On-the-job training is not restricted to use on the retail floor. The principles described in this article are applicable to any industry or work environment to ensure consistent results from the use of on-the-job training.

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The Right Approach

I sometimes refer to on-the-job training approaches as “Sit with Sam,” “Follow Fred,” or “Watch Wanda.” The nice thing about an on-the-job training approach is that it is inexpensive to implement and can be leveraged to experienced store employees.

This is why many independent and small “Mom and Pop” retailers naturally fall into using this approach to onboard. The not so nice thing about this approach is it too often relies on the trainer’s own experience rather than a documented operational procedure and it also assumes the trainer has the skills necessary to transfer information so it is clearly understood.

Avoid the Pitfalls of Retail Sales Floor Training

In order to avoid these pitfalls, retailers will benefit most from a structured on-the-job training approach. Large retailers spend a lot of time and money creating operational procedures that are used as standards across multiple store outlets. But a structured on-the-job training approach can be easily implemented by smaller retailers by following these simple steps.

First make a list of all the tasks you expect a new sales associate needs to be taught how to do.

Then create a checklist of the steps needed to complete each task. Ideally each task checklist is only one-page (front only or front and back). If you like, involve your assistant store managers, department leads or experienced sales associates by asking them to help create the checklist.

Next to each step in the task, write why the step is important and how to complete the step. So your checklist would look something like this.

Go through the checklist with all employees responsible for training others to ensure everyone agrees and understands the steps, why they are important and how to do them.

Finally, walk-through how new hires are to be trained using the checklist.

Onboarding Made Simple

Floor trainers use the checklist to show new hires the steps listed on the task checklist. As they show each step, trainers need to explain why the step is important. Then the trainer asks the new hire to do the task using the steps and watches to ensure each step is completed correctly and accurately. If the new hire is uncertain or makes a mistake, stop them and coach them.

Then repeat by showing how to do the task a second time, watching the new hire do the task a second time, and coaching. Repeat this process until the new hire successfully does the task without errors.

A Coaching Tool

These checklists can also be used as a coaching tool to correct operational skills and as an observation checklist for non-operational skills like customer service or sales. For example, create a sales process checklist, and then ask a new associate to watch a sales or service conversation with a customer to show them how it is done.

Then use the checklist to point out examples of each step, tell why each step is important and critique the sales conversation. Practice makes perfect, so always coach and repeat.