Scaling to the Holidays—Best Practices for Training Seasonal Employees

Successful businesses need to package the right people, content, and format to deliver effective training to seamlessly tackle the holiday rush.

As the holiday season approaches, businesses are preparing for an influx of shoppers and in order to keep up, an influx of seasonal staff. According to the National Retail Federation’s forecast, retailers are expected to hire between 640,000 and 690,000 seasonal workers this holiday season. But despite the hustle and bustle of this time of year, customers will still expect a seamless shopping experience. Scaling and training seasonal workers to meet shoppers’ demands can be a challenge for businesses working with short timelines, maxed budgets, and various locations. Successful training programs should bring together the right people and content in an accessible format to ensure retailers and seasonal workers are prepared for the holiday rush.

While businesses are often hard-pressed for time preparing for the holiday season, the most important thing a company can do in training seasonal employees is taking the time to plan. Businesses cannot teach seasonal employees everything, so it is important to determine the key skills that should be covered to ensure consistent customer service during this busy time of year. To get started, companies should look to their top-performing, full-time employees to establish themes to be addressed in the training, as well as topics that are critical to employee success and customer satisfaction.

Streamline and Simplify Training

No matter how simple or complex a company’s holiday preparation may be, it is important to streamline and simplify the training content so that it is engaging and actionable. One such solution is e-learning. With e-learning, digital solutions that address key needs are seamlessly brought to individuals—no matter what his level or her location. Whether educating call center employees in customer service or in-store associates on point-of-sale systems, training that is accessible across myriad  devices can help ensure staff is prepared for the holiday rush.

Many organizations often ask, “What about small companies that do not have the resources to execute an e-learning curriculum for seasonal employees?” Today, most companies and employees have mobile phones or similar devices at their disposal. One simple, cost-effective method of e-learning is filming one- to two-minute videos using these devices. These short selfie-style videos can feature current employees explaining key topics or providing quick demos of necessary holiday skills. For a housewares provider, this might be how to correctly fold towels, organize a display, or provide gift wrapping services for in-store purchases. For call centers training temporary workers, this might be short videos explaining how employees should approach common and difficult scenarios with customers. For larger organizations, this approach can be scaled. Videos can be produced in a studio, animated, and put into a learning management system (LMS).

Determine Accessibility

When developing an e-learning platform, it is important to consider how, when and where employees will access the training. In many cases, seasonal employees will not have access to a company’s internal servers and devices. If companies want to build a more formalized training that is housed on internal platforms, IT may need to be involved. To expedite the process, businesses can develop training that is accessible on devices available to everyone such as smartphones, tablets, and personal computers. E-learning videos can be published to a private, password-protected YouTube channel. This offers multiple opportunities for the way workers can search for videos by scenario, task, location, and role, and can be accessed from any location, making it an ideal solution for remote employees. Videos also can be published within a company’s public-facing corporate or HR-focused YouTube channel.

Tap into Current and Past Employee Expertise

Leveraging current, top-performing employees for e-learning curricula can be a great way to bridge online and offline seasonal employee training. During in-person onboarding, these internal experts can explain the key skills seasonal workers will need to be successful. This human interaction can be expanded digitally in a cost-effective and easy way through the short learning videos accessed on personal devices.

Finally, one of the key things a company can do in preparing seasonal workers is to try to bring back previous seasonal workers and retrain them with the latest information. If a company had a successful group of workers the previous holiday season, it can capitalize on their previous experience while reducing training time. But how can companies achieve this when there is a long lapse of time between holiday seasons? Developing a private Facebook group or a community page within a company’s Website can help to keep seasonal employees engaged long after the holiday season. Providing small incentives also can motivate seasonal employees to return. While these efforts may only result in five or 10 percent return rates for seasonal employees, it is an efficient, low-cost way to minimize training and increase customer service during the busy season.

With the holiday season nearing, retailers should take the time now to prepare temporary employees. It is important to decipher what skills are most critical for seasonal employees to learn and what method—whether mobile devices or LMS—fits with available resources. Successful businesses should package the right people, content, and format to deliver effective training to seamlessly tackle the holiday rush.

Doug Stephen is senior VP, Learning division, at CGS. CGS’ Enterprise Learning Group serves as a trusted partner to many of the world’s most dynamic companies, delivering innovative, custom learning solutions that are essential to scaling their people, processes and performance. CGS’ custom professional development solutions range from interactive game-based e-learning to transformational technology rollouts. Each solution is designed to keep clients’ employee-related business fundamentals strong in today’s ever-changing corporate environment.