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Black Friday: Take A Lesson From Retailers, HR

Originally posted: November 27, 2009 on TrishMcFarlane.com

It’s “Black Friday”.  The day after Thanksgiving and the day that retailers traditionally go from operating in the red to being in the black from a profit standpoint. It is also the day that numerous retailers open at 3:00 am, 4:00 am, or even earlier to allow customers to come in to save on “door buster” items at unheard of prices.

Black Friday Crowd

Black Friday Crowd

This sales strategy has begun to backfire in recent years though as crowds tend to lose control as they enter the store which can cause great harm to employees or fellow customers.  Last year, for example, a security guard at a Walmart store in Long Island, NY was trampled and killed by the crowd as they rushed into the store.  There were many other incidents of fights and shootings associated with the Black Friday sales across the country.

This year, retailers are taking note and have begun planning months in advance for today.  They are talking to experts on crowd control, customer flow in the stores, and staging practice for the employees in order to be better prepared. Walmart specifically kept stores open 24 hours so that it would avoid this type of incident again.  So far, in early reports, all seems to be going well as no reports of deaths have been broadcast.

What lesson can HR take away from this?  Be prepared.

There are too many missed opportunities where HR can be better prepared.  Here are a couple examples that jump to mind:

  • Annual Benefits Enrollment- We know this is coming.  It’s annual.  But, how many companies do a good job of making sure the entire HR department is well versed in the changes and nuances of the benefits plans?  Mine does, does yours?  It is also critical to have people on the ground who are prepared to answer basic benefit enrollment questions, otherwise, the employees “stampede” from a phone call and e-mail standpoint.  HR needs to anticipate the questions, come up with a solid communication plan (both in writing and scripts/training for people to deliver) and dedicate people to be available during annual enrollment to make it run smooth for the employees.
  • Workplace Safety– Some companies do a great job of being prepared for safety issues.  This can include things like evacuation procedures in case of fire or other disasters, earthquake preparedness, workplace violence procedures, keeping unauthorized people out of your workplace, safely using machinery, etc.  This topic should be one that all employees are trained on annually with small “check up” reminders throughout the year.  Is your company on track?  Or, are you waiting for a disaster to strike so you can then figure out a response plan like Walmart had to do in the case of the guard that was killed?  Message here- be proactive.

What are other ways that HR can be more prepared?  Add them to the comments and keep the conversation going.  And, if your company is proactive and doing something great to be prepared, share that to so we can all learn from it.

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