With headlines focused on the continued closure of brick-and-mortar retail stores it’s tempting to assume that retail recruiting has gotten easier, especially as the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data shows a decline in overall retail trade employment. Yet this is hardly the reality for most retail employers when it comes to store-level hiring.
One of the biggest challenges is that our strong economy means the best retail workers have options—and most appear to be pursuing them, driving up turnover rates in the process. Korn Ferry’s research indicates that nearly a third of retailers witnessed a rise in turnover in 2018, with some reporting rates as high as 81% among part-time hourly store workers.
The talent acquisition industry often views store-level retail positions as a high-volume recruiting need, which makes sense given that brands typically do far more hiring at the store level than at the corporate level and when you consider that retail employment still represents roughly 10% of the American workforce according to the BLS figures. However, a closer look at the nuances that influence recruiting for these positions reveals unique demands and opportunities.
Decentralization Is a Big Differentiator
Even as the retail industry continues to shift dramatically hiring hasn’t changed all that much, largely because most high-volume retail hiring is decentralized—field and store managers are largely responsible for hiring sales associates at a local level. Thus, the individual volume at any given store may not appear significant. But, taking turnover and the impact successful store associates have on retail sales into account, managers need all the tips, tools and resources they can get their hands on. Among them:
• Applicant tracking system (ATS) workflow configuration can make—or break—a retailer’s hiring success. Think about how different the hiring process is at the store level than it is at the corporate level. At a store, the manager likely conducts only one interview with each candidate and speed matters tremendously in this environment. Choosing the best ATS for retail recruiting, one that allows customizing your workflow so that it reflects the needs of a store manager versus a corporate hiring manager, will make a huge difference in the ability to move prospective store associates through the hiring process as quickly as possible.
• High turnover demands strategic hiring methods. Even with a customized workflow in place, most retail store managers will struggle with high turnover rates and require hiring strategies beyond “post and pray.” Think employee referral programs, as employees are less likely to quit when they have friends at work. AI-driven recruiting solutions can help, too, as they allow store managers to automate the process of identifying retail associates currently working for top competitors and invite them to apply. A good ATS platform will include tools to support strategic hiring approaches like these, which is essential when you think about everything a store manager does in addition to hiring.
• Don’t overlook the value of talent communities for store-level needs. Most candidates will be active applicants ready to make a change today, but that doesn’t mean that candidate relationship management (CRM) programs don’t offer value for store hiring. In fact, this represents an ideal opportunity for the corporate recruiting function to support managers in the field by helping to develop talent communities that benefit store-level recruiting nationwide, such as those that target repeat customers and boomerangs. Nurturing these individuals until an opportunity arises at the right time and location can provide the store manager with an instant pipeline of interested and qualified candidates that they can then usher quickly through the store’s hiring process.
Finally, retailers should look for ways to highlight store-level recruiting success by making it easier for store managers to understand what’s working at other locations based on the ongoing analysis of ATS hiring data (another major benefit associated with ensuring the ATS software is used across all stores). Corporate recruiting teams can host internal webinars to share what’s working and review tips that all field and store managers can leverage for better retail hiring outcomes.