How retail managers can help their employees this Black Friday
Black Friday is always one of the most anticipated shopping days of the year, along with the weekend that follows it. 2021 is no different. But as we’re all making lists of things we want to buy, and working out our budget - it’s worth sparing a thought for those working in retail.
Let’s face it, retail can be a demanding job at the best of times (take it from someone who spent his teenage years working in a ladies fitting room). And when Black Friday comes around, the pressure on employees - both physical and mental - can escalate.
Employee wellbeing has become a much bigger focus these days though, and many retail businesses will be aware of the need to take care of their people. It’s not just Black Friday either. The Christmas shopping season has already begun, so it’s a high-pressure time.
If you’re looking for ways to look after your retail employees during this busy period, here’s a few tips that might help.
The relationship between line managers and their staff is always key, but even more so during a time where employee anxiety levels could be heightened. Many of them are probably already thinking about the challenges that lie ahead, such as managing big crowds and demanding customers.
It’s easy for line managers to be focused on the commercial activities of the business, but their people have to come first. A good idea is to have a team huddle at the beginning of each day, but schedule regular check-ins with individual employees through the day. Even if it’s just a quick five minute chat, it can provide some structure to what can be a chaotic time. Line managers should also be trained to spot the signs of things like burnout and anxiety, so they can be proactive.
It’s also important that shifts and breaks are properly planned and communicated well in advance. While there’ll always have to be an element of flexibility, people will be more comfortable if they know exactly when they are and aren’t working. This in turn reduces ‘fear of the unknown’ type scenarios.
Create a high quality environment
You’ll probably spend a lot of time thinking about the store environment. What’s the most efficient layout? Where should you put those gadgets? How can you stop your mannequins from being trampled on?
But what about the staff environment? Whether you have a full on canteen, or a break room, it’s important to realise that this will be a sanctuary for your employees. It’s where they’ll start and finish their shifts, and most likely where they’ll spend their breaks as well.
Provide healthy food and drink for all employees. Things like fresh fruit, fresh juice and smoothies will help them feel good before they get back out onto the shop floor. Ensure there’s plenty of water bottles available as well.
Why not decorate the staff area? At this time of year, you may decide to get all festive, but this isn’t the only option. You could go with a superhero theme, as a subtle message to staff to show you appreciate what they’re doing!
To really go the extra mile, you could also have a designated nap area, for people to rest and recharge before going again.
Focus on the positive
Like anything in business, it’s important to bring employees on the journey with you. While this might be a challenging time for them, it can also be a chance to grow and take on responsibilities.
Bring them into discussions around in-store activities that you’re planning. Ask for their opinions as well. This makes them feel valued and part of the business, and will also help them see how important their role is.
At the same time, you want them to feel comfortable with the added responsibilities. Think about some of the key challenges they could face - whether it’s dealing with irate customers, queue management or gift wrapping at speed!
Provide coaching both beforehand and on the job, while making any training materials easily accessible.
Celebrate the successes
Recognition is a powerful tool at any time of the year. But during a high pressure period, it becomes a key part of your staff engagement armoury.
Before employees start their shifts, why not give them something small like a box of chocolates, along with a personal note thanking them for their upcoming efforts? This gives them a boost just when they need it. If you want to incorporate wellbeing into this, you can also give them a stress ball. Not only is this something practical that they’ll probably use, but it shows you understand the strains they may go through.
Keep motivation levels high by recognising hard work throughout the shift. It doesn’t have to be formal - just a simple “well done” or “thank you” can go a long way. You could even set some fun games throughout the day to keep spirits up.
For example, you could create a bingo ticket with key things you’d like employees to do. Some could be linked to business goals (selling a specific product, signing customers up to your loyalty card), whereas others could be more quirky (singing a classic Christmas song at the top of your lungs). The aim of the game is - you probably guessed - to tick off all the boxes on the ticket.
At the end of each day, you can be a little more formal by sending company-wide shoutouts to people. This can be done over email, your internal communication platform, or your recognition tool. It’s more efficient to use tech for this, as it’s unlikely all of your staff will be in the same physical location at the same time.
You can also go a step further by thanking people publicly on your social media feeds. You don’t need to single people out here. Just thanking your staff in general (perhaps with some accompanying photos) will make them smile, as they sit on the sofa at the end of a long day with a bag of ice on their aching feet.
Finally, why not surprise them with a reward? Maybe you could give people a gift card, or an extra day’s annual leave they can take next year. In the grand scheme of things, these will cost you very little, while having a big impact on wellbeing, motivation and productivity.
Communicate clearly and frequently
Over the next six weeks, employees will be more keen than ever to know about the impact their efforts are having on the business. Are sales figures in line with your targets? What’s the customer satisfaction score like? Technology allows you to get this message across to every employee, so keep them in the loop.
This isn’t something which needs to be cascaded via store managers and line managers. Direct messages from senior leaders creates a more open environment, and will help people become more invested. Don’t try to be overly corporate or use lots of jargon. Keep your messages clear and - as mentioned earlier - take everyone on the journey with you.
Create a feedback loop as well, where employees can let senior leaders know what is and isn’t working. You’d be amazed at how often people at the coalface of the business pick up things that others miss. This hectic period for retail is the ultimate example of working together as a team - so ensure that everyone on the team has their voice heard.