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Combat turnover challenges with the right retail onboarding strategy

A retail onboarding strategy that targets employee engagement and retention from the outset can be a vital tool to combat turnover challenges. LEO Learning’s Account Director for Retail, Greg Watson, explains why.

The retail sector is navigating a prolonged period of digital disruption. The increase in online shopping activity has meant retailers have had to react quickly and make large-scale changes to the way they operate – or risk getting left behind.

Brand and customer experience have also become critical. Retailers now aim to provide a seamless, ‘omnichannel’ experience between their websites and apps, stores and social media channels.

a retail onboarding strategy combats turnover challenges

A strong retail onboarding strategy is key to achieving wider business goals

The entrenched challenge of high staff turnover – rates are currently around 40% and 60% in the UK and US respectively – complicates these broader challenges for the retail sector.

As Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson once said, “If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.”

Onboarding is one of the first touchpoints where retailers can engage new employees and steer them into a fruitful and long-lasting career with their organisation.

What’s the impact of high turnover in retail?

From an efficiency perspective, high turnover rates result in increased spend on recruitment and time spent training new staff. It’s estimated that the total cost of replacing a single retail employee in the UK can be more than £20,000.

But perhaps more significantly, every employee who chooses to leave represents a lost development opportunity.

Developing staff internally strengthens the message to other employees that there are development opportunities and rewards for strong performance – it’s a circular effect. When employees see others progressing, they’re more inclined to stay themselves.

Customer experience is also affected by high turnover. A constant churn of staff creates inconsistencies in the experience customers receive. Managers also have to prioritise training new staff at the expense of addressing other challenges.

High staff retention will benefit customer experience as long-term employees utilise valuable experience to full effect. They can take an advanced understanding of product ranges and customers to other areas of the business.

a better onboarding strategy creates a better customer experience

What should a retail onboarding strategy target to reduce turnover?

A retail onboarding strategy that aims to address high staff turnover should be designed to create strong employee engagement and share future development opportunities. It should also aim to create a consistent, relevant and personalised learning experience for all employees.

Here are three strategies to consider.

1) Leverage the opportunity for engagement

Successful onboarding strategies communicate the value of the new employee to the company. Video introductions from senior executive level staff are one effective way to make this impression on new recruits.

The culture and values of the company also need to be delivered in an engaging and interactive way. Employees who have a clear understanding of a company’s values and goals are more likely to be able to recognise the value of their role to the wider company strategy.

An effective onboarding strategy doesn’t view onboarding as a one-off event. Onboarding is a process that takes place before the employee begins their role through to their first six months at the business.

At LEO Learning, our onboarding methodologies recognise that targeted, paced touchpoints are key to prevent employee disengagement in that critical initial employment period.

2) Communicate development opportunities

A recent survey of retail workers found that 18% left their most recent position as they did not think a promotion was likely, and 12% said they left to gain a better salary.

It’s vital to challenge the idea that there is a lack of development and promotion opportunities upfront and clearly communicate the range of career paths an employee could follow within your business.

Consider creating a portal where learners can explore the different careers and opportunities within your business. Implement bespoke diagnostics to add further intelligence to the learning journey, directing learners to information and content that’s relevant to them. Tools such as quizzes and questionnaires can also be an excellent way to engage employees in exploring careers that are suitable for their particular skills and experience.

While there is high staff turnover in retail, many retailers do have staff who have been at the business their entire working lives, progressing their careers from the shop floor. Video interviews featuring these team members are a great way to show career development success stories within your organisation.

3) Create efficiency and consistency

An effective retail onboarding strategy should create a consistent, accessible experience for all employees, wherever they are in the business.

Digital learning can give the core elements of your onboarding programme consistency as well as reducing the time spent in face-to-face training sessions. Mobile and bite-sized learning can also empower new employees to learn at a time that’s best for them, without being constrained by training capacity.

Consider that new recruits may be coming from different backgrounds, or entering different roles. Using a diagnostic tool can be a great way to create an onboarding programme that is personalised to the employee’s knowledge and experience.

Measuring the business impact of a retail onboarding strategy

A successful onboarding strategy should have a demonstrable effect on performance indicators such as turnover rates and internal promotion figures.

To measure the impact your onboarding strategy is having on the wider goals of your business, benchmark these KPIs at the outset of the project and measure changes during and after the onboarding strategy has been fully implemented.

If you found this interesting, you might want to listen to our podcast ‘How to create blended learning programmes for the retail sector’. Listen here

a strong retail onboarding strategy benefits wider business goals

Want to find out more about how LEO Learning can help you with your retail onboarding strategy? Contact us today.

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