How to Manage Your Retail Employees the Smart Way

With employee turnover rates averaging 67%, it’s understandable that you struggle to find and keep great people at your retail company. It can be challenging to engage employees and make them want to work for you for years if you don’t adopt certain practices like the following.

Treat Them Like People

When your focus is on the bottom line, it can be easy to see employees as just an expense or a task to deal with. But look at it from your employee’s perspective: is she more likely to want to work for a manager that, for example, monitors how long she takes breaks down to the second…or one who remembers her birthday and brings her a cupcake to celebrate?

Brands with employees that stick around longer are those that engage their employees…and yet 35% of retail employees don’t feel engaged at work. The secret is to treat each one individually and not as a commodity.

Over invest in Training Them

Employees who don’t feel like they have a handle on their responsibilities are those who are more likely to quit to find easier work. But it might not be their fault that they’re not adept at using the point-of-sale system or how to process a return. It’s your job as the employer to ensure that every person you hire is adequately trained, even if that means the time it takes to get them up and running is longer than you’d like.

Here are a few effective strategies for training retail staff:

  • Demonstrate how to use equipment, then have them do the same process.
  • Create online learning manuals they can access at their convenience.
  • Partner new hires with seasoned employees to learn the ropes.

Successful training requires plenty of communication between you and the new hire. After a few days, ask what questions she has about her role. Reinforce learning through repetition.

Hire Before You Need Help

Of course, retailers never want to have more employees than necessary, as it cuts into profit margins. But waiting to hire help — especially for the high-traffic holiday season — can put both you and the new hire at a disadvantage.

You’ll be frantic to get someone on the floor to help out, but if you rush the on-boarding process, she will be like a deer in headlights at the register. She may be unaccustomed to the flood of customers, many of them irate, and may quit mid-shift if she can’t take the heat.

Instead, pay attention to your sales flow for the year and try to predict when you’ll need to hire more help. Start the hiring process at least a month or two out so that you have plenty of time for training.

It’s also a good practice to have at least one or two employees more than you think you need. You never know when someone will quit without notice (common in the retail industry) or need to cut back on her hours significantly. Having an “extra” employee around means you don’t have to waste time hiring and training someone new.

Give Constant Feedback

Effective managers leverage communication to ensure their teams work well together. Yes, you’re busy, but you should never be too busy to check in with each employee every few weeks. Ask how work is going and whether there are any concerns you can help with. You might discover that two employees got into a disagreement and now can’t work together without fighting. In this case, you can schedule them on different shifts or try to help mend the situation.

Provide feedback so employees know what they’re doing well and what they can improve on. Positive reinforcement is as important — if not more so — than constructive criticism. Everyone likes to be patted on the back when they do a good job, so make sure you show your appreciation to the people who make your business thrive.

With a little effort, you can engage your retail staff, inspire them to give you their all, and keep them with your company long-term.

Christine Soeun Choi is an SEO associate at Fit Small Business specializing in digital marketing. Currently based in NYC, she has a background in business studies and math with a passion for business development. When not helping small business owners, Christine enjoys taking photos, exploring artwork, and traveling.

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