As soon as I walk through the doors of a shopping mall during the holidays, I’m immediately reminded of my time as a retail employee. The smells, the music, the bright Christmas sweaters, all bring back memories of hectic shoppers, long hours and even longer lines.
To make it through the busiest time of year, many retailers hire seasonal employees to supplement their permanent staff. These employees are expected to jump into a position they may know little about and quickly acclimate to their new surroundings without losing a step. As someone who has interacted with seasonal employees on both sides of the counter, it’s not their technical skills that I admire the most but their enthusiasm and a willingness to learn that really makes these employees special.
When we write job descriptions, we tend to focus on the tasks an employee must complete in order to accomplish the job at hand. While experience greeting customers, operating a cash register, and stocking shelves are important skills to have in retail, these aren’t necessarily the most vital qualifications of a seasonal employee. Candidates with strong self-management, communication and relationship skills should be considered for the job even if they lack a few of the required technical skills. You can easily teach someone how to fold a shirt correctly but only if that person is willing to learn.
Your job description for seasonal or temporary employees should focus on competencies and results instead of skills and tasks. Competencies go beyond skills by accounting for both knowledge and behavior. For example, a skill would be something like mopping the floor, using a computer, and stocking merchandise; while competencies are skills + knowledge + behavior like problem solving, communication, or professionalism. Here are a few ideas on how to adapt a task-based job description to one that focuses on competencies and results:
- Instead of something like “keep merchandise and sales floor clean and orderly” consider adapting it to “Create a clean, safe and attractive shopping environment by replenishing inventory, clearing dressing rooms, and arranging and displaying merchandise”
- Or change “greet and assist customers” to “Ensure customer satisfaction by greeting and assisting customers, remaining knowledgeable of product offerings and store policies, and assessing and fulfilling customer needs”
- And alter “work well with other team members” to “Promote a positive work environment by encouraging, supporting and working cooperatively with fellow team member”
A job description that emphases competencies and results over skills and tasks enable hiring managers to pinpoint the most qualified candidates. It’s not an employee’s ability to stock a shelf or clear a dressing room that makes him successful; it’s his ability to complete tasks in such a way that makes customers want to frequent your store even after the Christmas sweaters are packed away.