The Darker side of Black Friday for HR | elementsuite
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The origins of Black Friday date back to the 1950’s in the US. It was referred to as Black Friday as it was the day after US thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November) where staff called in sick in order to have a four-day weekend. The practice remained predominantly a north American tradition for many years before being introduced in the UK by American retailers such as Amazon and Asda in 2010’s. It gained momentum in the UK in 2014 when UK retailers such as John Lewis and Argos began to adopt the concept. Black Friday has continued to grow in the UK with retailers launching their Black Friday campaigns earlier, as well as extending into the following week. This has resulted in Black Friday sales overtaking traditional Christmas sales for some retailers.

Inevitably UK Black Friday and the following Cyber Monday means huge and historically uncontrollable crowds. And the resulting in greater pressure for retailers, human resources and their staff? In deskless and front-line retail environments, staff are often more isolated and disconnected due to working hours and shifts.

How HR can help Retail employees prepare for Black Friday

While retail managers and business owners have been busy preparing their stores for door busting deals and online ‘click-tastic’ offers in preparation for busy crowds both physically and online, it’s a different story for HR.

Most employees dread the day, with busy crowds and irate shoppers eager to snap up the deals and bargains. This is a stressful time for your people. The problem is when it comes to big profit and revenue generating seasons such as Christmas, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, businesses leaders are focused on the marketing and revenue. This is where human resources teams play a major part.

Having motivated, engaged and upbeat employees can significantly improve customer experience. Implementing niche coaching and training, along with safety measures which now includes COVID-19 consideration is essential. Its easy to simply say ‘hire more staff’, but the current climate makes that a real challenge.

Preparation for Black Friday and Christmas includes the hiring of seasonal staff who may be hourly paid, contractors and temporary staff. Shortening the recruitment, onboarding and training process of new staff is critical, in order to have them fully contributing to the business. Identifying, executing and accelerating training is business critical along with staff scheduling. Ensuring the right mix of qualified staff are scheduled for each shift, that’s aligned to predicted peaks and troughs.

Complex workforce planning during peak periods

Workforce planning is about balancing your employee needs and your business needs. Essentially its about getting the right people, with the right skills in the right place, at the right time, on the right contract, at the right costs.

With more and more regulations piled on retailers, the broadening duty of care is an increasingly difficult task. Health and safety, training, WTD, additional shifts, different rates of pay for shifts and roles, the list is endless. This all adds up to a significant HR challenge. Getting it wrong can directly impact sales, revenue and customer experience.

Getting it wrong can be catastrophic, with incorrect staffing levels and skills to meet the customer demands. This leads to customer complaints, negative reputational impact, lower sales and a direct impact on future sales. Employees will be unhappy, managing customer complaints, leading to employee attrition and the vicious circle continues.

Smart retailers are using leading edge digital workforce management tools that accommodate flexibility for the employer and 24/7 access for the employee. Employees need complete visibility of their shifts, ability to swap shifts and show availability for other shifts. To get this right and be nimble to changes, has gone beyond spreadsheets and manual processes.

Black Friday camaraderie

As this is a high-pressure time for everyone involved in a retail business, this is the highest revenue generating season, it’s a good idea to create a sense of camaraderie and team spirit. Fostering a sense of team work, and team spirit, and that everyone is working together. Staff need to feel united rather than isolated during this tough period.

Achieving this can be tough, where staff are working flat out and 100% focused on serving customers face to face as well as all the operational staff and process. This applies to both the bricks and clicks side of retail… its all about serving the customer.

One approach that will help connect your workers and bridge the communication gap during periods like black Friday is mobile-led HR technology which is specifically designed to boost employee engagement, give them 100% visibility on shifts, who they are working with along with the lighter side such as social and the ability to converse and collaborate when they are working different shifts and different areas of the business.


Research suggests that 55% of workers would leave their job if they lacked control over their rotas. Bersin by Deloitte highlights that employee turnover is 174% more likely without real-time scheduling. Although this can be challenging during peak times, flexible scheduling is an incredibly powerful way to give you employees an element of control and to allow them to work on their terms. Its not just good for your people, its goof for your business too. With the next level in HR software and scheduling you’ll always get the right people in the right place at the right time.

 Be a good listener

Its going to be hectic, manic and noisy during these busy times. Your staff are going to be working flat out, and its easy to stope listening to your people. At times like these, listening is more important than ever.

Mobile-first HR software enables your people to have a voice and gives them the much needed immediacy and access to communicate and share. The most important thing for staff is to be heard. Workforce Management tools enable instant surveys, feedback and make it easy to find out how staff are doing. You’ll find out what their pain points are and how you can make their lives easier when its crazy busy.

In retail, employees play the most important role in delivering the best customer experience. Online retails lean heavily on their technology. But even the smartest processes, still need engagement, happy and efficient staff to fulfil the orders and handle customer queries.

The power of gratitude

It’s a great feeling when someone says thank you for a job well done. The power of gratitude in the workplace can be hugely significant. Employee engagement continues to be a hot topic right now, with businesses focussed on creating a positive organisation culture. With desperate staff and multiple shifts, this can be hard to achieve. Expressing gratitude and giving credit is a great place to start.

HR software tools enable this in a very powerful way, being shared through a mobile-first approach and can be done in an instant.

There are proven benefits to your overall mental health and well-being by giving gratitude. Giving thanks can make you happier.

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