It’s a familiar scene across retail outlets, whether customer demand is high or low, the need for the right number of staff members is always there. Managers have to make the time and build the expertise to recruit properly, and, of course, the variation in trade and staff turnover means that this process will always be repeated several times a year, diverting lots of precious time away from delivering the customer experience you aim for.
Why is recruitment in the retail sector a problem?
It’s often about training
Recruiting in the retail sector is decentralised. HR specialists are at Head Office, but the store managers are often the ones doing the recruiting. Unless specialist training is given, there will often be problems with managers doing the recruiting. Very often further support is needed to ensure that there isn’t a large drop in management productivity during the recruitment process.
Is anybody there?
Management Today and HR Zone both report that the retail sector have the largest number of ‘no shows’ for interviews. Often the candidates have found another position but just don’t let you know they’re not going to show up for the interview.
Recruiting to fill the greatest need
Roles and working times are re-recruited often without being reviewed. When a staff member leaves it’s usually clear if those working hours will be needed, but whether or not that role and skills are the most important gaps in the staffing of the store is rarely appraised. It’s good practice if the hours to be worked, the job description and the person specification are reviewed to ensure the best possible person is recruited to provide the best possible addition to the team.
When recruiting for peak periods in retail, the candidate pool is more limited and so there are challenges to make the temporary positions appeal to potential candidates.
Applicants are also your customers
Ensuring that applicants are well treated, even when being rejected is really important. This means giving further time and attention to the recruitment process, even when a decision has been made. Unsuccessful applicants must receive feedback, delivered in a friendly way, otherwise their negative feelings towards your company will grow, with friends and families hearing about poor treatment – and we know what happens next!
Peak period recruitment is often a challenge
There is clearly an increased need for staff at various times of the year – during the festive period, during summer holidays, during big promotional events. Students are a key element in the transitional recruitment in retail. Moving between their homes and their universities, and then back again when the term has ended, creates a large wave of vacancies and then a large pool of temporary labour. As these are peak periods of retail activity, maintaining a detailed database of students in and out of term time and anticipating these staff changes with recruitment processes starting ahead of customer demand is a robust process which is good for the business, staff and customers.
How can a 96% employment rate be a bad thing?
The Office for National Statistics confirmed there is a 4% unemployment rate as of October 2018. When recruiting for peak periods in retail, the candidate pool is more limited and so there are challenges to make the temporary positions appeal to potential candidates, and the consequence, as The Retail Gazette reports, is that over a third of companies hire unsuitable and inexperienced candidates to fill vacancies quickly. The most frequent issue is that applicants may have no retail experience and so training time is higher than in previous years, additionally they may not even like working in retail and then leave the job, which will cause the recruitment process to start all over again.
It’s not all doom and gloom…upping the hours works for everyone
Whilst unemployment is so low, the Economist further reports that many employees would like to work more hours than they currently do. This plus the rise of the gig economy can be a real advantage to the ‘buying in’ extra hours or hiring of temporary workers. If expected working hours or shift patterns are advertised along with the job announcement, this will make it much easier for those in the gig economy to decide whether they would be able to fulfil the requirements of the role alongside their other work.
Management Today supports this view and confirms more and more retailers are offering part time employees extra hours rather than recruiting more staff members. This approach has multiple benefits. An enormous cost and effectiveness benefit is that team members already know the role – Inductions do not need to be held and resources are not diverted to a further recruitment process. Team members being included in the decision of changes to their hours improves their job satisfaction and attitude to work, as confirmed by Glassdoor’s retail employment survey. Customer satisfaction will not decline as the additional hours are covered by fully trained staff members.
What everyone has known for a long time was again confirmed this year by Professor Szmigin, Professor of Marketing at University of Birmingham – the interaction between customers and knowledgeable staff results in a positive experience for customers and helps to win customer loyalty.
Prevention is better than cure
Head office HR teams can provide excellent support for their retail outlets by spending the quieter periods of the year putting robust recruitment practices in place, reviewing job roles and confirming timelines of any recruitment drives well before they need to be put in place. With the right planning during the year the management of peak sales can be very smooth – look no further than the fact that around 20% of retailers are not recruiting any additional staff for the Christmas period (Retail Gazette).
What we know for sure at SWL…Keeping service standards high during busiest times is a real challenge for every retail business. SWL’s ClearMatch is the perfect platform to map demand with resources, predict HR shortfalls and recruitment needs, and enable the perfect contract mix. With this detailed, in-depth knowledge, you will be able to meaningfully engage with your team and achieve great levels of customer satisfaction with your business – even when customer demands are highest.
Get in touch with us to find out more.