When it comes to tasks that take up significant time and energy, training new staff members certainly ranks toward the top of the list. Between finding, hiring, and preparing new workers, much of a merchant’s time can be spent simply getting staff up to speed.
Not only is it time-consuming, but replacing and training staff members is also expensive. A Center for American Progress study showed that the cost to replace a $10/hour retail employee is around $3,328 — which demonstrates the importance of retaining staff.
The training portion of this formula can be particularly tricky. If retail employees have lackluster preparation for their new job, then they may not be able to perform their duties well (or at all). Important tasks could go undone, or they could provide poor customer service to shoppers.
On the other hand, training a new employee drains resources away from running your business. And some sources say trainees take a lot longer to get up to speed than you might think. According to an article in Training Industry Quarterly, it takes at least one to two years before an employee is “fully productive.”
So, creating an efficient training program is obviously a wise investment. Merchants must ensure each staff member is thoroughly briefed on products and their responsibilities prior to starting their new position. Failure to do so can result in lost time, money, and plenty of unnecessary stress.
There are a number of ways to get your hands on a training program that makes sense for your business and your prospective employees. You can:
- hire a consulting firm to build a tailored program for your business; or,
- spend top dollar on already-existing retail training programs.
Or, if you want to cut out the middleman, you can try your hand at building a training process yourself. And while the thought of creating a robust training series might be an overwhelming prospect, there are a number of tools, software, and apps available to assist retail store owners with the training process. Here, we’ve rounded up a handful of our favorites to guide you through the process of getting your new staff ready to work.
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What is it: Team learning software/app
Why retailers like it: Online training for employees at multiple locations
One of the persistent gripes about learning management systems is that they force users to spend an exorbitant amount of time on tinkering with the platform itself rather than disseminating their courses. Lessonly aims to cut out the clunky user experience to make creating and distributing your own training courses simpler.
And while Lessonly wasn’t exclusively developed for retailers, the tool definitely has great applications for training in this industry. You can use Lessonly to create everything from a robust employee handbook up to a management training program. Used by the likes of Birchbox, Trunk Club, and ModCloth, Lessonly is one of the fan favorites among retailers who use e-learning platforms for training. And its strength is the ability for trainees to complete lessons from anywhere — so there’s no need for merchants to restrict training to work hours.
What is it: Online learning software
Why retailers like it: Intuitive tool for DIY training courses
If you’re an ambitious merchant who wants to DIY their training courses for employees, then MindFlash is another viable option for you.
Similar to Lessonly, MindFlash is a learning management system that enables merchants to create their own training course and administer it to new staff members. Trainees can access the modules from anywhere, and it’s easy to integrate components like section quizzes, social learning, and get real-time progress reports.
While this may sound fundamental, it can be difficult to find an e-learning tool that doesn’t require a programmer to implement. Because MindFlash is user-friendly, merchants won’t need to have a developer on call (which, again, saves you time and cash).
Retail Sales Associate (RSA) Certification
What is it: Training/certification program
Why retailers like it: Turn-key training program for retail staff across niches
Built and administered by the Retail Council of Canada, the Retail Sales Associate (RSA) Certification program is an ideal alternative for merchants who are on the prowl for turn-key courses that cover a broad spectrum of general sales topics.
And the RSA Certification delivers in that respect — the course includes reviews of customers services, sales, inventory, security, safety best practices, and maintaining your store’s appearance. In addition to going through the lesson plan, a wannabe-RSA must pass a multiple choice exam and log 600 hours working as an RSA to earn this title. Not only does this program leave much of the training basics in the hands of the pros (the Retail Council), but staff members walk away with a professional distinction they can use at future positions.
While this program targets more entry-level staff members, the Retail Council also offers a similar online Certified First Level Manager course.
Retail Training Services
What is it: Full retail training course catalogue
Why retailers like it: Merchants can purchase single courses a la carte
For those retailers who don’t have the time to put into creating their own course, Retail Training Services is a viable option to purchase already-existing lessons.
The online training course service offers the same benefits as MindFlash and Lessonly: online courses are accessible from anywhere, offer in-course assessments like quizzes, and track course completion. And the catalogue covers a spectrum of topics retail associates need to review, like loss prevention, on-the-job safety, and customer service best practices.
But, in addition to the ready-made lessons, the real draw of RTS is its a la carte course system. Merchants can simply purchase a single lesson on the needed topic rather than having to buy into the entire course program. The courses are also affordable, at around $69 for each 15- to 30-minute lesson.
What is it: Mobile point-of-sale system
Why retailers like it: Inventory management, POS, and customer management in a mobile app
Yes, one major module of your training program should include a crash course in your store’s point of sale system. Trainees need to know how to check out customers efficiently so that shoppers don’t abandon their purchases due to impatience.
But with a mobile point-of-sale tool like Shopify POS, merchants can empower new employees with knowledge that goes far beyond this basic proficiency. Training staff members on a mobile POS gives them an at-a-glance view of current inventory (both online and offline), which ensures they can answer customer queries about stock on the spot. Teaching them to use the customer profile feature helps them provide tailored customer service, like suggesting an item recommendation based on what a shopper last purchased.
Obviously, a mobile POS system can be an essential training and customer service tool for new employees — so integrating it into your training process is worth considering.
💡 PRO TIP: As your brand grows, so does the need to hire staff in specialized roles. Use Shopify POS staff roles and permissions to limit what staff can do without manager approval in your point of sale system—like modifying inventory levels, changing a product’s price, or applying discounts to a sale.
Moving Forward With Employee Training
While those are just a few of our preferred options for tools to train up your new staffers, there are plenty of options available for merchants eager to upgrade their new employee education.
Did we miss any of your favorite tools? Share your top resources you call upon when training your retail employees in the comments below.