More than tech: Use empathy to take care of your employees on Black Friday, Cyber Monday

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How can you take care of your employees throughout Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday shopping season? The answer isn’t as complicated as you might think, and it often boils down to one simple word: empathy. More on that in a minute. 

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are nearly here, and with their arrival, the holiday shopping season will kick off in full force. By far, those two shopping days, and the weekend that falls between them, make up the biggest shopping days of the year. The numbers make that abundantly clear and speak for themselves:

  • Of all the spending that takes place during the holidays season, nearly 33% takes place on Black Friday through Cyber Monday.
  • From Black Friday to Cyber Monday, 174 million U.S. shoppers spent $39 billion in 2020.
  • A record $9 billion was spent in the U.S. by shoppers in 2020 on Black Friday, increasing 22% year over year.
  • During the Cyber Monday of 2020, shoppers spent $10.8 billion in the U.S., an increase of 15% in eCommerce spending compared to 2019.

With numbers like that, the importance Black Friday and Cyber Monday play for any retail eCommerce site is undeniable. Keeping that in mind, retailers must have their eCommerce prepared to survive before, during, and after this critical, revenue-generating period of time.

Of course, the tech is an essential part of that survival. My excellent colleagues have prepared you for exactly that with their articles on an eCommerce Black Friday and Cyber Monday checklist, load testing for the massive traffic on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and how the pandemic changed Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Give them a read. You’ll be glad you did.

However, it’s not about just the tech. It’s about the people, too, namely the people putting that tech together. In short, your eCommerce employees. You don’t get the tech without the people who develop it, test it, market it, and so on. It’s estimated that over 500,000 extra workers are needed to take care of the massive influx of customers and traffic that arrive. Many of those are tech workers, just like those that work for your eCommerce business.

So back to empathy. What’s empathy? I’m glad you asked. 

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another. . .” Blah, blah, blah. To put it another way, let me tell you what empathy isn’t. Empathy isn’t when you put crying booths in the middle of your warehouse so employees can let it all out. Empathy also isn’t saying you understand or that everything will be OK. Empathy is being able to actually understand why another person feels the way they do and the ability to put yourself in their shoes.

How can you show empathy towards your employees and, while doing so, make sure your eCommerce not only survives Black Friday and Cyber Monday but comes out of it smelling like roses? Here are a few tips to send you down the right path:

1. Be clear and concise about what the goals and plans are.

Tell your employees what the business goals and plans are for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday shopping season. At the same time, make sure everyone understands what your policies are for taking time off. These can both be done by holding a brief meeting, or better yet, by sending out a company-wide email. After that’s done, make sure to provide ongoing updates. It’s a difficult time of year, especially considering the pandemic, for many people. The clearer employers are about the business’s goals, and if you acknowledge when they meet them, the more employees will feel valued, appreciated, and respected.

2. Recognize and reward your employees.

Plan a holiday party, even if you have to wait until after the season is over. Give a few seasonal gifts, and provide recognition and rewards that showcase what employees have achieved during the busy shopping season and throughout the year. Nothing will make employees feel more valued than showing them and making them feel like part of a successful team.

3. Be flexible and understanding.

One of the best ways to be flexible and understanding in the workplace is to show employees that work-life balance matters to your business. Let people take time off if they need it. If the location or time they’re working doesn’t matter, accommodate flexible schedules and locations. It’ll allow people to take care of loved ones who may be sick, get necessary errands accomplished, or even do some holiday shopping of their own.

4. Emphasize ongoing check-ins and feedback.

Your employees are already stressed out during this time of year. For now, drop the annual performance reviews and reports filed at the end of the year. You can always do those after the holiday shopping season is over. Instead, set up regular check-ins, feedback, and ongoing conversations. You’ll keep your employees engaged, motivated, and with less stress during this crucial time of year.  

5. Prioritize mental health.

Recognize that it’s been a challenging year for everyone, and make sure employees are taking care of themselves. Provide visits to a mental health professional, and make use of the various mental health apps available. If it’s possible to offer extended breaks or a few shortened workdays during the busy season, do so. If not, make sure you do once Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed. A short “mental health break” will go a long way towards keeping employees healthy and ready to face the tasks at hand. And don’t forget to take care of yourself, too.

There you have it. Follow the tips above and you’re on your way to a successful Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and holiday shopping season. Without the employees that take care of your business, you might as well shut down your eCommerce site and take a long holiday weekend. So, do yourself and everyone around you a favor. Offer up some empathy to take care of those taking care of your business. You won’t regret it.

Published November 7, 2021