Holiday Preparation, Step 2: Staffing and Training

by Brian Field on 09-06-16

Welcome to ShopperTrak’s Holiday Prep Series, a series of posts that aims to guide retailers through the busy holiday season by offering advice, best practices, and timelines for all things holiday. We’ll be here through January 2017, writing articles, holding a webinar, and producing great content that will help retailers keep their priorities in order.

This week, we’re looking at how Ops leaders can work cross-functionally to inform best practices that will guide store managers through seasonal staffing and training. Check out our advice below.

 Steps to Holiday Success, A Retailer’s Guide
Step 2: Staffing and Training

Though it’s easy to get absorbed by the hustle and bustle that accompanies the Back-to-School season, it’s important for corporate Ops teams to keep an eye on the upcoming holiday.

During the period between Back-to-School and Christmas, it is critically important for corporate Ops teams to prepare to function as facilitators between corporate-level functions and store-level employees. Knowing that a period of intense hiring and training is approaching, it’s essential for Ops to lay the groundwork for success by partnering with HR and finance teams to iron out the details and parameters of seasonal employment.

Successful training starts at the top

 Effective communication around staffing and training begins when everyone — from the Ops team to DMs and Store Managers — acknowledges the following: seasonal holiday teams must be managed and trained differently than non-seasonal teams (and other temporary personnel, if applicable).

In order to address these distinct needs, it is important to hold store managers accountable for aligning their staffing, hiring, and scheduling efforts with corporate guidelines. That said, it’s your job, as a member of the corporate team, to ensure that the alignment goes smoothly and that every store manager is properly equipped with the necessary tools for success.

One great way to do this? Create a collection of best practices and advice for seasonal staffing and training. After all, it may not be feasible for managers to screen or train seasonal employees to the same extent that they would for a regular employee, but that doesn’t mean that seasonal hiring and training isn’t important – it’s just different.

Cross-functional collaboration

Before diving too deeply into creating a best practices guide, be sure to work closely with HR and Finance to determine the basic fact that you’re working with – for example, how many hours can a seasonal worker legally work per week? What are the ways that you financially reward hard work?

With the HR team, ensure that any directions on staffing and training included in the best practices guide are in line with your company’s most up-to-date policies – for example, take a moment to check out the latest full-time equivalent legislation.

The most important conversation to have with HR before advising store managers is about staffing and scheduling. Talking points should include:

  • How many seasonal employees can be hired?
  • Is there potential to retain seasonal employees, once the season concludes?
  • If there are openings, can additional full-time employees be hired in place of seasonal employees?

Similarly, when working with finance, focus on information that will aid you in developing a seasonal worker compensation model, one that will, in all likelihood, differ from regular employees’ incentive plans. Think through whether seasonal hires will be working for commission, specific incentives, or something else altogether – e.g., prizes from weekly selling contests.

Once you determine your method of compensation, be sure that it’s competitive and laid out in an easy-to-understand format. Remember that store managers are competing with other companies for seasonal help during this time – make sure your compensation models are in line with, if not better than, your competitors’.

Best practice for approaching in-store training

Once you’ve acquired all relevant information from HR and Finance, you’ll be equipped to truly dig into creating a staffing and training guide that’s ideal for your brand. The best way to approach this?

An exercise that separates the “Must Knows” from the “Nice to Knows.” This means determining only what your seasonal hires need to know in order to do their jobs effectively from day one. Further, it’s important to keep in mind that the tasks performed by seasonal employees will be more focused than those performed by your core staff.

For example, at some stores, it could beneficial to have one seasonal employee who only works at the cash wrap. As a result, she is able to become an expert at the station, providing a rapid checkout experience with knowledge of credit card enrollment processes and gift wrapping.

Laying out training for specialized “must know” seasonal positions can provide store managers with new ways of approaching seasonal training and staffing. To take it a step further, consider implementing a mentoring program in which a seasonal employee is partnered with a regular  employee who is looking to take on additional responsibility. This will allow short-term hires to receive guidance, while also alleviating a burden on store managers, who likely do not have the time due to their other responsibilities.

Ideally, once you’ve gained a proper understanding of the HR and Finance “must knows” and distilled it into an accessible guide, your store managers will leverage said guide and find it easy to relay store-level “must knows” to their seasonal teams.

Like this post? Check back for additional holiday coverage and similar advice throughout the entire holiday period.




Read more posts by Brian Field

Brian Field is the Senior Director of Retail Consulting Practice for ShopperTrak, where he oversees the application of ShopperTrak's proprietary solutions to retailer-specific issues across different functional areas in order to drive top and bottom line store performance. Prior to joining ShopperTrak, Brian served in roles of increasing responsibility at Chico’s FAS Inc., including as the director of corporate store operations and finance. Brian has spent nearly four decades in the industry, and his experience includes: store sales and management, training, merchandising, strategic planning and analysis for brands as diverse as David’s Bridal, Circuit City and Macy's.