How Grocers Can Manage Untrained and Overwhelmed Holiday Staff

This post is excerpted from our latest eBook, The Top 5 Asset Protection and Loss Prevention Problems Faced by Supermarkets During the Holiday Season.

The holidays put an increased burden on existing and seasonal staff and create opportunities for theft by both shoppers and employees.

Follow the strategies below to minimize the stress put on your employees while ensuring everyone is properly trained and ready to handle the increase in holiday shoppers.

Use inventory management software and train your staff on it to prevent theft.

A study conducted by inventory management software consultancy Software Advice, showed that companies with some sort of inventory management software integrated experience fewer thefts over those that use simple office or accounting software.

“It’s important for all business owners to realize that inventory management software will save you time—and money—in the long run. It increases your inventory visibility by standardizing your records and it can help you identify where shrinkage is occurring when you perform cycle counts. While a computer program won’t necessarily deter employee theft, it will give you the resources to ensure that your inventory is properly accounted for. When your inventory is properly accounted for on a consistent basis, there’s less of a chance that bad behavior will be able to fly under the radar. Regardless of what kind of business you have, it’s important to protect your assets. Using inventory management software is an easy way to give you a better sense of security.”
Software Advice

The study found that a higher number of employees admitted to stealing from their company when the company used only an accounting software as their main inventory management (35%). That number is significantly reduced when there is a real time inventory management software in place (22%).

While no system can completely deter theft, inventory management software makes it possible to better track inventory and detect theft as it happens. This makes employee training with such a system absolutely critical. As an integral part of your business, inventory management training should be a part of your comprehensive management training program and extend into your sales management training programs as well.

By including bit-sized segments of inventory management training into your overall training sessions for new hires, everyone at the company will be familiar with the components of your daily inventory protocol––dissuading anyone from acting on their bad intentions.

Here are some other ideas for strengthening inventory management training:

  • Send key material and inventory management personnel to specialized training sessions. Organizations like APICS (Association for Operations Management) offer classes and certifications for production and inventory management. These classes emphasize the importance of the entire inventory process including supplier management, production scheduling (working with inventory constraints) and performance metrics.
  • Train your sales team on the basics of your inventory management software. They should be able to monitor and analyze inventory software data to help you figure out what you need to notice anomalies or troubling trends.

Develop standards for conducting background investigations of seasonal workers.

Seasonal workers are less attached to their employers than standard staff members. Research has shown that the less loyalty an employee feels, the less likely they are to go out of their way to protect a company’s property—and the more likely they are to steal themselves.

The University of Florida’s Security Research Project (SRP) found that shrink-related losses grow alongside the use of short-time and part-time employees—up to 40 percent higher compared to stores with 75 percent or more permanent, full-time employees. When left unchecked, runaway shrink can actually erode the savings you’ve invested in hiring seasonal workers in the first place.

Thorough background investigations of seasonal hires is a major weapon in fighting this source of shrink. Temporary workers are, on average, screened one third as often as permanent workers. Supermarkets (and retailers in general) can’t let time-to-hire pressures override accuracy and screening thoroughness.

  • Develop a policy for hiring seasonal staff that defines standards for these investigations to follow and provides clear guidelines for resolving questionable findings.
  • If you use a temporary agency to hire seasonal workers, conduct random spot checks to ensure background checks were effective.
  • Restrict access to stockrooms, cash, checks, records, and keys to company vehicles.
  • Use your video surveillance systems to help identify possible problems by tracking whether stores are following practices that reduce loss.

Keep staff informed on mistakes being made.

This simple action can prevent one-off mistakes from developing into a problematic trend as it’s likely if one person messes up, others may follow.

Beyond keeping staff self-aware of their actions, this can also clue managers and other store leadership into potential problems or lapses in process and protocol that need to be addressed.

Ensure consistent staffing.

This is another simple point that that can carry enormous consequences. Underlying the importance of thorough background investigations and monitoring of seasonal staff is the need for consistent staff levels inside the store throughout the holiday season.

The investment in developing confidence in seasonal and regular staff isn’t just realized in prevented shrink, but also your ability to have more trustworthy team members acting as passive protectors against shoplifting from customers.

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