Times are very tough in retail right now. While a select few sectors boom, furloughs and layoffs abound for most, taking both physical and mental tolls. How does it all end? If history is our guide, pent up demand for many goods and services still exists. And while consumer sentiment may have taken a beating, retail WILL return. The question is, which of your best employees will?
Recruitment marketing has been a concept for quite a while now, finding its place on the Tech landscape alongside traditional recruiting and engagement platforms. The purpose of recruitment marketing, according to HR Technologist, is to apply “the principles of modern marketing, such as omni-channel communication, analytics, hyper-targeted messaging, and technology-enabled automation to attract, engage, and nurture passive talent by reinforcing the employer brand or the employer value proposition (EVP).”
Essentially, the way to get the best employees is to develop brand preference. Home Depot is a retailer that does an excellent job of recruitment marketing, offering a fantastic candidate hub, communication tools, and more.
So, you bring your employees on with rich onboarding tools, train them with a learning management system, engage them with an engagement platform, and manage them with a long list of performance management tools (payroll, etc.) And when the time comes, how should they depart? Many companies now take advantage of dedicated software and processes when offboarding employees.
In retail, an official offboarding process is very common and usually involves steps for “quick quits”; those staff that quit soon after hire. Some large retailers utilize predictive models to identify and remediate employees before they leave in efforts to preserve ROI. According to Harvard Business Review, as many as half of hourly employees leave within 120 days of hire, creating an expensive problem that offboarding aims to address.
In the age of COVID-19, a combination of recruitment marketing and offboarding has become critical for retailers. If this is done well, it helps them rehire valuable staff once stay-at-home orders are lifted. Quick rebounding of staff will be critical to get the economy moving again.
According to HBR, “Rehiring is a real and often smart option. Companies who bring back former employees benefit from their deep familiarity with culture and processes, saving the expense of having to train an entirely new hire (at a cost of as much as six to nine months of the departing person’s salary). The rehire also brings with them the experience, expertise, and contacts they have gained while away.”
A recent article in the New York Times highlights the importance of maintaining a relationship with retail employees. In the article FranNet CEO Jania Bailey is quoted saying “Anyone who's trying to lay off workers is already thinking about how they can bring them back."
Continuing to engage with employees that have been laid off can create goodwill, which in turn can help your business remain solvent. Many smaller retailers are gaining local and nationwide publicity for their solidarity with their employees.
New Orleans non-profit POB United is currently serving “free meals to laid-off service industry workers while paying local food companies for their goods and employing restaurant people to prepare it all.” Their efforts are gaining a lot of attention in the media.
No easy task
Maintaining relationships with hourly employees is not easy.
“There is a strong possibility that if the crisis goes on long enough, employer-employee relationships will begin to fray,” said Martha Gimbel, an economist at Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic organization.
First and foremost are the laws surrounding communication. While furloughing employees helps them maintain benefits and keeps them technically on your payroll, they cannot work. Under the so-called “No Work Rule,” furloughed employees are absolutely banned from doing any work on behalf of their employer whatsoever. “A furloughed employee can't so much as take a work phone call or answer work emails. Even five minutes breaks the No Work Rule.”
So how do you keep connected and maybe even keep your once and future employees’ skills up?
Help them. The good news about the no-work rule is that you can help your employees while helping your company. Communications are allowed, but the engagement cannot be for the benefit of the employer and cannot be work-related. So, a retailer can communicate as far as it is for the benefit of the furloughed employee. For example, courses to acquire new skills or advance skills to help get a better job is allowed. Providing entertainment and health information, like how to survive COVID-19, is also permissible.
You can do this with webinars (please see our post 8 Webinar Tips for Brands Training Retail Employees), Facebook groups not sponsored by you, or even investigate at-will engagement apps with learning materials you can provide, such as that powered by SellPro.
Pay them. You can pay hourly furloughed staff for some tasks to help them keep up their skills. This is somewhat hard to keep track of, but works.
Here’s our recommendation for how SellPro can help retailers deal with this quagmire.
Create a free, secure SellPro account. SellPro offers a free Enterprise plan upgrade to help retailers get through the crisis and until consumer access to stores is no longer restricted.
Build your own micro-courses to help engage your furloughed employees. For example, a generic course on sales skills, (i.e. not "the (brand) way to sell at retail", but "Sales skills for the modern world", etc.). Leverage many types of communication tools like webinars, forums, and chats where you can provide fun, entertaining, and rewarding interactions. Just remember, it cannot be "work." The interactions cannot be mandatory and they cannot be for the benefit of the retailer.
Retailers may choose to pay their furloughed employees for participating in the SellPro app with content that is work-related training. Content such as “polish your skills to do “x”, gain product knowledge, or whatnot.” The sentiment can be that you are trying to help out a little by supplementing furloughed employees’ income. In addition, when using SellPro's app, you have the potential to offer other participation incentives through rewards supplied by you or by your vendor partners.
Retailers can also have a separate set of content for non-furloughed employees for training, motivation, engagement, and information purposes.
To learn more about how you can stay connected with your retail employees, get started today!
Written by SellPro
We write to help you train retail personnel better and increase retail sales. Sign up to get notified every time we post something new.