Learning & Development, Talent

Retailers Are Hiring Up for the Holidays, but Training Will Make All the Difference

The seasonal hiring push is well under way. Major retailers have been announcing significant hiring plans left and right, including Target and UPS, which will add more than 230,000 seasonal workers between them. This is all in anticipation of a huge holiday sales season, with the National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasting that holiday retail sales during November and December will total more than $730 billion.

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Hiring up seems to be the natural solution to accommodate this influx of shoppers. However, with unemployment at an all-time low, these companies will be forced to compete for a relatively small pool of candidates, and many will have to settle for employees with less experience than they might otherwise hire—and they’ll need to catch them quickly.

Whether it’s call center staff, delivery drivers, or retail workers, the training these seasonal employees receive will determine companies’ bottom lines for the year.

Embrace Experiential Learning

To make the in-store shopping experience as convenient as it is online, retailers are increasingly adopting automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and other emerging technologies, which has made training that much more critical.

Using technology like iPads® to streamline in-store customer experiences can certainly be helpful in allowing employees to give customers immediate product information, serve as mobile cash registers, and allow associates to immediately place online orders for out-of-stock items. However, for these tools to be truly effective, employees need hands-on, experiential training that highlights real-world applications for new in-store technology.

Supporting experiential learning is the best way to upskill employees to work with new tools and technology. That’s not to say that all training should revolve around actual on-the-job experiences, but companies should embrace a 70:20:10 model of learning.

In this format, 70% of learning happens via on-the-job experiences, while 20% of learning happens through interactions with peers and just 10% in traditional environments. This approach supports the perfect mix of training formats that accommodate all learning styles and give new hires the variety they need to become well-rounded employees. This results in faster skills adoption and increased engagement, which are both critical to the success of seasonal hires.

Learning Should Be Social

Seasonal hires are brought in to support the busiest shopping periods, which means getting up to speed often happens on the store floor while interacting with customers and fielding a range of requests. This environment can cause new hires to feel overwhelmed. To combat this and avoid burnout, it’s important to make the training and onboarding processes as social as possible.

Supporting features such as chat, peer review, or content sharing within your training platform is the best way to organically foster social connections among workers. Identifying content or product experts internally and giving other workers the tools to connect with them is especially helpful for seasonal workers who are new to the business and might have more questions throughout the training process.

Supporting social learning in this format gives those workers additional resources, beyond senior leadership, to leverage for help and guidance. What’s more, these internal experts can relate to the day-to-day challenges employees face in the flow of work in a way that senior leadership often can’t.

Training Needs to Be Accessible 24/7

Training can’t just be offered during the onboarding phase. When an employee is hired, even if just for the season, training needs to be a continual process that is provided at the convenience of the learner. Giving employees the space to learn when and where they want helps make training less of a nuisance and enhances employees’ ability to absorb (and retain) material.

To achieve 24/7 “anywhere” learning, mobile learning tools are key. We can access almost everything on our phones, so we should be able to reach our training materials, too. Making training mobile-compatible means that a particularly slow day in the store, for example, could become an opportunity to participate in training. Mobile learning can also help social learning feel less forced, offering the similar convenience of social media sites and mirroring the way users would interact on platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

Retailers are investing heavily in hiring seasonal workers in an effort to win during the upcoming holiday shopping season. While hiring up is a start, without building the supporting training programs that foster quick skills adoption and learning retention, these companies won’t see the return on investment they’re looking for.

Companies need to go a step beyond recruitment and hiring and make room for investments in learning technology that will help them make the most out of season staffers.

Reanna MardingerReanna Mardinger is the Senior Marketing Communications Manager at Docebo.