Getting your associates ready to reopen stores

Discussion
Getty Images/LeoPatrizi
Jun 24, 2020
Kevin Graff

Through a special arrangement, what follows is an article from the blog of Graff Retail.

Slowly, stores are being given the go-ahead to reopen. It’s time to make sure the retail staff is coming back from the best place possible. Here are five things to support the re-onboarding process:

Reach out and connect with your team: Approach this from a human perspective. Ask them what they have been up to. What has their family been up to? Share how you handled quarantining. This is strictly the process of trying to establish more rapport. Get them comfortable with coming back to work and being part of the team.

Acknowledge their fear: You don’t need to solve all their fears, rather create a space where they can be heard. Your team will also have uncertainties regarding job security when they come back. If swept under the table, they become bigger issues moving forward. The more you talk about the fear and uncertainty, the more you begin to normalize it and it becomes more comfortable for everyone to deal with.

Establish trust: We want to establish trust from both an emotional and physical perspective. Emotional trust is letting your employees know it’s okay to talk, share ideas and make mistakes without fear of reprisal. This essentially lets them know that everything’s going to be okay and, as the leader, you’ve got their back. Physical trust is letting your employees know how you are going to keep them safe.

Learning now: Just imagine how much better your store would perform if your employees came back with more knowledge about the products they sell, higher sales skills, better service and technical skills. Not only would you see an improvement in sales, but your employees would be much more comfortable and confident.

Set expectations: What’s going to happen? What’s it going to look like? What’s the process going to be? Let your team know about the measures you have taken and your expectations for them.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Where do you see the biggest challenges for retail managers who are onboarding retail staff as stores reopen? What suggestions would you add to those mentioned in the article?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"I’ll add another: empower associates. Nothing about this time is normal, and situations are going to throw curveballs every day. "
"I think being clear in communication and over-communicating will be critical during this time."
"I think the two most important items to add would be: be prepared for changes and demonstrate flexibility."

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10 Comments on "Getting your associates ready to reopen stores"


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David Naumann
BrainTrust

These are all great suggestions for preparing staff for reopening stores. Things I would add to the list would be what the store management is doing to make it a more physically safe environment for employees and consumers, such as face masks provided by the store for employees, social distancing policies for customers and staff, sanitation procedures, etc.

Phil Chang
BrainTrust

I think being clear in communication and over-communicating will be critical during this time. One consistent theme throughout watching COVID-19 happen throughout the world is governments, groups, and individuals struggling to articulate how people should be conducting themselves during this crisis. Retail staff are going to be dealing with all manner of people, so keeping expectations and guidelines clear is going to be really important.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

I would be sure to teach them how to deescalate conflict with irate customers. We are seeing a rash of angry customer moments as we start to reopen. Problems with social distancing, masks and just pent up, free flowing anger. We need to be sure to protect our associates and guests from this pandemic madness by scripting responses to situations and instructing how to identify, deescalate and respond appropriately.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

For the retail staff at the stores I have visited over the past few weeks, the fear factor is a big deal. There is still a lot of staff that have not returned yet as they are afraid that even the best practices in place will not be enough.
This will take a lot of patience and trust on both sides to ensure that employees feel safe when coming to work.

Ryan Grogman
BrainTrust
In addition to the great list outlined by Kevin, I think the two most important items to add would be: be prepared for changes and demonstrate flexibility. The old saying “the only constant in life is change” rings true as retail stores open. Even in the past month, we have seen stores open with one approach, modify it soon thereafter, and even close doors again in the wake of spiking numbers. Being aware of the fact that change WILL happen as retailers find the right approach will help both management and associates respond to this change WHEN it happens. Flexibility will also be paramount in not only dealing with store or chain-wide change, but flexibility in dealing with associates as well. Store employees may have one attitude and level of comfort when stores reopen and then there may be incidents in their personal life or with co-workers that may impact their views on health and safety. Maintaining open dialogue and being flexible to these shifts in comfort will go a long way to maintaining the… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

I’ll add another: empower associates. Nothing about this time is normal, and situations are going to throw curveballs every day. Empower associates to step up and make decisions when needed, and over-communicate. Ideally, managers will be able to capture those associate innovations and relay them back to district managers.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

While everyone seems to be excited to reopen stores, it is critically important for everyone – staff and customers alike to appreciate that the COVID-19 pandemic rages on! It seems that many of us forget this reality and there is a group of citizens that believe wearing a mask is a political statement. Planning and educating your front-line staff as to how to deal with these select few irresponsible (and arrogant) individuals must be an important element in every reopening playbook. Retailers should also empower and protect their store associates with a mobile tool to capture and “datalog” these rogue outbursts and behaviors on a secure platform – not unlike body cams being used by police departments.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Trust and transparency as well as continued open communications between management and the store associates will be critical during the reopening and what we consider our ever-changing way of life. The post-COVID-19 store associate engagement model is changing by the day and even the hour.

Retailers, restaurants, grocery stores, and all customer-facing businesses have to closely align with the local government’s rules and regulations on an ongoing basis. The ultimate goal is to keep not only the customers safe, but also their valuable store associates who are now on the front-lines.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

I’m already seeing it. Employees are not keeping with the protocols their employers are mandating. We need to do all of the ideas shared in this article and emphasize the importance of compliance when it comes to health and safety. This is for the employees’ benefit as well as the customers. A diligent adherence to the health and safety protocols will create trust and confidence for everyone.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Clear, concise and consistent commitment to executing a published statement of guidelines will make it easier for staff to follow. We are still seeing complex directions with mixed levels of execution from store to store. Consistency is key.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I’ll add another: empower associates. Nothing about this time is normal, and situations are going to throw curveballs every day. "
"I think being clear in communication and over-communicating will be critical during this time."
"I think the two most important items to add would be: be prepared for changes and demonstrate flexibility."

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