November 18.2018, 7.41pm

How HR can create big ROI on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have turned into the ultimate stress test for any retailer.

Chaos on the shop floor, complicated rostering needs and a continuous stream of online sales require excellent planning and even better execution. Companies who pull it off will reap the rewards, as over £5 billion in sales is expected across the four days.

Consumers pour in for the deals of the year, but businesses are only able to turn a profit if all aspects of operations are firing on all cylinders. Retail HR and business leaders shouldn’t settle for a discount workforce – with the right planning and digital tools, they can exceed expectations and ensure the big weekend runs smoothly.

Why Black Friday and Cyber Monday are challenging for HR leaders

Every HR leader is aware of the obstacles facing them each year once the weather starts to get cold. Hiring ramps up in the retail, logistics and warehousing industries to accommodate the short but sharp influx in demand.

In 2018, the National Retail Federation estimates that the retail industry alone could see upwards of 650,000 new employees enter its workforce specifically for the holidays. It represents a number of significant challenges for HR leaders:

  • Finding the right people that have the professional and personal skills necessary for their roles.
  • Training and onboarding new members at scale and very quickly.
  • Managing the resulting rosters and timesheets efficiently and accounting for potential demand.
  • Ensuring that evolving budgetary restraints and profit margins are taken into account during resourcing.

Black Friday has traditionally been confined to bricks-and-mortar stores, which has largely shaped retailers’ hiring and rostering strategies. But that’s changed over the past decade and even though 34 percent of shoppers plan on travelling to the stores, another 34 percent plan on sitting at home and browsing online.

As a result, there’s a sharp focus on positions in the fulfilment and distributions parts of the customer lifecycle. Even a minor disruption due to absenteeism, a lack of productivity or a new team member simply not knowing how to do their job well could lead to lengthy delivery delays and a loss of consumer confidence.

Worn out by the demanding environment of the holidays, even the most experienced HR leaders can make a mistake when it comes to workforce management.

The stakes are high during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and pairing proven strategies with equally effective digital tools can help companies avoid common missteps that turn a winning weekend on its face.

How to position a workforce for success during Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Hiring, training, time and attendance, rostering and employee self-service portals are critical aspects of a business during the holidays. Organisations need new strategies that support the increased need for resourcing and accommodate emerging consumer demands.

Workforce management platforms give HR the tools they need to gain a comprehensive, analytics-based overview of their people and make tactical adjustments that put the company in a position to succeed.

Let’s start with the most important aspect: making sure that new talent fits in with the company culture and are qualified for their roles. It isn’t easy to fill a large number of customer-facing positions in a short time, never mind train them up to standards that usually take weeks or months.

HR leaders should be building targeted onboarding programmes designed specifically for the holidays. They need to expedite this process and digitalise it to avoid having to take veteran team members away from their job. Plus, they need to be able to deliver it on a larger scale than normal. Putting every new employee through the same onboarding process will ensure that the company’s culture, its brand and any other pertinent customer-facing information is communicated effectively.

With Cyber Monday picking up steam in the last few years, retailers don’t just have to worry about shifting roster trends on the shop floor. The supply chain, which is often owned at least in part by retailers, requires just as much close attention.

It’s a demanding – and chaotic – time for anyone who deals with scheduling. Digital tools that support time and attendance, balancing shift requirements and giving employees the ability to manage their details remotely, is key to alleviating the stress.

These tools allow HR leaders to incorporate new strategies like demand-based rostering, with functions like predictive analytics which can determine the expected demand on resources. Further, the right tools let companies cut out the guessing, reduce the money they’re wasting on overtime and ensure that they have the right amount of staff available during the most hectic hours.

Profit margins are already razor-thin during Black Friday and Cyber Monday due to the discounts. Hoping that team members will, “pick it up as they go along,” is only setting them up for failure and putting the business in a difficult position from a revenue standpoint.

It’s not all about sales during the holidays

Ultimately, working in retail during the holidays is mentally demanding and can be draining for staff. HR leaders should look to motivate their workforces whenever they can.

Employee engagement tools support gamification features that allow businesses to implement leaderboard-type challenges. Pairing these with ongoing contests that incorporate service-based goals and provide meaningful rewards is one way to encourage team members and get the most out of them.

At the end of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, be sure to take the time to celebrate the great job employees did – throw a party, buy dinner, or even acknowledge the high performers in person. Be sure to log any relevant trends you noticed taking place that could support training or operations next year too.

Retail companies need the best from their workforces during the holidays. HR leaders with the right strategy in place and tools to support it can get the most out of their teams to ensure a successful stretch – earning big ROI as they go.

 

 

 

 

Peter DurrantBy Peter Durrant