Modern Retail

A Guide For Successful Retail Staff Training

As a retailer, the success of your business depends on how well you train the people who work for you. They look to you for education and proper guidance, and if you don’t communicate effectively, they can’t perform at the level you expect.

It’s a big responsibility, and it’s not an easy task. Training staff requires careful planning and a lot of effort, not just before you actually hire someone, but also in the new hire’s first couple of months.

The new employee not only has to be educated on practical matters, but also on the culture of your brand, all done in a way that they can understand and digest in an accessible fashion. Guidelines also need to be put in place that outline expectations, and feedback needs to be provided so they can act on your suggestions and make proper judgment calls.

Below is a guide to help get you started for successful training your retail staff.

Start Training Before You Hire a New Employee

One of the most important steps to training new employees is to document, in a very detailed fashion, all job requirements and expectations before you even start looking for someone to fill the position. It’s important that you have clear expectations and a clear job description before you begin the recruiting process, as every new hire will want to know exactly what the position entails.

Before you even hire a new employee, educate them about your brand and how you expect them to represent your business. Educate them on the big picture early by teaching them your company values and mission statement, sharing company goals with them, and letting them in about what you stand for.

Hire Trainable People With the Right Attitude

Bruce Nordstrom, of Nordstroms, once said, “We can hire nice people and teach them to sell, but we can’t hire salespeople and teach them to be nice.” What that means is that the success of your training program doesn’t just rely on how you’re educating new employees, it also depends on the inherent attitudes and core values of your staff.

You want employees that fit your company culture, and it’s much harder to try and modify someone’s attitude and default disposition than it is to train a more positive person who already shares your values and is open to your suggestions. In other words, consider hiring nice people and teaching them to sell rather than trying to retrain salespeople who are used to other methods.

Use a Mix of Training Tools and Methods

Every new employee is going to face a learning curve, but there are steps you can take to make the process run smoothly. Start by learning about that new employee — who they are, how they learn best, their motivations, etc. Knowing their preferred learning methods — and how they best retain information — will help you customize your training approach.

There are three basic leading types of learners — aural, visual, and kinesthetic. As the names suggest, aural learners retain the most information when they listen to the material, while visual learners retain the most information when they view or read it.

When it comes to kinesthetic learners, rather than talking about it, they learn best by engaging their senses and by doing. For example, you might give the new employee an opportunity to perform a product return on the register rather than simply explaining the correct procedure.

Another model that has been successfully used for retail staff training is DISC, which divides people into four distinct personality types — D, I, S, and C. The “D” people are dominant, results-oriented individuals, while “I” people are enthusiastic and motivated by incentives and recognition. “S” people are calm and steady, valuing relationships over everything else, while “C” people are more into details and highly conscientious.

Knowing what motivates each member of your staff can help you give them the information and training they need to succeed.

Continue Training Activities

Just because the training program or initial period is over doesn’t mean your new hire checklist should end. Learning and development should be a continuous process and part of your business. During the first few months, you should:

● Collaboratively set and revisit goals with new hire.

● Provide the new hire with continuous mentorship and coaching.

● Keep the lines of communication open by scheduling regular one-on-one meetings.

And don’t forget about ongoing training by providing relevant and well-timed knowledge-management tools like publications, newsletters, and technology for all your employees. Whether they’ve been there two weeks or two years, continuing education helps employees feel informed, empowered, and capable of handling any situation with confidence.

Empower Your Employees and Give Feedback

It’s necessary that new employees are educated on the guidelines and procedures put in place to ensure that there is consistency and professionalism in procedures and operations. But on the other hand, there may be some areas in your business where it’s beneficial to empower employees to use their judgment and be creative.

For example, it’s important to have step-by-step instructions when training people on how to operate your EPOS system, but employees should be given more freedom when it comes to interacting with customers. This is a time when they can let their personality shine, and rigid rules and regulations might hinder the development of the customer/employee relationship.

Going back to retail giant Nordstroms, they actually don’t have a return policy. Instead, they leave each return situation up to the employee, encouraging them to use their judgment and focus on customer satisfaction.

Of course, smaller retailers probably can’t afford to ditch their return policy. But you can look at the different areas of your business and find other ways to empower your employees, and then train your staff accordingly.

Encourage them to use their best judgment in certain situations, and then give them feedback to help them improve — even telling them how you would have handled a similar situation. The result is that they will learn how owners of the business think, better equipping them to make decisions on their own in the future.

The Bottom Line

Training new employees can be a difficult task, but it becomes easier when they’re qualified for the job and share your company’s mission and values. By taking the time to truly understand the kind of employee you need to hire, and then giving them the training they need to perform at their best, you’re well on the path to success.


Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Content Marketing Manager. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and run more profitable stores. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.

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