How to train retail employees the right way

Your retail shop may sell the latest products, boast the biggest customer base, and offer the best guarantees, but these advantages pale compared to what your employees can do for your company. 

They are the people your customers see upon entering your retail space, which makes them the face of your company. Effective onboarding and training of the people you hire should be one of your business goals. 

Using the following strategies for developing employees can encourage customers to return because of the exceptional retail experience.

Get a good start

If you want to make training easier on yourself, look for applicants who have the right attitude for customer service. Hire people who share your company’s values, show a positive outlook that is oriented to people, and are open to acquiring new knowledge and skills. It’s often easier to train a person with no skills than someone with the wrong skills that have to be unlearned.

One trick to finding the right employees who are focused on the customer is to conduct a group interview. You can then see how people interact with each other and observe first-hand how they communicate with strangers. You cannot normally assess these skills in a one-on-one interview.

Tailor the training

It’s fine to have a standard program that you can refer to when training a new retail employee. You’ll then have a path to follow and can ensure that you cover all the topics that you need for success. However, individuals are different, and the more that you learn about your new hires, the better you can tailor your training and development programs to what they need to know.

Part of the first day for new workers can be devoted to getting to know them better. Give them a pre-work conversation designed to let you know what makes them tick. Find out about their hobbies, what they like to do when they’re not at work, and what they were most proud of at previous employers or at school. 

Be sure to share with them information about yourself, so the interaction becomes a mutual exchange rather than interrogation.

Take the time to play together using cards or a popular board game. You’ll discover right away how they deal with problems and create solutions to solve them. Take them out to lunch, perhaps with other members of your organization. You’ll not only find out who the new hires are as people but you’ll show them how you like to informally lead your team.

Mix the methods

After you’ve found out more about your new hires, you will hopefully know how best they pick up new information. People generally retain information better if you use different teaching methods that appeal to their learning styles.

Among the options to consider for training are the following:

  • Job shadowing: This is often called on-the-job training. New hires follow experienced employees around to learn by observation. This works best with current workers who are prepared to explain their tasks and why they’re being done in a particular way.
  • Online learning: Sometimes called eLearning, this method relies on many electronic and online technologies such as the Internet and mobile apps. This allows new employees to learn at their own pace both in and out of work.
  • Videos: You probably won’t be making your own videos but can buy pre-recorded lectures and animations made by experts to demonstrate special techniques.
  • Classrooms and instructors: This method is most cost-effective if you several new hires learning at the same level and at the same time. Classroom work can include lectures, workbooks, and group activities.
  • Checklists and workbooks: Written materials encourage new workers to study on their own and engages those with visual learning styles. These can be the least costly of training methods.

Keep it short

While a full day of training may seem to be the best use of limited teaching resources, new hires can easily get burned out and return little of what they learned if forced into long classes. Shorter sessions are generally better because they present less information that is easier to digest. 

Brief periods also cater better to that attention spans have been diminishing with the rise of instant high-tech communication and social media, such as smartphones and Twitter.

Studies have shown that 15 to 30 minutes is the most effective length for learning sessions. Some research even advocated for multiple short sessions lasting no more than five minutes. If you have a particularly long or complex procedure that must be learned, break it down into short self-contained modules that give new employees a chance to understand and process before they must move on.

Role-play for retention

One of the most effective training methods is role-playing. This method encourages new hires to put their training into practical action and to observe how others use the information they just acquired.

  • Such role-playing can be formal with a prescribed strategy and goal that several participants are trying to implement.
  • It can also be an informal one-on-one discussion between you and the new employee. Maybe after an unproductive encounter with a customer, you can both re-enact what just happened and discover alternative conversations that could result in a sale.

Be sure to role-play both the good and the bad. Create sessions that not only show what to do but also what to do. The latter will relax participants and usually cause plenty of laughter.

Evaluate the results

It isn’t enough that you train your employees and then hope that it sticks. You need to evaluate how effective your methods have been. A useful way to evaluate the results is through the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model, which consists of four levels:

  1. Reaction. Use surveys and one-on-one discussions to evaluate learner reactions. How did your employees react to the training? Was it relevant, easy to follow, and provide useful information? What were the strengths and weaknesses?
  2. Learning. Measure what the employees learned through testing before and after training, certification, and feedback from supervisors and customers.
  3. Behavior. How has employee attitude and performance changed because of training? You can determine this through assessment questionnaires, feedback from supervisors and co-employees, customer surveys and comments, and observing them as they work.
  4. Results. How has the training affected your business? Have profits increased? Are more employees staying? Has customer satisfaction increased?

You want to stick only with methods that produce the results you need. Don’t be afraid to get rid of training methods that are not working for your employees.

Keep it going

New hires expect a training session at the beginning of employment so they can learn the ropes. But if you want them to continuously improve, then they require continuous learning.

  • Make employee training part of the company budget to ensure that it gets done. Give incentives to those who want to pick up courses at local colleges and educational institutes.
  • Offer quarterly sessions on different topics that anyone can attend.
  • Give a refresher course during the employee anniversary reviews. This allows your workers to analyze their performance from the past year and receive suggestions for improvement.
  • Constantly ask your employees what they need to learn to hone their skills. If some are subject-matter experts, encourage them to develop training courses that they can then use with others.

If you need help finding new team members to train and onboard, Homebase is the perfect solution. We’ll not only make hiring a breeze, but we’ll also automate the onboarding process so you can focus on starting the training process on their first day. 

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