Onboarding Challenges in Retail

Author Josh Harrisking Date Apr 27 2021

The past year has been nothing short of a mind-bending anomaly, and fewer industries have borne the brunt of the pandemic than restaurants and retail. As vaccinations abound, making it safer for consumers to dine and shop, retail establishments have been hastening hiring to prepare the increasing customer numbers. But onboarding these associates in enclosed spaces and as quickly as possible can add extra challenges to the already difficult new landscape of indoor activities.

Here are a few issues hiring managers may face when onboarding new retail team members and how to tackle each one.

Pain Point #1: General Concerns About Reopening

Some new hires may be apprehensive about joining or returning to an in-person working environment while the world is still in the midst of a pandemic. Acknowledge their fears by asking how they feel about being in close contact with other people after such a long period of minimal social contact.

One way to assuage some of their unease is to review newly implemented safety protocols your business has enacted since reopening and emphasize the strict enforcement of these protocols to protect both staff and patrons. These may include daily temperature checks for staff, mandatory masking, and installing hand-sanitizing stations throughout the space. Give your new hires as much information as possible about how the staff will manage sanitation and how to ensure shoppers are following the rules, as well.

Pain Point #2: New Hire Paperwork

Ensure new hires are aware of and have access to all company documents, training information, the employee handbook, and contact information for managers and fellow employees to get the support they need when they need it. Moving all resources onto a virtual portal and making it easy to access from a smartphone keeps information organized and accessible even beyond onboarding.

Upload new hire paperwork and implement digital signature capabilities so that your new hires can log in, sign the necessary documents, and get scheduled for their first shift right away.

Pain Point #3: Inclusivity and Engagement with Team Members

It may take additional time for new hires to feel like part of the team compared with the previous in-person onboarding processes. Sending a virtual welcome video or mailing a welcome package with branded swag can help prepare and excite them for their first day.

Devise ways to start the integration process even before the first day by linking existing associates with new hires via an online portal like Slack, a private Facebook Group, or another community forum, and encourage branching out into subgroups based on shared interests. With limited opportunities for in-person socializing, building these relationships online is the next best solution for cultivating team morale.

Pain Point #4: In-Person Training

The pandemic has obviously made it harder for groups of people to gather in any form, and this also applies to on-the-job training. Consider investing resources into alternative training methods like videos or Zoom sessions.

Most large brands will likely already have training videos covering topics like corporate policies and employee conduct. Encourage management to consider developing additional videos on a smaller scale or for individual store locations.

Beyond Day One

Onboarding doesn’t stop after the new hire’s first day. Maintain close communication with your associates to help them feel connected, heard, and understood as they acclimate to their new workspace.

Establish an open-door policy with new associates and remind them that if at any time they feel uncomfortable or unsure with their new working environment, they can come straight to you with their concerns. You might not be able to address all their fears, but creating an open space in which to have these discussions will foster trust and transparency for a positive working relationship moving forward.



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About the Author

Director, Technical Program Management

Josh Harrisking

Josh Harrisking is the Director of Technical Program Management at Fountain.