If you haven’t come to terms with the end of summer yet, the holiday season might still feel like a long way off. But the countdown is already on and smart retailers are getting a jump on staffing, with Michaels hosting a September seasonal hiring event with the hopes of growing its teams by 15,000 members.

UPS is also looking ahead to the holiday rush to the tune of 100,000 new drivers, driver helpers and package handlers, which looks like an ambitious number but is in line with its practices over the past two years. Orders start rising in October and don’t level off until January so the more hands available, the better.

Predictions also suggest that holiday shopping is on track to begin sooner than ever as customers try to get ahead of last-minute crowds and shipping delays that are all too common in November and December. With this in mind, it makes sense to build seasonal training into the flow of an associate’s workday as early as possible. This way, they can get a head start on critical information—in easy-to-digest portions, for example, to leverage the benefits of microlearning—that will get them ready to properly handle crunch time.

Then, keep the training going as the holiday season gets into full swing so they’ll have important information, inventory levels, price adjustments and promotions top-of-mind and reinforced the whole way through to promote knowledge retention.

Start by training key team members who are directly responsible for customer satisfaction and ensure managers have the support necessary to equip their teams to be successful. Making sure everyone knows how to prepare for the rush is key to executing your plans flawlessly and that requires clear, consistent and timely communication that keeps everyone on the same page.

Transform seasonal hires into high performers

Filling the gaps on the floor during the ongoing labor shortage is a big challenge for retailers—especially when it comes to getting seasonal staff up to speed who don’t have the time for additional, intensive onboarding sessions and likely won’t have extensive product knowledge.

Identify where your staffing needs are, get hiring and then, using a solution like Axonify, you’ll be able to take your new staff from seasonal to seasoned in just 3–5 minutes of training per shift, which keeps them on the floor where they’re needed most.

This approach offers some big benefits for managers, too. Access to real-time performance data lets them know, before the thick of the holiday rush, exactly when a new hire is confident and ready to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

Go digital where you can—and not just for sales

While reliable, free shipping and easy returns are a big selling point for this year’s holiday shoppers, e-commerce is not the only digital option retailers have at their disposal. (Tip: if you’re putting a larger investment into online sales this season, beware of traffic surges that can hurt the user experience.)

Move training from the breakroom computer to mobile devices or designated POS stations they use every day so associates are empowered to solve problems on the fly. A BYOD approach means staff will have everything they need to stay safe, successful, productive and up-to-date, in their pockets. Because when the retail frontline gets busy during the holidays, every minute counts. Plus, you can tailor the digital learning journey to each specific role, so associates stay focused on the things they personally need to know and accomplish.

While you won’t be able to eliminate all the stress and anxiety around busy holiday shopping for employees or consumers, it’s important to be prepared and manage expectations. It can be a memorable season for giving and receiving, but only if your associates are prepared to create customer experiences that make them want to return year after year.

Maliyah Bernard

Maliyah Bernard is an academic writer turned content writer. As a former frontline worker, she loves writing about all the ways organizations can support these essential workers smarter.