Importance of Employee Training Program during Crisis

Improved Training is Essential as Frontline Workers Are Unprepared to Handle Customer Conflict and Scared to Go to Work

Let’s face it — today’s frontline workers are up against significant challenges. In addition to their day-to-day duties, they’re tasked with trying to help customers deal with an uncertain economy and the stress and frustration that comes with it, increased organized retail crime, and nationwide labor shortages. To make matters worse, many frontline workers say they aren’t trained to handle customer conflict, especially concerning since those conflicts can quickly escalate and even turn violent. 

How do I know this; we asked them. According to our recent survey, workers are feeling unsupported when it comes to these difficult-to-navigate situations partly because of current gaps in employee training. To strengthen both the frontline retail and financial workforce, employers need to confront the challenges workers face today and improve the training options available so they can better support and equip employees for the day-to-day realities. The survey revealed some core issues facing frontline workers and how a renewed emphasis on training can create a better and safer working environment for all. 

Frontline Workers Are Afraid to Go to Work

As many Americans struggle to make ends meet, this financial stress has led to increasingly frustrated and aggressive behavior in store settings when they are met with prices they can’t afford, even for essential items like canned goods and toiletries. With a rocky economy,  there’s been a rise in shoplifting as the situation for some consumers becomes desperate. In fact, half of frontline retail workers revealed they witnessed a customer steal (or attempt to steal) from their store in the past six months. This is taking a toll on employees as our survey found that 20% of those workers feel they don’t have the skills or preparation to properly handle theft or similar situations.

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However, the retail industry isn’t the only one witnessing an uptick in aggravated consumers as many banking customers are also understandably more stressed. This makes sense since financial institutions are where people are often directly confronted with their monetary hardships. Finance associates say more customers have grown irritated when withdrawing money or communicating with other staff members, often leading to increased hostility. This jump in agitation and crime has pushed frontline workers into the middle of complex and distressing situations that they feel unequipped to mitigate, ultimately causing 40% of retail workers and 37% of finance workers to feel scared to go to work. Without sufficient training and widely understood protocols on how to prevent, deescalate or react during these scenarios, employees will continue to feel unsafe—both physically and mentally. 

Customer Conflict and Hostility Impacts  Workers’ Mental Health

As this monetary stress overwhelms consumers, it’s also taking a toll on employees’ mental health. Bearing witness to these difficult situations on a regular basis, coupled with the fact that many feel unprepared to handle them properly in the first place, has led to 40% of finance workers admitting that their mental health has been negatively impacted.

Instead of feeling supported by their organization during these challenging incidents, many workers actually feel neglected.

More than half (55%) say they don’t believe their employer is currently considering their employees’ mental health and well-being, leading over a third (39%) of finance workers feeling drained and unproductive. While employers of course can’t control economic factors they can do a better job of supporting their teams by providing them with the tools, training, and resources needed to cope, address and move forward from volatile customer situations.

Stronger Employee Training Is Needed— Where to Start

To help employees feel safer in the workplace and better prepared to handle conflict, improved employee training is a necessity. Right now, frontline finance (23%) and retail workers (21%) don’t believe their employer provides them with the right tools and training to empathetically manage and successfully resolve tense customer situations. This leaves workers feeling unprepared to properly manage challenging scenarios — ultimately putting themselves, their colleagues, and other customers’ safety at risk.

To fix this, employers must start by ensuring employee training material is relevant and adequately covers company protocols and processes so everyone is clear about the expectations and where to find any relevant information should they have questions. By regularly re-evaluating onboarding processes and organizational learning, as well as gathering employee feedback about which parts of their training were most useful, employers can tailor their training to focus on key skills and knowledge so workers feel prepared for difficult conversations and understand what’s expected of them.

When developing, revamping, or updating employee training, organizations should also focus on making sure that training is continuous and reinforced so staff can retain what they’ve learned. This ensures new employees are able to absorb and retain the crucial information they receive during the onboarding process, and that long-term workers can refresh their skills at any point during their career.

Above all, it’s important to remember that frontline workers really are on the front line of customer interactions, and their employers have a responsibility to ensure that their teams’ safety, well-being, and success are top-of-mind by providing them with the right tools and systems to do their jobs. Without the proper training, employees are more likely to feel anxious about going to work and less productive if they do show up. To equip frontline workers with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed at their jobs, organizations must reevaluate and update their training initiatives, loss prevention strategies, and feedback loops to better support employees’ needs—now and in the future.

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