Post COVID-19: Staff Fundamentals

An astounding by-product of unprecedented chaos and uncertainty is the predictability that the strength of the human spirit will shine. The human condition beautifully designs mankind to get along and to find a way. Investments supporting the people’s assets of an organization are the surest guarantee of continued innovation, creativity and newfound success. An anecdotal theme that has emerged through this pandemic, is the shift from a value-based approach to a values-based approach. Behaviours and attitudes have changed. The focus of this post is the 911 call for supporting staff and culture.

Preparing Sales Staff for a Post Crisis Workplace

The depth of the crisis speaks to the depth of the response required to recall and support staff. The appreciation for and the significance of all retail staff will be heightened as the success of the recovery will in large part depend on the front-line staff in our industry: the amazing sales and promotional teams the world over.  If there is ever a moment where the focus on staff morale is essential, then this is it.  Team spirit, respect, the integrity of practice and communication will be tantamount.

On one hand, staff will be navigating the debilitating interruption of the value chain and on the other hand, they will be the link responsible for that memorable customer moment. Even though there will be stock uncertainties and new health and safety measures, the key emphasis for sales staff will be to support the customer journey in an unforgettable way.

In this moment where the customer connects with the brand in a personal way, rests the permission to deliver what no app, nor blog nor e-commerce can do, namely, to create an authentic human connection through accurate and integral brand representation. This is the moment where the brand experience comes to life one customer at a time, through a smile, the tone of voice, a kind gesture, a twinkle in the eye, a meaningful connection that lifts the spirits and that responds to the moment as only a human can do. This is what will engage the customer when they return to the stores and what will move the credibility needle of the travel retail reputation. Sincerity, kindness, human connection, honesty, safety, empathy – are among the virtues that are required front and center.

Team training prior to the first shift on the shop floor will be essential for solidarity among the team and for reinforcing a culture that is grounded in confidence, trust and elegant interactions. The degree to which the retailer can define the moral narrative for their team is the degree to which the staff will be able to align their contribution.  The combination of credible leadership and demonstrated support will be more essential than ever. The customer approach deserves to be anticipated, educated and professionally motivated.

Most staff and customers alike, are deeply impacted by all that has happened if not slightly in shock or in stages of grief. We may not talk about our emotions often, but we need to recognize that they exist. How the restart of retail is managed begins with an investment in the front-line staff. The PPE acronym in travel retail stands for Professional Protective Equipment, for the front line that needs to answer questions such as: “Why am I working?”, Who is on my team”, “Am I safe?”, “Is the customer safe?”, “How is my work meaningful”, etc.

With key supports initially and incrementally sales staff and brand ambassadors can strategically embrace the rebuilding of the industry through an elevated sales approach. Incentives, education, reporting and recognition will play a more important role in motivating outcomes and demonstrating culture and buy-in. When achievable goals are communicated and celebrated, staff will be coming to work with purpose. The HR function will hold an essential role in re-engaging the returning staff while also ensuring new health and safety standards. HR budgets need to cover four key objectives:

  1. return to work training and engagement
  2. compensation / reward
  3. short term goals / long-term vision
  4. stability

Towards that end, staffing contracts and budgets will require a commitment that is aligned with recovery objectives and plans. Due to the highest unemployment known to this generation, a substantial labour market shuffle may be one of the most challenging aftereffects of the recent work interruption particularly for compensation ranges that are not competitive yet most vital.

There is no better time in history for elevating the sales profession to the integral and intelligent level that will be required for restoring consumer confidence and interacting more intentionally with post-COVID-19 consumer mindsets.

Recruitment budgets, processes and timelines as well as onboarding and airport badging efficiencies will require scalability and improved efficiency. The recruitment model will require a robust screening and interview process to raise the success rate of hiring and to lower the cost of attrition.


Heidi Van Roon M.B.A. CPHR SHRM-SCP
Founder & President for the SPARK Group of Companies

Heidi gives voice and leadership to Sales and HR excellence for Luxury Retail. Her no-nonsense approach has proven savvy, effective and genuine. Heidi combines an analytical, practical and caring approach that is focused on connecting customers with brands that they love and in a way that digital can’t. Heidi’s leadership style is founded on well-informed context, courageous and creative collaborations, bespoke promotional programs, and genuine heart. SPARK has been named North America’s most professional and highest performing sales team by some of the world’s most prominent luxury brands.

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