Retail Sales Onboarding- Best Practices 2017

To ramp up new hires to high productivity levels, goal-oriented retail store managers will rank a structured retail sales onboarding process high on the priority list. Good retail onboarding means good employee retention, retention means less turnover and less costs. This period is crucial to the success of the new recruit and by extension, the success of that particular store location. 

So how are leading fashion brands and retail companies onboarding sales reps in 2017? And what challenges do they face in onboarding retail employees?

Retail, Sales, Onboarding

Let's break down the current state of affairs:

Today's companies are faced with the daunting task of transmitting information from headquarters into the hands of the sales floor staff.  These employees have an approximately 25% turnover rate, and that's not counting the myriad of seasonal employees most companies hire for the holidays.  It also does not help that these staff members don't have company email addresses and are hundreds of miles from headquarters. 

Luckily there are a few simple strategies that can be easily implemented in the retail onboarding process to make it more impactful. These strategies include tailored training, approaching onboarding as a process rather than a one-off event, and taking a holistic approach to each role and the organization. Lastly, it can be extremely effective to employ digital tools whenever possible.

Ready to go from day one, right? Wrong.

First thing we need is a change in perspective. It’s rare for a new store rep to absorb the myriad of processes, unfamiliar terminology, and minute details of products in a new position immediately. The time lag between Day 1 and becoming fully operational is when the employee remains a cost center rather than a value-generator.

Employees do not have positive economic value for an organization until they are fully onboarded and operational.Source: Deloitte

In fact, 68% of companies recognize that getting new employees up to speed faster must be a top objective. However, most end up doing some quick training and hope for the best while the sales rep learns on the job. Sales managers really need to focus on actively guiding the retail onboarding process. Get the onboarding deck of 52-slides on onboarding here:

Whitepaper banner disruptive retail tech and customer experience

Retail Onboarding: from isolated event to ongoing process

Most likely you already have a tidy onboarding checklist for new employees, but the feeling of satisfaction from having ticked off all those boxes may be misguided.

Actively engaging with new material over an extended period of time pumps up your “retain information” neurons. Yet onboarding typically only lasts 2-3 days for a new employee.

Consequence? Adios information, hello to remedial questions, and with them, easily-avoidable mistakes and bottom-line sales losses.

EN Blog Retail Sales Onboarding


Percentage of new information retained, by day

So what to do? Make sure to develop an onboarding system that includes a variety of stimuli to appeal to different learning styles and make sure to design onboarding as an ongoing process, rather than a one-off event. Weekly or even daily check-ups on the onboarding process using analytics can track effectiveness. This can be made possible through tech-enabled training platforms that can help clue you in to how a hire is doing.

Yes, but are they really “getting” the company?

A good onboarding program is holistic. This means that your sales reps to know their product and how the cash register works. They should be able to articulate target customer segmentation. We should hope that they are not among the 40% of employees who don’t know or understand the company’s mission? Here are a few frequently-overlooked areas that should be included in the onboarding process, with the aims of higher engagement and comprehension:

  • What are the company mission and values? Its history?
  • Who are the most important customer segments?
  • Are there regional, seasonal or other micro-trends to be conscious of?
  • What’s the competition doing and why are we doing it better?
  • Do they know basic sales tools such as overcoming rejection?

These are just a few examples of the topics a sales rep should be conversant in. The overarching goal is that a comprehensive retail onboarding process should include functional details, as well as an understanding of big-picture items.

Let digital work to your advantage

We agree that we need to get employees up to speed quickly, that it’s an ongoing process, and that there are lots of extra things a sales rep should know. So that adds up to… a lot more work for the sales manager?

Not necessarily. According to management gurus McKinsey, using digital platforms can help with a broad array of onboarding tasks. This includes everything from matching employee talents, to creating teams, to predicting potential conflict. With 82% of retailers seeing increased direct collaboration with technology companies in the near future , it’s a smart step to get used to outsourcing complicated tasks to digital experts, especially with such vital processes as onboarding.

Graphic displays the degree that social technologies are integrated into day-to-day work and the share of business activities that are digital in nature.Source:

Looking Ahead:

  • Getting sales reps up to speed needs to be a priority for retail managers
  • Retail onboarding should incorporate a philosophy of ongoing process, not a one-off event
  • Full-spectrum onboarding makes for a better, more engaged sales rep
  • Let digital do the tough duty


How mobile is holding up retail's omnichannel reality: the whitepaperHow Mobile is Holding Up Retail's Omnichannel Reality

How are retailers transcending the retail omnichannel model and using mobile to unify their branding efforts, sales, and customer engagement programs? Why is mobile so important?

Detailed in this whitepaper:

  • How convergence of online and physical is changing
  • Are store associates prepared for customer expectations?
  • How to harness mobile to provide in-store insights

Topics: Retail, Employee Engagement, Onboarding, Human Resources

Whitepaper cover Disruptive Retail Tech and Customer Experience

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