December 1, 2016

Ease employee stress during the holiday shopping season

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One trillion dollars. Does that number make your heart start racing a little bit? If you’re a retail employee, it might that’s how much Deloitte predicts in total holiday sales for 2016. This record-breaking amount represents a 4 percent increase over 2015, and breaks down to about $426 on gifts and $572 on non-gift items (like décor and clothing) per American household, according to Deloitte’s 2016 consumer survey.

It’s a significant amount for most people’s budgets, and one that comes with pressure your customers want to find the perfect gifts for their loved ones, and in a fairly short period of time, when stores are at their busiest.

Of course, the stress isn’t reserved for shoppers. Employee stress abounds this time of year, too both those who work for your store year-round and those who are brought on to help handle the seasonal chaos.

It’s important to minimize the stress to your employees from Thanksgiving to Christmas, not only for their physical and mental health, but for the fiscal health of your stores. Stressed-out employees are more likely to make mistakes in areas like currency management. Forty-nine percent of shoppers plan to use cash this year, making it even more important to know how your money is being handled and managed. But don’t let the increased cash volume keep them off the floor either — more time spent in the back office means less time helping customers find their perfect gifts and get checked out quickly.

Fortunately, there are measures you can take to make this holiday season go as smoothly as possible, for shoppers and employees alike. Two considerations Gallup suggests are:

  • Setting expectations before the chaos arrives. How will holiday processes differ from off-season processes? Will you need to keep more cash on hand, implement mobile check-out at your busiest locations, or require more staff per shift than usual? Make sure employees won’t need to learn new tasks on the fly and aren’t blindsided by policies that differ from the norm so they don’t get flustered while they’re on the clock.

  • Paying extra attention to your managers. Research shows retail management is responsible for up to 70% of variance in employee engagement. Don’t allow your store managers to get so caught up in sales numbers and stressed-out customers that they forget to check in with the employees who form the pulse of the store.

I’d like to add a few additional considerations:

  • Rallying your employees around common goals. To make sure your holiday help is as invested as your year-round employees, unify everyone around both corporate goals and personal performance goals during the holiday season. This helps bring together the seasonal and regular employees, making store the run as a cohesive unit and presenting a consistent front for your customers.

  • Making sure your stores are prepared for cash demand. Emergency change orders are expensive, and so are unnecessary armored car pickups. The Federal Reserve reports that consumers demand more cash during the holiday season, and of course that will end up passing through your stores. Ensure you understand the cash on hand your stores will need and set policies specific to the holiday shopping season to avoid cross-shipping and idle cash. This will save your employees last-minute change order hassles and unnecessary cash handling.

  • Automating your in-store currency management. Automation of time-consuming manual processes means your stressed-out employees have fewer opportunities for error, fewer tasks to worry about, and more time to spend face-to-face with holiday shoppers. Plus, corporate visibility of cash position and store performance on a store, district and regional level means you can keep closer track of holiday sales and potential problems.

Your employees don’t need to dread the holiday shopping season. Keep them engaged, set their expectations for the season in advance and make currency management as easy as possible. Then employees can begin to see the weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve as an opportunity to deliver exceptional customer experience and drive the year’s highest sales numbers.




Image: iStock