Knowledgeable employees elevate your customer experience and make your business a destination your customers will return to. When determining what strategic initiatives your business should address first, your employees are a great place to start. To build a customer-winning team, it is important to create a training plan with specific goals and evaluate its success.
Listed below are 5 suggestions to consider when building a training program that creates a team of best-in-class employees:
Have training options that appeal to everyone. Everyone learns differently and at varying speeds, so build in some flexibility to allow your team members to work at their own pace. Use a blend of computer-based training, person-to-person instruction, and hands-on training. Be aware of generational differences that can influence learning preferences and be prepared to adapt as needed. Remember that advanced skills are anchored in a working knowledge of basic skills, so having different training levels allows your team to grow and build upon what they have learned.
Use every available resource to support your training needs. Manufacturers are often willing to provide product-specific training for their products. Take advantage of this perk whenever possible, as it builds great knowledge and translates into credibility with your customers. Leverage any free educational tools offered by professional business associations your company may have a membership with. Consider creating a product expert program from your team of experienced employees. This can drive key initiatives and focus sales efforts on products or categories you seek to highlight. When using existing employees as trainers, it is a good idea to take the time to train the trainer before moving forward. Teaching your trainers how to best transfer knowledge will ensure your message is being consistently delivered. As the business owner, you have the most to share. Lead though example and show your team exactly what you expect.
Find time for training and use downtime wisely. Having training resources available in different formats and with various time requirements will allow your employees to learn while on the move or waiting for customer traffic. Use morning (prior to open) and evening (after close) team huddles to educate and inform without interrupting the customer experience. This is a great opportunity to complete short training sessions, like procedural updates or product releases that everyone benefits from knowing. Schedule 15-30 minutes of overlap time between work shifts. This will allow the existing team to share any concerns or action items with the new team coming in for the day. Sessions that include food or treats and fun learning are viewed positively and can be a retention tool as much as they are an educational tool.
Have a well-defined employee mentor program. A successful mentor program provides your new employees with useful information about more than just how to do their jobs. It provides them insight into the culture of your business and gives them a direct connection to someone who can share key best practices. Partnering one of your more experienced team members with a newer employee is a great opportunity to create camaraderie among the team, which will lead to a better overall working environment. Mentor programs are also a great way to develop potential growth candidates for elevated roles within your business.
Clearly define your goal and evaluate the success of your program regularly. If your goal is to have the most knowledgeable employees in the industry, is that clear enough? Achieving this goal is great, but if your customers don’t notice, is it really a win for your business? Ultimately, you want your business to be known to your customers for having the most knowledgeable employees—specifying that in your goal is important. Employee turnover is just a fact of life in retail, so regularly validating your success is necessary. The best way to know what your customers are thinking is to simply ask them.
Being a business that is known for having knowledgeable employees is a huge differentiator in today's competitive retail market. Providing training and education to your team in a way they appreciate shows you care and understand their importance to your business. I firmly believe the best way to take care of your customers is to first take care of your employees.