Professional Jeweler Archive: New Employees: Getting Off to a Good Start

September 2000

Managing: People

How to Find and Keep Good People

Part II of this focus on employees shows jewelers the best way to orient and train new hires.

New Employees: Getting Off to a Good Start

Once you've settled on a new employee, the focus shifts to the break-in period

Hiring someone is just the first step in filling a vacancy. Next comes the ongoing care and feeding of the employee, say Janice Mack Talcott and Kate Peterson of Performance Concepts, the Olympia, WA-based jewelry store consultants who spoke on the topic at the recent JCK Show in Las Vegas, NV.

The Beginning

Ask your new employee to meet the rest of the staff before that nervous first day. If that’s not possible, do the introductions as soon as the new employee arrives for work. (Have the person arrive after you’ve opened the store so you’re less distracted during set-up.) Compile in advance all paperwork and orientation material your new worker needs.

Orientation Basics

Don’t waste a single day before beginning to train your new employee. Clearly define your company’s goals and values and present the employee manual, a document that should include a history of the company, the requirements of each job, your store’s philosophy on service and your code of ethics. If dress codes are important, include your philosophy on this and explain how it relates to your store’s image. For example: “We believe our customers see us as advisers, friends and authority figures.” It’s OK to say something such as “Jeans and transparent blouses don’t fit our style.” Some stores get around dress-code problems by giving employees blazers or hiring a fashion consultant to describe styles at a staff meeting.


If you hire someone who has what Talcott and Peterson call a “hard-wired” retailing personality, tailor training accordingly.

  • Because hard-wired retailers tend to be flexible and learn well in modules, give them choices in how to learn. If they want to do a Gemological Institute of America course out of order, allow it, setting a deadline only on when the training must be finished completely.
  • People vary in their learning styles, so prepare training materials in three formats: for readers, for visual types and for those who learn best by listening. But remember that everyone learns by doing so require the new hire to apply his or her new skills to reinforce and cement them.
  • Because you’ve worked hard to hire a self-directed person (another hard-wired trait), give this independent spirit the freedom to craft his or her learning program. Your role is to supervise and mentor.
  • Make sure your new worker understands the need to balance emotion with reason when selling jewelry. The person also should recognize that good sales skills are separate from product-knowledge skills – it’s crucial to learn both.

Managing Performance

Your new worker must clearly understand what you expect. You might say “sales constitutes 40% of what we pay you for; customer service functions are 20%,” says Talcott. Outline how long the training period will be, say three months, or explain your store’s probationary period, maybe six months. This clear expectation helps you to let go of sales associates who don’t work out.

– by Peggy Jo Donahue

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications