The success of any business begins and ends with people. Finding the right team at any time of the year can be a challenge, but it can be particularly trying during the holiday season, when demand is high and time is short. Keeping up with the season can test anyone’s management mettle, but if you put these time-honored people skills to work, you can ring in record profits for the new year.
1. Begin With Hiring
When building your killer holiday squad, look for people who share your attitude, vision, and goals, even for the short term. Qualifications matter, but rapport matters too. You may not always have the luxury of being choosy about your hires, but if you’re selective, you might find someone you want to keep on for years to come. While you’re at it, don’t forget to train your current staff in the finer points of keeping up with holiday demands. Even a seasoned employee can get caught off-guard now and then.
2. Goals and Roles
It’s always important to make sure employees understand their goals and place in the company. Strong leadership means strong boundaries, clear lines of delineation between jobs, and clear expectations. This is also true of short-term hires and the short-term goals of the holiday season. Have sales targets and a plan for how to achieve them. Make sure your employees, old and new, know what’s expected of them in terms of sales, responsibilities, and customer relations. Get everyone on the same page, and you’ll save yourself (and your team) a lot of holiday heartache.
3. Motivate Your Employees
For some, especially those working in retail, the holidays can become a source of negativity. The demanding environment and stressful conditions can take their toll. Employers can give their workers a much-needed boost by offering extra incentives during the holiday season. Contest, bonuses, commissions, raffles, or other rewards can go a long way toward motivating employees to give their all during the season. Listen to their concerns, make them feel like part of a team, and don’t forget to thank them for their hard work when it’s all over.
4. Up to Date Payment Systems
If there’s one universal truth about holiday shopping: most everyone wants to get through it in a timely fashion. While some might enjoy a leisurely mall walk or browsing the shelves, no one relishes the thought of a long wait at the checkout line. Ease of payment is critical to the success of your commerce, whether it’s a brick-and-mortar store, pop-up, or mobile business. Make sure you have the right digital tools for the job, so you can quickly accept payments wherever you are.
5. Holiday Merchandising
Setting up your holiday decorations is a major part of any store’s battle plan. When making your merchandising preparations, it’s best to have a plan well ahead of time, complete with all the data you can muster: shelf dimensions, traffic flow, diagrams for optimal placements, and a schedule to minimize disruption. Some planogram software may prove invaluable here. When merchandising, just remember to keep it simple and don’t overwhelm the customer. Let the products speak for themselves instead of overshadowing them with garish decorations. A little bit of merchandising will go a long way. Get employee input on traffic flow and figure out how best to direct the customers to your best deals and most desirable sales.
6. Tools and Systems
More than any other time of year, the holidays places stress on teamwork, collaboration, and communication. That’s why it’s important to have the right tools on hand for keeping everyone in the loop. Post-It notes tacked to the break room wall aren’t going to cut it – you need twenty-first century solutions. Make use of digital staffing tools and retail communications software to keep everyone on your staff informed, happy, and empowered.
7. Keep Accurate Records
It’s critically important to track employee attendance, work incidents, and other data, not just for your own legal protection, but for the overall health of the company. This is true year round, but it’s especially true during the holidays, when new employees may be coming and going in rapid succession. In the middle of the holiday rush, it may be more challenging than ever to keep accurate records of your employees and their most important data – but it’s vital that you attend to it. If your business is too small to maintain an entire HR department, you should still have some kind of HR management solution for your business.
8. Learn from Hardship
Everyone makes mistakes. Every business experiences failure. You will experience missteps and blunders, as will your staff — it’s only a matter of time. Maybe that holiday promotion doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped, or some merchandising efforts unexpectedly succeeded, while others failed. Once the holiday rush is over, pause to review and make use of the data you get from these moments, so the same problem doesn’t occur again. Gather your staff, talk about what went wrong (and right), and make a teachable moment out of it. Job responsibilities change, and employee roles may drift. Rather than let these changes go unattended, redraw the lines, address the issues, and then get back to work.
The holidays are a demanding time for everyone, and business owners are no exception. But don’t panic! This is your chance to take your management skills to the next level – and next year, your business will be stronger for it.