7 Simple Strategies to Train and Engage Your New Retail Hires

Patrick Antinozzi

When I was 16, I worked at Dairy Queen for a summer.

Over those four months, I did one thing: ice cream. I made Blizzard after Blizzard and more brownie fudge sundaes than I could shake an angsty teen fist at.

And I hated it.


Mainly because I was an angsty teen. But, more importantly, I hated it because I felt like I was capable of much more.

I was never trained to manage the till, take customer's orders, upsell products, or even grill some cheeseburgers and deep fry some french fries.

That's not to say that I wasn't asked to do it. In the heat of some particularly busy summer nights, I would be told to jump on the cash or grill and help out, to which my reply would be the same every time: "I don't know how."

I repeatedly asked to be trained for these roles. I hated being stuck in a one-dimensional role with no opportunity for progression.

"Oh, yah sure. I'll get *insert name of coworker* to show you." It never happened.

So, it's not surprising that I peaced out of that Dairy Queen just four months into the job. (I spent the next year working as a ceramic tiler, if you're curious)

This story is a prime example of how not to treat your new retail hires. Your new employees should immediately feel engaged, empowered, and eager to learn.

We've discussed how to attract superstar sales talent and steps you can take to ensure they never want to leave.

Now, let's take a moment to talk about training.

If you want your new hires to succeed in their roles, you’ll need to train them well. Here are 7 simple ways you can do that:

“The fish philosophy”

You know the old saying. “Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” You can, and should, apply this philosophy in your training for new hires.

True knowledge is the ability to find the know-how necessary to complete a task. This is where that know-how comes into play.

Example: Instead of detailing every aspect of the products they need to sell, show them how they can learn about these products, and then leave them to do it on their own. The best part about this philosophy is that you can apply it to every aspect of training.


Store procedures

If they have no prior experience in retail, they’ll have a lot to learn about your store procedures and practices. And if they do have prior retail experience, your procedures will likely differ from their previous employer’s. 

You’ll want to ensure they don’t get stuck in old habits and routines, and adapt yours right away.

Becoming a product expert

In today’s retail environment, retail reps are more than just sellers. They are teachers and educators. In order for your reps to excel at teaching, they need to know their stuff.

Give them the tools they need to accomplish this.

Modular training

You want to teach in a way that ensures your reps retain the most amount of information possible.

Instead of dedicating full 8-hour days to training everything under the sun, try using short and flexible training sessions that focus on one or two specific topics.

Use a variety of training methods

If you’re still using Powerpoint presentations, you’ve got a problem.

It’s no secret that Millennial workers have shorter attention spans than previous generations. But they also enjoy some great advantages, including being very comfortable with new technologies.

Use video as much as possible to make your training consumable and repeatable.


It might sound corny, but it works. Practice makes perfect.

Having your team role-play scenarios with one another will train them for a wide variety of real life situations. It doesn’t have to be formal, or in front of the entire team either.

Tip: Pair your new hires with current employees to aid in team-building.


Back off

Another thing Millennials tend to crave out of their work is creative freedom. You need to know when to establish hard and fast rules, and when to give your employees room to be creative.

You’ll often be surprised of what they’re capable of when they feel like they have your trust and respect.

Take action

So, let's summarize those 7 steps:

  1. Teach them how to teach themselves
  2. Instruct them on procedures and guidelines immediately
  3. Give them the tools they need to become experts
  4. Incorporate modular training
  5. Use a variety of training methods
  6. Role-play
  7. Give them anonymity and accountability

Simple, right?

About the Author

Patrick Antinozzi

Patrick is our Content Specialist / Brand Ambassador / Internet Geek. He's got his finger on the pulse of business and retail trends, and loves writing in various corners of the internet. When he's not doing that, you'll find him traveling the world, playing hockey, or ranting about the Montreal Canadiens.

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