Retail Onboarding Best Practices

Retail Onboarding Best Practices

Effectively onboarding new hires is definitely an opportunity in the retail industry. The assumption being, a lot of times, that the team member is a “revolving door employee” and quickly jump ship if recruited by another company or continue looking for a job that pays them slightly more. Did you know though that “Only 12% of employees leave a job for more pay” (Source: TalentWise). Therefore, the opportunity to create a career-focused environment that delivers meaning & purpose is missed and there is no compelling reason for them to stay. If you have a program for engaging your new hire from the candidate experience while interviewing through the training process you stand a greater chance of retaining your new hire and supporting their growth into a highly productive team member that bring a high-level of value, contribution, collaboration, and innovation to the retail organization.

If your company does not have a structured program in place it is absolutely something that you can create at your Region, District or Store level that will benefit morale and engagement inside your area of responsibility that will have a great return on your team’s retention and productivity. After you have job offered the new hire and they have accepted here are things you can do to get assimilate them into your team and set them up for success:

 Components Of A Successful, Fun, And Engaging Onboarding Program

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  • Send a fun questionnaire
    Through Survey Monkey you can sign up for a free account, this will allow you to ask a few questions that will help you learn more about your candidate and prepare for their first day with you:
  • Question Suggestions:
    • What is your favorite candy?
    • What is your favorite kind of snack food?
    • What is your favorite color?
    • What is your biggest strength that you bring to your new role?
    • What is it that you most hope to learn in the first 30 days?
    • How do you like to be recognized?
    • What would you like your co-workers to know about you?
    • What is your best method of learning?
    • What are your favorite qualities in leaders you’ve worked with?
    • Who are the two closest people to you in your life?
    • On a scale of 1-10, how creative are you?

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  • Create a Region, District, or Store Culture Video
    Create a quick video (10 minutes or so) that you can upload to or other Social Media platforms – taking the new hire on a quick store tour or office and having some of your team members talk about what they enjoy about their job, the company, the stores leaders, etc. You can share this link with your new hire or candidates to give them a sneak peek into the business prior to their first day and bring them a sense of what to expect.
  • Send Them a Fun, Customized Welcome Packet
    This can be a virtual packet if your HR “paperwork” is electronic. This should contain things like a welcome video from the team, information on what to expect their first day, information about paydays/pay periods, blackout periods, and their first week onboarding/training. Provide them with some insight into their team: How long the team members have been with the company and what their strengths are. Keep it positive and fun! This should also include any company links, dress code guidelines, and what to expect their first week. Share the company brand statement, values, and vision in this packet even if you have shared it before. Also share the Social Media pages so that your new hire can like or follow the company pages. Finally – include your contact information and work-related Social Media links so they feel comfortable contacting you should they need anything. If your retail organization is open to investing in automating the new hire paperwork process this is a great way to make sure that the onboarding process is fun and show values to the employees time and development starting the moment they walk into the building. This should also include their email address and temporary password, a map of the building, and a who’s who contact list.
  • Their 30/60/90 Day Learning Plan
    On their first day make sure you review with the new hire what they can expect from their first three months. This is where you review personal and store goals, metric standards, department(s) of responsibility and who their mentor will be leading them through the process. Most companies have a standard set of training modules so these are the priority and you can infuse them with your expectations and standards in appropriate areas.
  • Have a Party For Their First Day
    You have already found out through the survey their favorite color, snack foods, and other workplace/personal preferences. Have something ready for them. Here are some suggestions:

    • Have a snack bar ready for the team on the new hires first day so that during breaks they can stay in the store and snack and energize themselves with fun, healthy snacks
    • Have the team that the new hire is working with start 30 minutes early that day so that introductions can take place and there is time for some Q&A. Make sure that the new hire’s mentor will be working with them their entire shift that day. Take a team photo – post it to Social Media introducing your newest addition to your team
    • Through the questionnaire you should have found out what the new hire’s favorite way to learn is. Do they take notes? If so, have a notebook and pen in their favorite color; are they a tactile learner, if so – make sure their mentor understands that they have to “do” the task in order to learn it (and make sure they have a mentor that can let go of the reigns and allow the new hire to learn their way)
    • At Cotton Candy everyone got to pick a new outfit their first day, we also had a First Day Completed gift bag with their favorite snack food, chamomile tea, a relaxation candle, their favorite candy, and customized t-shirt in it ( CustomizedGirl for our t-shirts) – we also found out who their two closest friends or family members were and they got some company swag as well! Finally, we also served mimosas at the beginning of their day to celebrate our new relationship! (We ended our season with only a 7% turnover rate.)
    • Include their family in the swag – this will help communicate that you place importance on and support their lives outside of the workplace.

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  • Conduct scheduled and consistent one-on-one check-ins
    This is a great way to start the “stay interview” engagement practice with them. Here are some great questions for the first of these dialogues:

    • When you are driving to work for your shifts what are you excited about?
    • What are you least excited for?
    • What have been your biggest a-ha moments so far?
    • What do you want to learn more of at this point?
    • For future new hires, what do you think we can do more of to help them assimilate?
    • For future new hires, what do you think we can do less of to help them assimilate?
    • Tell me about the last time you were recognized for a contribution?
    • Remember to provide feedback to the leadership and the new hire’s mentor and recognize the great job they have done getting the new hire started and help them make adjustments to the onboarding process to give the new hire more/less of what they need to help them learn based on their feedback.
  • A 45 Day Check In Survey
    Using SurveyMonkey have the team member complete a survey about their onboarding. Some suggested questions for this survey:

    • On a scale of 1-10 (10 being extremely positive) do you feel like your workplace encourages workplace relationships?
    • On a scale of 1-10 how likely would you be to recommend this company to a friend or family member based on your experience?
    • On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate the recognition you receive for your contributions?
    • On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate the peer-to-peer recognition at your store?
    • On a scale 1-10 do you feel as though you are consistently being developed for growth?
    • On a scale of 1-10 are you enjoying your role?
    • Do you feel as though you are being recognized based on Company Values & Vision?
    • Would you consider __________ a “Best Place To Work”?
    • Keep this survey short & simple to encourage completion. The key to any survey or request for feedback is to action the feedback you get. Share the information. Put a focus on the things you do well to encourage growth and consistency in those areas and recognize the people who made the experience great. Make adjustments to the areas that score lower – communicate these things to the team not as a negative, but as an opportunity and provide direction as to how to improve upon those opportunity areas.

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Encouraging honest & open communication will ensure that you keep and maintain your team members with the highest productivity. In doing so you will also foster a culture of open feedback where team members feel comfortable engaging in dialogues with leadership to ensure a respectful and proactive environment. Remember, it typically takes 9-12 months for a new hire to become 100% productive so you will need to continue the development process and have an actionable, measurable plan for your new hire to work through for that period of time.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail. Published writer. Frequent Podcast Guest. Speaker. Twenty year [oy vey!] retailer. I am passionate about leadership development and workplace culture. 646 246 1380 | [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

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