It’s the most wonderful time of the year! This Friday begins the official countdown to our favorite winter holidays (unless you’re the DJ at my local radio station; he flipped to Christmas music the day after Halloween). Trees glow in dazzling colors. Holiday decorations fill the yards of our neighbors and parents around the world stress to find those must-have gifts for their families. While we’re barreling toward this exciting season, our colleagues in the retail sector are bracing for the impact of another “Black Friday.”
Applying GRC for Black Friday Success
In the retail universe, while profits and revenue grow in the final quarter of the year, so does the need for functional compliance and risk management. From product damage and theft to customer safety, retailers are constantly on their toes this time of year. To alleviate some of this stress, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a guide to help businesses plan, operate and succeed during the holiday rush. While this guide isn’t primarily focused on organizational GRC, many of the items in this guide line up perfectly with common GRC ideals: understanding risks, creating guidelines to minimize the risks and ensuring staff members understand their role in the process. To help our colleagues in the retail space prepare for the upcoming holiday season, I’ve packaged a few key points to share on the blog:
- An Ounce of Education Is Worth a Pound of Prevention
While it sounds like common sense, many people don’t realize just how many seasonal employees are hired for this time of year. Similar to how an enterprise would hire vendors to assist with GRC consulting, you should always make sure your people (vendors/employees/temporary staff) are adequately trained on your company’s key operational procedures. For example, does your front-line sales staff know your process for dealing with an injured customer? (The sidewalks may be icy, your floors may be slippery and impatient customers may be pushing and shoving.) A few minutes spent reviewing your processes – or even just reminding seasonal staff who the key contact person is – can go a long way in preventing employees from “improvising” in stressful situations.
- The Faintest Ink Is Better Than the Strongest Memory
Instructional (help) text is never a bad idea, and lack of this information is one of the key reasons business processes fail. While it may seem unnecessary for your core and experienced staff, that doesn’t mean everyone representing your company has the same level of knowledge or skill. People can only remember so much and it’s likely your seasonal employees won’t be studying your policy manual in their spare time. Place easy-to-reference job aids in key locations within your store or provide shortcut links to your online policy system on the desktops of your point-of-sale machines. Take time to review this information as well. Ask yourself if the policy content can easily be scanned and searched during a stressful situation. Don’t bury key procedure steps in a block of text; break the process into a bulleted list that’s convenient to review. For example, use a clear map with marked exits for your store’s evacuation plan instead of communicating this plan through two pages of lengthy text. Many of these same concepts are paramount to a successful GRC solution, regardless of whether your organization competes in the retail space.
- People, People That Need People
The more people you expect to be shopping on Black Friday, the more staff you will need. This may seem obvious, but as margins continue to compress in the retail industry, it can become tempting to cut back on expenses such as personnel. However, you need to view your busy shopping days through a long-term lens. Do you want your customers’ impressions of your store to be one of chaos and long lines? Is it worth saving a few hundred dollars at a single location to risk a safety incident that could cost thousands? Review your prior year customer data to find the staffing sweet spot to ensure you have ample coverage during the busy shopping season. Making accurate predictions based upon a variety of historical metrics is another key to success in the GRC (and retail) industry!
Click here to read the full OSHA Fact Sheet: Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers.
These are just three of the many tips that are included in the guide. It’s definitely worth a read if you work in the retail industry. To all of our friends, family and clients in the retail industry, we wish you the best of luck in this stressful (albeit, magical) time of year. With a little planning and preparation, you can make the 2012 holiday shopping season one of the tales of glory (and not one of the scary ghost stories) when we reflect on holidays long, long ago.
–Nick Butcher, OrangePoint