We all know that it’s happy, helpful employees that keep customers coming back and spending money.
And yet, the Australian retail industry has one of the highest employee turnover rates. Not putting enough attention on hiring and training is one reason for this astonishing number.
If to find new hires you’re simply throwing a 'help wanted' sign in the window of your store, then you might be sabotaging your business from finding the best people. Here’s what you need to know to find the ideal employees to help your business thrive.
It all starts with the job description
Most retail job descriptions don’t even describe the job they’re hiring for anymore. They’re nothing more than a list of experience and skills. So is it any wonder that a new employee might feel inadequate in the position and leave after a few months, causing you to start the process all over again?
The job description needs to be absolutely clear—not only on the level of experience the new hire needs to have, but also the duties and responsibilities of the role, personality traits that will lead to success, and any physical requirements. If possible spend some time with an employee currently in the role and write out what they do; they may have a different perspective on the job and what it entails. Beyond being able to operate the checkout, you might realise you also want this person to manage your Instagram account or help with inventory. Reviewing what a current employee does in this role can give you important perspective on what to include in your job description.
How to attract the best candidates
Once you’ve perfected your job description, you need to do more than put up that 'help wanted' sign. Posting your opening on online job boards can help you attract more and better candidates than you’d get with walk-ins. Because you can categorise your opening by industry, as well as filter candidates by experience, you won’t get a flood of unqualified applications. You can also post a job for members to apply for, or you can browse resumes that meet your requirements on sites like Seek, MyCareer and LinkedIn. These sites are especially useful if you’re hiring for a more skilled position like a retail store manager. Or, if you have some rock star employees already, ask them to share on their social channels and with friends they think would be suitable—it’s likely the people they recommend will be just as good as they are.
Interview your top picks
While a candidate’s application or resume is the first checkpoint in the hiring process, the interview is what will really help you discover who the best fit for the role is. Keep in mind that people are always on their best behavior during interviews, and will typically give you canned responses that they think you want to hear.
Instead, consider the interview as more of a conversation. Encourage the applicant to do most of the talking so you can get to know their personality and work ethic. The interview is your opportunity to find out how skilled a candidate is at selling, upselling, and dealing with irate customers. Try out situational questions such as: How would you get a customer to buy an additional item? If you don’t have the answer to a customer’s question, what do you do? You’re having a bad day, it’s raining, and customers are being rude. How do you find a smile for them? The checkout line is 10 deep and there’s no help in sight—how do you soothe customers?
Training, training and more training
There’s no getting around the importance of training your retail employees. This cost is essential if you’re hoping to keep that employee around for longer than a few months. Retail staff turnover is a substantial cost to every business. Recent research by PWC found Australia came last in a list of 11 developed countries when it came to keeping retail staff, with 23 per cent turnover. That is almost one in every four new employees leaving their job in their first 12 months.
This is why it’s worth establishing training programs to streamline the process, and ensure every employee is competent and confident in their role. Getting them trained up on your brand, company goals and mission is important too, as it will help them to feel connected to your store and more likely to stick around. Training manuals or online courses can be used over and over for new hires, and will reduce the time and money spent on the process.
Hiring the best employee for your retail business starts with a great job description, but it also requires you to look in the right places for your next hire, dedicate time to the interview process, and make sure that your new employee is properly trained.
Francesca Nicasio is a retail expert at Vend.