Overcoming the Labor Shortage Through Training

by | Jul 30, 2021

When organizations must accommodate increased customer demand, they have traditionally had two options for doing so: grow their workforce or increase the productivity of existing workers.

Unfortunately, the labor shortages we are seeing across retail, dining, and hospitality have effectively squashed any hopes of mass hiring for most companies. The goal then becomes simple: increase the productivity and bandwidth of existing workers.

But how?

As we discussed in a recent blog post, part of the productivity equation involves incentivizing employees to pick up more shifts; this is a task you can help accomplish by paying employees more, providing them with the hours that they need and the work schedule they want, or increasing the ease with which they can manage and exchange shifts with colleagues.

But let’s now look at the technical nuts and bolts of how you can pull it off. Here, training is the most important tool in our toolkit – and sadly, also one of the most underutilized.

When done properly, training can unlock three extraordinary opportunities for your organization.

1. Expanding Shift Eligibility

Some of the most important roles in your stores require tailored, role-specific skills. Cashiers need to know how to balance a register. Employees that manage inventory need to know how to log a stock-out. Associates who assist customers on the sales floor need to be properly trained on product knowledge and sales tactics. Other roles may even require formal certifications, like those that involve the handling of food or the operation of heavy machinery/equipment.

Training is your not-so-secret weapon that can expand the pool of eligible employees to pick up shifts that require those skills or certifications. The name of the game here is cross-training. Ask your back-of-house employees if they have any interest in becoming front-of-house, and build a training program that works for them. Suddenly, the pool of employees who can take up front-of-house shifts has expanding by 25%, or more!

2. Supporting Cross-Site/Store Scheduling

Too many organizations leave training up to the discretion of individual store managers. This approach may appear to work at first glance but look closely and you’ll find that many of your locations are following a disjointed, informal approach where employees at every location have slightly different ways of getting the job done.

This can be a major roadblock to cross-site/store scheduling. Informal training makes it almost impossible for a WFM system to automate the cross-site scheduling process, as the data about which employees can do which jobs simply does not exist. Creating a cohesive, universal system of training and certifications not only enables cross-site/store scheduling but may also help you deliver the five-star service experience your customers deserve and increase overall employee productivity.

3. Enabling Pure Productivity Gains

Of course, the most important benefit of training is that it fosters efficiency and best practices.

It is not an eye-opening suggestion that most organizations have room to eke out productivity gains at various places in their stores. A few seconds per customer transaction here… a few minutes of inventory management there… this is not an earth-shattering observation.

What is eye-opening is the dollar-value of the cost savings that these small wins can add up to when you consider how many times each day your employees do some of these repetitive tasks, how many dozens of employees you have in each store, and the hundreds of stores you have in total. The cost-savings opportunity for most organizations is in the tens of millions of dollars, if not more.

The Keys to a Successful Training Strategy

  • Training should be easy to consume, specific and accessible to all employees.
  • Training achievements should be rewarded, communicated and celebrated.
  • Classroom training is a thing of the past. Employees want to receive training where they want it and how they best learn: through video-based, self-paced training that can be accessed via the internet or through a mobile app like WorkJam.
  • Training should be consistent across your platforms and include tracking and certifications.
  • It should be clear to your employees that training is not a groan-inducing “obligation”, but rather, an opportunity for them to grow, expand their skillset, and earn more money.
  • Be sure to reengage with gig employees to fill in staffing gaps. You will need to develop training to support gig workers. This can be accomplished by creating snippets of broader training focused on the specific knowledge and skills these workers will need to perform their jobs.
  • Remember to include gig employees in your training strategy. This can be accomplished be creating snippets of larger training modules that are compact and focused on the specific knowledge and skills these workers will need to perform their jobs, and delivered in a faster and easier-to-consume way.

Making training and employee development a priority for your company and having leadership communicate that broadly within your organization will build confidence and loyalty with your employees. Making investments in training and employee development reflects your commitment and investment in your employees. Employee training is a win for the employee and employer. It will help employees grow in their skills and employers meet their broader staffing needs by training employees to be scheduled across different departments or locations. Your focus on employee training development will drive up employee engagement, enable increases in shift coverage, drive up productivity and process efficiency, improve overall employee satisfaction, and drive down attrition.  In the next post, we will focus on the employee digital experience and how to deliver training via the platform that your employees want: mobile.

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