One of the busiest shopping days of the year is just around the corner. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF), $655 billion (3.6%) was spent during Black Friday of 2016. This year, the NRF is predicting that will increase by $27 billion (4.0%). It’s no surprise that retailers need to prepare for the busiest shopping day of the year, which is often compared to the Super Bowl for retail stores.
Retail managers and business owners prepare their stores for doorbuster deals, low-priced items, and specialty bands to get high-ticket products. They anticipate the busy crowds and carefully place and display products to make the most sales come Black Friday.
But employees often dread that day. Busy crowds and irate shoppers can intimidate your employees. However, it doesn’t have to be such a worrisome or frightening time. Human resources play a major part in preparing retail employees for Black Friday. Having motivated and upbeat employees can improve customer relations, making the situation easier to handle. Coaching employees, implementing safety measures, and hiring plenty of seasonal work can get your store through the biggest annual shopping day.
Hire plenty of employees
If you’re preparing months in advance for Black Friday, as most retail operations do, try to hire as many seasonal employees as possible. If you can’t get full-time employees, bring on contractors or even temp employees to fill slots.
Work with a select group of employees who possess excellent customer service skills, and prep them in working with irritated or unsatisfied customers. These essential talents can help minimize confrontations, while also providing quick solutions to upset customers.
Shoppers can become easily frustrated with long cash register lines or inability to get product questions answered. Keep your customers happy by ensuring there’s plenty of staff on hand for that day.
Provide honest expectations of the Black Friday schedule
Avoid surprising employees at the last minute with Black Friday schedule changes. This can demotivate and even depress employees. Boost morale by making employees aware of schedule changes well in advance.
Talk with staff months in advance about the busy shopping day scheduling. Let them know which individuals have been selected to work which schedules, and offer additional hours to those seeking overtime. Give your employees time to prepare and make schedule arrangements by letting them know in advance.
Don’t let employees work the hectic shopping day without some incentive. Have food purchased, such as a buffet of holiday meals, health food, or even pizza, and set it aside in the breakrooms, so they’re cared for during work hours. Make sure you utilize temp- or contract-hired staff as well to take over when needed.
Ensure the safety of your workers and your customers
Black Friday is one of those times when people can get physically hurt. The many YouTube videos demonstrate the panic that customers feel trying to get to your blockbuster deals. This has resulted in people being overly aggressive when the doors open and causing harm to others. You don’t want your people to get hurt, and you don’t want to be in the news for shoppers getting injured at your store. Of course, you’ll want to have extra safety measures in place and a way to control crowds coming into the store to prevent injuries.
When an employee was trampled to death in 2008, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advised retailers to design crowd management strategies to prevent such harm coming to employees again. Several of the key steps include:
- Have separate entrances for employees
- Use trained officers or security to manage crowds onsite
- Keep barricades or rope lines far from store entrances
- Implement crowd control methods early—before customers arrive
- Know and enact your emergency plan if danger does occur
- Explain entrance procedures and approach to the public
- Prevent customers from entering the store once it’s full
- Ensure exits are not blocked or locked
Review your current crowd management plan and adjust as needed. But having this in place prior to the big day will keep your employees safe.
Hold employee contests on Black Friday
Even with the option of being offered additional overtime pay for working Black Friday, initiating contests can encourage employees to participate even more.
Some ideas to get employees excited about working Black Friday, include:
- Offer monetary gift cards for employees with the best customer feedback.
- Create a Black Friday VIP badge and special discounts for one or two top sales employees.
- Provide additional bonus pay for the department who makes the most sales.
- Raffle off high-ticket products (if you want to avoid using customer feedback or sales as goals).
Remember to keep contests inviting and fun. Even if you want your company to reach sales goals, your goal is to retain the employees that help run it. Moreover, there are other smaller incentives to hand out, so everyone can be a winner. These include specialty coffee shop gift cards, wireless earbuds, and phone cases.
Motivate employees with speeches or rehearsals
Nothing gets a person motivated like a killer speech. In 2014, Target manager Scott Simms, enthusiastically motivated employees by delivering a Black Friday speech inspired by the movie 300. Employees off screen are heard cheering after he’s finished.
Perhaps you don’t need to stand on a conveyor belt to prepare employees for Black Friday, but you still need to motivate your employees to be ready for the day. Go for a motivational speech that incites enthusiasm and a sense of positivity.
Rehearsals also serve as a good way to prepare employees. BestBuy succeeded with this by holding a rehearsal in anticipation of Black Friday in 2016. They gathered their employees to the back of the store, explaining that to succeed at Black Friday, they’d have to think of this as a game plan.
The rehearsal included half the group working as employees, and the other half pretending to be shoppers. Employees are coached by managers how to interact with shoppers, learn to diffuse heated conversations, and how to implement best solutions to help customers quickly and professionally.
Show your appreciation for working Black Friday
Even though your employees work for you, remember that they had to make changes in their personal lives to be available on Black Friday. Some have had to cut their Thanksgiving holiday short and those that do go in for Black Friday often need the extra pay. Be kind to employees by demonstrating that you appreciate them working on such a busy holiday.
Handing out hand-written cards with a gift card is one way to show you appreciate them. Another way is to provide access to a buffet during the busy day, but if you’ve done that, try gift certificates to a local restaurant for two or certificates to a massage parlor. This allows employees time to relax and recoup from the crazy shopping madness.
At the end of the season, help employees get the next job
For the last couple of months, you’ve probably been busy hiring and training additional staff for the holiday season knowing that you will have to let them go when the season is over. Although this may be part of the normal cycle of retail business, it is often difficult for those employees who no longer have a source of income after January.
Consider offering exiting employees a small career transition package available from some outplacement providers. While retail employees don’t often need the full services available through outplacement, most can use some help with filling out applications, interviewing, and finding other types of jobs outside of retail that require the same skillsets. You’ll find that offering industry-leading career transition services to hourly employees is not as expensive as you thought.
Your efforts will be rewarded with the positive employee sentiment and brand exposure you’ll enjoy. You’ll most likely create lifelong customers of your store while also establishing a base of employees who will be anxious to return to help out when you need to grow your workforce again in the future.
Black Friday is one of retail’s most profitable days because of the massive sales. Everyone should be satisfied at the end of the day, despite the mishaps and issues that may occur. With positively-charged, motivated employees, you’re bound to have a better and easier time during Black Friday.