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Empowering Employees: A Look Into Our Retail Mentorship Program

  • Sarah Wilson |
  • | Mission

Here at Goodwill of Central Iowa, we believe in empowering people to find gainful employment and advance their careers. That begins within our own organization. For this reason, our HR team created the Retail Mentorship Program, which is aimed at providing one-on-one coaching between mentors and mentees to help all new employees succeed.

The program officially began about seven months ago and was sparked by the need for additional formalized training for new employees across all of our retail locations. Training was inconsistent and made it difficult to ensure a positive onboarding experience for all new employees across our network of retail locations. After identifying the problem, the team went to work and created a formalized training process for new store clerks, recognizing that mentorship is a huge factor that drives success early on.

Revamping the training process included inviting all new employees to participate in New Employee Orientation (NEO), online training courses, and launched  the Retail Mentorship Program. The goal of guiding new employees of different abilities through these welcome and training programs is to help them feel supported and on the path to success. 

The Retail Mentorship Program has proven to be especially effective in conjunction with the online training courses. This program pairs a dedicated mentor with the new store clerk to guide them through hands-on training after the clerk has completed the online course for the specific task. 

For example, a new store clerk goes through an online, interactive course using the cash register. Once this training course has been completed, their mentor will be with them to use the real cash register and provide guidance on managing difficult transactions. Mentors are provided with a checklist to ensure that the new clerk has completed all training modules. The checklist includes both technical and non-technical skills like cash handling, pricing items, conflict management, and customer service.  

Mentors are directed not to check off on the training module until they are confident the skill has been mastered. Especially with a diversely abled workforce, it is important that all staff members feel supported and receive as much training as needed to be comfortable in their position. Retail Mentorship Program developer Charles Hoffman-Zinnell commented, “No matter if it takes two weeks or two months to finish the training program, that is okay! We know that when our people feel confident in their abilities, they are more likely to stick around and stay as part of our team.” 

Beyond helping new team members feel comfortable in their new job, the Retail Mentorship Program also aims to empower the mentors to advance their careers. Team members who have worked at a Goodwill retail location for a minimum of six months, have a positive performance review, and are recommended by at least one Assistant Manager or Store Manager can apply to be a mentor. The mentor position allows them to gain leadership and training experience to be used for advancing their career within Goodwill’s network or elsewhere. 

Our team members have enjoyed the tailored training program and we have seen a decrease in employee turnover as a result! What is your organization doing to empower employees?

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