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4 Things You Need to Know for Retail Hiring in 2019

Struggling to keep up with evolving talent needs in retail hiring? Never has the retail landscape changed so quickly and so dramatically as it has in the past two years, leaving retail recruiters to muddle through a new world of TA demands on top of ongoing challenges in filling seasonal, part-time and hourly positions.

Digital transformation in retail is spectacular for consumers – who doesn’t like same-day delivery of whatever it is you need from Amazon? But, it’s causing a skills gap that recruiters are finding hard to overcome. According to an Indeed survey of retail employers,

  • 70% have trouble hiring in-store candidates with the right technical skills
  • 82% can’t find candidates with appropriate cross-functional experience

As the retail industry continues to redefine what it means to shop and to buy, recruiters will have to pay close attention to retail hiring trends and the competition.

4 things to keep your eye on for retail hiring as we move through the coming year

Online retail. How big is this trend? So big that the annual e-commerce market is measured in the trillions, not billions. Online retail is a primary component of the e-commerce market, and its growth has crushed thousands of brick-and-mortar stores in the last 24 months. Recruiters have felt online retail’s impact through decreased retail hiring for in-store sales positions coupled with high-volume hiring for retail warehouse roles. In addition, retail warehouses are not always the big behemoth buildings we imagine. Retailers are now opening micro-warehouses in or near their stores to satisfy consumer demand for same or next-day pickup. In a recent survey of retail warehouse employees, 53% indicated they have been working in warehouses and distribution centers for less than five years. That’s a big shift in retail hiring requirements.

New in-store customer experiences. In response to online retail snapping up market share, retailers are changing their in-store customer experiences. To cut down on checkout lines and waiting, some retailers now offer customers new ways to get out of the store faster, including

  • Self-checkout kiosks, often in grocery and big box stores
  • Avoiding checkout with self-service in-store pick-up of online orders from special “rapid-pick up” shelves, like at Panera Bread and Office Depot
  • Cashierless stores, which allow customers to scan a card at subway-like turnstiles on their way in, and then track what customers select and take with them as they exit

To staff stores that offer these innovative systems, retail recruiters now focus on candidates’ experience with overseeing automated checkout technology and helping customers troubleshoot self-service options in addition to traditional customer service skills.   

Pop-Up Retail Strategies. Retailers of all sizes are trying pop-up shops for market-testing new products without a large dollar commitment. Pop-ups only last between a day and a couple of months, and they can happen within large established retail stores, in empty storefronts, and in new urban spaces created specifically for this type of retail. Entrepreneurs often run their own one-person show themselves, but pop-up retail hiring sometimes falls to recruiters in larger organizations.

Here’s a sample of the ideal candidate:

  • Willing to take on a short-term role that may last a few days or weeks
  • Able to work weekends and nights
  • Able to handle both in-store cashier duties and online pickup processes
  • Here’s the most crucial requirement: Able to be an assertive brand ambassador great at telling the brand story and engaging everyone in the vicinity with the new product or service

Recruiters experienced with retail hiring for pop-ups often shoot to overhire by up to 50% because of there is typically high turnover for pop-ups that run longer than a few days.

Elevated importance of employer branding. Studies have shown there’s a definite, even close connection between an organization’s consumer and employer brands. It’s especially apparent in research that indicates just how powerfully candidate impressions formed during a hiring experience can impact their consumer buying behavior in both positive and negative ways. For recruiters, a strong talent brand has become an even more valuable strategic asset in retail hiring:

  • 92% of retail workers rank employer-employee trust as the number one factor in deciding where to work compared to 83% across all industries
  • Gen Z and Millennials are brand-aware, brand-loyal and represent a rich talent pool for retail hiring

Recruiters will continue to look for strategic ways to connect retail candidates with their brand during the retail hiring experience. They’re already using AI-enabled interviewing platforms and technology to create a candidate experience that appeals to modern candidates – quick, easy, transparent and engaging. Retail candidates are responding: One study found that candidates for both in-store and retail warehouse positions are 1.5 times more likely to apply for jobs via smartphone app than candidates across all industries.

If you’d like to find out more about innovative technologies recruiters are using to create a branded, high-touch retail hiring experience that engages modern candidates, download Getting a Handle on AI in Hiring.