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How HR Can Help Retail Employees Prepare for Black Friday

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:

  1. Have separate entrances for employees
  2. Use trained officers or security to manage crowds onsite
  3. Keep barricades or rope lines far from store entrances
  4. Implement crowd control methods early—before customers arrive
  5. Know and enact your emergency plan if danger does occur
  6. Explain entrance procedures and approach to the public
  7. Prevent customers from entering the store once it’s full
  8. 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.  

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About Mildred Blankson

I am a Human Resource Professional with a Masters Degree in Human Resource Management. I have several years of experience in Human Resources and i hope this blog will be a great resource in helping you find the perfect job or candidate that you seek.

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How to Leverage Company Benefits to Recruit and Retain Top Talent

One-third of organizations have increased their overall benefit offerings in 2016, according to a research report compiled by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). As recruiting and retaining top talent continue to become increasingly difficult for employers, robust benefit packages play a key role. When salaries and perks (think: free lunch) are nearly equal from company to company, employees are likely to opt for the company that offers the best benefits and greatest opportunities.

Medical and financial benefits aside, employees are looking for lifestyle and career benefits. SHRM reported that the top reason employers increased benefits in 2016 was to remain competitive in the marketplace—and the three biggest focus areas for change were in the health (22%), wellness (24%), and professional and career development (16%) categories. Robust benefit packages that include career development, health and wellness, and flexible working options provide a platform for employers to stand out. Nearly one-third of employees look for external positions because they desire “overall better benefits,” second only to higher compensation.

The type of benefits you offer speaks volumes on how you treat and support employees, which always manifests by way of your external employer brand. It’s not enough to say “we have great benefits,” because “great benefits” are now table stakes. Companies have mastered the art of talking about perks, from catered lunches to team building activities. Failure to talk about the real support and development opportunities you offer to employees might translate to missed opportunities. So how can hiring managers and recruiters promote employee benefits to help with recruiting and retention?

#1: Kick “industry standard” out of your vocabulary

When recruiters and hiring managers list their company’s benefits and summarize with the catch-all phrase, we offer “industry standard” benefits, it’s not enough. When all else—compensation, vacation days, and perks—are even, offering a standard benefits package won’t help your company standout enough to secure commitment from a top employee. Even though it might be tempting to default to a quick response, it pays to provide more detail about the benefits your company offers, in length, during the interview process.

And even more importantly than providing a laundry list of benefits (but kudos to you for that list!), explain how these benefits fit in with core company values. For example, if you offer flexible work arrangements and flexible hours, explain that these arrangements support your company’s value of work-life balance. If you provide a gym membership or showers at work, talk about how it enhances company culture or creates opportunities for employees to get the exercise they desire in a convenient way.. When recruits begin to see how your benefits support their shared values and interests, they’ll see the benefits you offer are much greater than “industry standard.”

Employers hoping to keep a competitive edge are offering more than the “industry standard” at every stage of the employee journey, including at severance – according to a recent study by RiseSmart. If you’re on the cutting edge of severance offerings, use those benefits to differentiate your company form the competition.

#2: Talk about goals in the recruiting and interview process

Before an employee is even hired, find out what they’re looking for in their employer and what their short and long term goals are. Ask questions like, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and “How are you hoping your employer will support you along your career journey?” Employees, many of whom are seeking opportunities for career development and continuing education, need to know you plan to invest in their individual career goals.

A Career Builder survey found that 45% of employees, regardless of generation, plan to stay with their employer for less than two years. During their tenure, they expect to benefit and grow with each new role and and at each new company. It’s important to convey to prospective employees that you invest in each individual employee, regardless for how long they plan to stay in the role for which they are being hired.

#3: Amplify the employee voice

Remind employees early on that they have a voice to share about company culture and employee benefits. Glassdoor, for example, recommends employers invite new hires to reflect on their first few months at the company. Whether this leads to internal feedback or a public review, it can assist efforts aimed at creating a positive employer brand.

L’Oréal recently launched a #LifeatLoreal hashtag to encourage employees to share photos of their experiences at work. The campaign all stemmed from the idea that people would trust their peers on social media when it came to L'Oréal being a great place to work. Employees posted a wide variety of pictures, including snapshots of various benefits and perks in action—such as flex days and catered lunches. Encourage employees to share the experiences they enjoy the most on the social channel of their choice.

#4: Keep employees engaged with benefits

On average, salary is only about 70% of an employee’s total compensation. When employees don’t take advantage of the benefits offered by the company, it’s equivalent to leaving 30% of the total compensation package on the table. Employers who keep employees engaged with benefits are more likely to see benefits manifest as part of the employer brand. An employee is highly unlikely to leave a Glassdoor review that mentions a positive benefit if she has never actually utilized the benefit.

Try hosting monthly or quarterly Q&A sessions to discuss available benefits. When you roll out a particularly hefty benefit, such as a new 401K offering, or an update to parental leave policy, give employees ample opportunity to ask questions. You could also share success stories from employees who have taken advantage of a particularly niche benefit, such as an hour of free lawyer services, to showcase how the benefit is used and encourage other employees to check it out.

#5: Benefits are the forgotten negotiation tool

If you are a hiring manager or recruiter engaging with a candidate, think beyond salary, or equity. Everything is negotiable, from vacation days to health insurance choices. Savvy employees, especially as the war for talent continues to heat up, will use benefits as negotiation tools—but don’t shy away from doing the same thing on the employer side. It’s often easier to offer more benefits than to secure additional salary for an employee.

Don’t be afraid to talk about your full complement of benefits, including your severance benefits. Prospective employees may feel more comfortable about joining a company that will take care of them, in the event of a downsizing or restructuring event. You may want to consider offering perks like outplacement and career transition services to employees who leave voluntarily as well as those who are involuntary subjects of a layoff. Knowing that you are invested in their career, even after they leave, will help you create a workforce of dedicated, engaged, and satisfied employees.

The world is small and everyone is connected. When you invest in employees, it leads to a positive employer brand. In the new Employee Relationship Economy, former employees will someday become vendors, customers, brand evangelists, recruiting references, or even boomerang employees. In a world where the employee/employer relationship is no longer finite, it’s important to convey your full support for employees’ career endeavors at every stage of their career journeys -- beginning early in the recruiting and interview process.

In every recruiting conversation, highlight your dedication to each employee’s career. When you frame up your organization’s benefits in context of how they fit in with the employee’s journey, it’s easy for the candidate to see how your company would support his journey. Communication about employee benefits can go a long way in the recruiting process—and will have a direct impact on your employer brand. If you offer much more than “industry standard,” you should be screaming it from the rooftops. Your current and prospective employees deserve to understand just how committed you are to their personal and professional journey.

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