How to engage and motivate seasonal retail workers

By Guy Chiswick, Managing Director, UK & Ireland at Speakap

Summer is here and advertised retail vacancies have increased. Although the high-street is evolving in unexpected ways, retailers are still eager to hire top talent in anticipation for the summer rush, particularly on flexible contracts. With summer sales drawing near, retailers will no doubt be preparing for the surge in footfall they hope to witness – with salesfloor advisors, stock room assistants and delivery drivers all employed on a needs-must basis.

However, seasonal workers might just be looking for an income during the school or university holidays, and won’t necessarily be committed to delivering their best performance as they aren’t planning to pursue a career in that function.

If retailers want to make the most of the seasonal peak, they must ensure their store teams are doing their best work in order to deliver an excellent shopping experience and keep customers coming back. So, how can merchants effectively motivate their short-term workers to put their heart and soul in their customer service?

Invest in onboarding

Although it might seem like a time-heavy investment, retailers should focus on onboarding temporary workers just as effectively as they would permanent staff. The initial training is crucial, especially because the seasonal hires won’t necessarily have the time to learn as they go along. Starting a new job in a store which is about to be hit a by seasonal traffic peak can be overwhelming – what with the terror of having customers desperately searching for the last item in their size and not knowing where to find it, or having no idea how to process a refund at the till. It’s critical for retailers to engage the new hires from the get-go. For example, they can invite them to use the company comms platform, encouraging them to connect with their new colleagues, reach out for help and consult learning material shared on the platform.

Giving seasonal workers a warm and enthusiastic welcome can also help to make them feel like they’re part of the team – even if just for a brief period. Encouraging them to send a company-wide message to introduce themselves on the internal social network can go a long way. This will result in increased team spirit – which can be of great help to cope with a hectic, busy shop floor: a shared ethos will lead to a better performance.

Support and recognise

Today’s young workers seek a sense of purpose and community – whether they’re full-time or temps. Employees in the retail industry are no different. Working long, tiring shifts including unsociable hours, they need to know their hard work is valuable in order to soldier on, particularly during the sales period. That’s why floor managers must do their best to recognise their successes, whether they be big or small, and instil a sense of accomplishment. This tactic simply cannot be limited to permanent staff. To ensure seasonal workers are motivated to advise and support shoppers to the best of their abilities, employers should make them feel like they’re making their own unique contribution to the store’s success during their brief time with the company. Sharing cross-business messages celebrating a big sale they closed or positive customer feedback they received can play a key role in achieving this.

In an industry like retail, workers are the ultimate extension of the brand – by dealing with customers with skill, enthusiasm and determination, they are responsible for projecting a positive image of the organisation as well as propelling it toward hitting its sales targets. In order for the sales team to deliver a memorable experience for their customers, retailers must provide them with the necessary tools to do so. This includes onboarding and training them effectively, creating a collaborative team environment and incentivising them by rewarding their successes.

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