The lack of a proper induction for new staff has been cited as a key reason that keeping staff in the retail sector is so tricky. A survey on the subject by the Chartered Institute of Personnel (CIPD) found that retailing had one of the highest levels of staff turnover in the UK, and that making sure new starters have realistic expectations of their job and that they receive sufficient induction training can help minimise the number of people who leave within the first six months.
"A great deal of employee turnover consists of people resigning or being dismissed in the first few months," says the CIPD report. "Even when people stay for a year or more, it is often the case that the decision to leave is effectively taken in the first weeks. Poor recruitment and selection decisions, both on the part of the employee and employer, are usually to blame, along with poorly designed or non-existent induction programmes."
Helen Cracknell, Business Link advisor in Milton Keynes, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, agrees: "As an employer, it's your responsibility to make new employees feel as welcome as possible. It's also important to remember that a comprehensive induction for new recruits is beneficial because the highest level of staff turnover is among new workers, making the early days vital."
She adds: "The process is also a valuable means of providing new recruits with essential information about their job and the business, which will help them settle in and make a solid start."
Business Link publishes a booklet on getting new workers started which explains what to include in an induction programme. It says the key things to discuss are terms and conditions, health and safety, introduction to colleagues, introduction to their job, and how to operate equipment. Business Link also advises employers to put together an information pack for new staff. It could either be sent when they have accepted the job, or handed out on their first day.
United Co-op has just refined its induction programme and is trialling a new Employee Engagement Programme. Steve Walker, head of personnel & training for the United Co-op Food Group, says: "We used to do off-the-job inductions, but they weren't very successful. We'd ask staff how long they'd been working in a store and what they thought of the induction and they'd reply 'What induction?'. Managers weren't sending staff on the course because they needed them in store."
That's when United Co-op decided to introduce a modular in-store induction programme, which includes an initial day plus four weeks of additional learning. But it is also trialling a new scheme, which is designed to improve customer service through engaging staff better at a store level. "We're trialling centralised recruitment where staff are employed at a regional level, and we've got what we call training buddies - colleagues who conduct training in the six pilot stores," explains Walker. "On their first induction day, a new employee will be greeted by a training buddy, who will go through the induction programme and encourage further training."
One area of United Co-op's induction programme that is being improved is in dealing with age-related sales. "We've developed an age-related sales module which is very interactive. Everyone knows the law, but it's making the challenge that's the difficult part, so we've made that more entertaining and included faces of young people."
where to start
The United Co-op induction kicks off with an introduction to the company and the terms and conditions, and introduces the job role and its responsibilities, including legislation and age-related sales.
The following weeks move onto areas such as customer service, merchandising, leakage, basic till procedures, disciplinary process and health and safety. Key areas such as customer service and health and safety are repeated to ensure the new starter understands exactly what's expected of them.