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How to Help New Employees Become Pet Care Gurus

July 30, 2019

When people ask you about anything pet-related, you have answers — because you’re the expert! When cats scratch the furniture, dog lunge on their leads, and picky pets don’t eat, you can take on just about any pet issue. Since you can’t be everywhere at once, you also lean on your employees to help. Unfortunately, the fast-paced nature of the retail environment limits your opportunities to nurture their expertise, even if you hire people who share your passion for animals.

Training and mentoring employees to be your expert ambassadors merely is good for business, conceivably in ways you might not expect:

  • Enhanced customer service. When customers talk to someone well-versed in-store products and solutions, they feel helped, find what they need, and more likely to make a return visit.
  • Increased sales: Investing $1,500 per employee on training correlates with 24% higher profit margins compared to companies that invest less, according to HR Magazine. Yes, this level of investment may not be practical for a retail business model. But it just goes to show that from the effort comes ROI and competitive advantage.
  • Better job satisfaction: Good training is essential to employee retention. If employees feel successful at what they do, they’re more likely to stay. Yet 32% of retail workers say they had no formal training.
Now that you know why it’s essential to nurture your employees into subject matter superstars, here are a few helpful ideas to get that rolling.
Write a training manual: In the hustle and bustle of day-to-day operations in a retail setting, proper onboarding is too often pushed aside. But incomplete training can have a ripple effect on your organization, leaving hires feeling lost, and raising the chances of inconsistent practices and error. Before you know it, your high-potential employee is eyeing the door. Take a step back and evaluate your training processes. Write a training manual (complete with mission statement) and include checklists and an evaluation system. In the process, you may also discover now is the time to update or create standard operating procedures. When people know what to expect and what is expected of them, they’ll know what it takes to succeed. Achieving consistency is the first step to success.

Pair new employees with a mentor: Create formal mentoring relationships between seasoned employees and new hires. While this is not a supervisory role, per se, the mentor should be a knowledgeable veteran who is able and willing to show a newbie the ropes, and how to sell pet products. When new hires have access to a sounding board and a source of helpful feedback, it can give them the confidence and support to grow into their jobs.

Run toward — not away from — delegation: People learn and grow by doing. To facilitate that and create a more engaged workforce, be willing to share some of the responsibilities of owning or managing a pet retail store. You can, for example, assemble an events and marketing team that does much of the heavy lifting to plan and promote in-store events and specials. Here are some great ideas your team can try right away to boost foot traffic to your pet supply shop. Strong employees will feel more engaged and invested in the success of the business.

Host an in-house expert series: You’re already embedded in the fabric of the local pet community. Tap your network and invite a vet, animal welfare leader or pet behavior specialist for an in-house seminar with your employees, one that takes place during the off-hours. How about a breakfast meeting that takes place 90 minutes before opening? While the staff munches on breakfast burritos, give the expert the floor to take on a core pet topic, followed by questions and discussion.

Get product rep visits on the calendar: Get in touch with your favorite pet brands and request a special onsite seminar from a regional representative. A good rep will jump at the chance to evangelize on the line’s top features and benefits. Don’t fail to lean on them to help your employees grow into knowledgeable sellers. (They might even be treated to lunch, which is always a great perk.)
Celebrate the wins: When you “catch” employees offering stellar service, reward them! Hand out $5 gift cards to a local movie theater, eatery or coffee shop. But don’t stop there. Publicize these successful moments in-store, so other employees can see what you’re looking for in a top employee. You can include this in your internal newsletter, or post it in a fun format on the break room bulletin board, or go all out with employee of the month honors.

While helping your pet experts hone their skills, there’s an easy way to create fun, informative posts for all your social media channels. Get expert-level, shareable content from NutriSource Pet Foods, delivered right to your mailbox. Sign up for our informative pet articles and social media posts by visiting Did we mention that it’s free?