The Kick in the (Re)Tail Recruiters Need
“The future belongs to those who prepare for it.” While I can’t take credit for the line (thanks Ralph Waldo Emerson), I’ll appropriate it for retailers as a warning of changes to come in industry recruitment: Prepare for your company’s hiring future or it won’t have one.
Current Problem: Job Seekers Don’t Like Change
The retail landscape is rapidly changing. The gap between industry leaders and smaller shops continues to grow. In fact, the gap between industry leaders and LARGER shops is becoming more prominent. And the shift away from brick-and-mortar has evolved into digital-savvy companies moving into brick-and-mortar, forcing all retailers to rethink their business models. Many traditional retailers have been slow to adapt, which can leave job seekers equally uncertain. With so many changes taking place, job seekers could assume that retail jobs are unstable and therefore unappealing.
Or job seekers may not be in sync with legacy recruitment processes, and bail rather than navigate their way through cumbersome applicant tracking systems (ATSs). The possibility of job seeker disinterest or frustration could translate to staffing trouble for retailers, which are projected to need more workers in the future. It’s likely they will, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating an annual job growth rate of 2 percent in the warehousing/storage sector and the addition of 412,000 new jobs in retail trade between 2016 and 2026.
As consumers become accustomed to having anything they want delivered immediately, retailers are creating new models that focus on distribution. The result is an increasing need for manufacturing and warehousing candidates in regional markets where these jobs disappeared many years ago. Industry recruiters now need to hone in on attracting and hiring more people for manufacturing/warehousing positions, while at the same time staffing brick-and-mortar stores.
Rising competition to attract the best candidates is putting pressure on retailers, even behemoths like Target, which recently increased minimum wages from $11 to $12 an hour and committed to a $15 hourly wage by 2020, to help entice job seekers. Having short- and long-term hiring strategies in place will ensure your business doesn’t feel the heat when it’s recruitment crunch time.
Short Term: Rethink Recruiting Tactics
Traditional methods of recruiting have gotten retailers this far, but don’t promise to reap the same rewards in the near future. Employers need to revisit their ideology to focus on meeting candidates where they are in order to get ahead of a talent shortage. HR and recruiters should consider adopting new best practices to stay ahead:
- Leverage new recruiting tactics. Job postings are still important, but the way people communicate is changing:
- Retargeting ads: The impact of job postings can be amplified if partnered with retargeting ads. Once a job seeker views a job posting, retargeting will allow advertisements for the posting to pop up on other websites they visit, serving as a reminder to the job seeker to apply for the position. This tactic can help spur curious job seekers into action.
- Texting: Launching text campaigns to attract applicants cuts through the job market clutter, drastically increasing the chances of an employer’s opportunity being seen by target talent and receiving a response. Texting can also activate job seekers who don’t feel they're ready to apply by inviting them to skip the traditional hiring process and to express interest without a resume.
- Out of home: With warehouses returning to towns and cities that haven’t been there in years or ever before, outdoor advertising like billboards could be beneficial to retailers in certain areas. Out of home has the added benefit of building brand recognition with people who aren’t job seeking but might buy your product — or could be job seeking in the future.
- Own the employee brand. Fostering and owning a strong employee brand is the best marketing tool a business can have. Large scale retailers have strong corporate brand identities, but smaller shops have a chance to be recognized for their work culture and make a name for themselves by owning the employee experience brand. Small retailers might not match the wage offerings of retail titans, yet their flexibility to provide unique benefits (e.g., cool perks, a casual work environment) could be of greater interest to job seekers.
- Stop using the skills gap cop out. Regardless of the minimum skill requirements, consider hiring people for aptitude who don’t meet the requirements. Hiring pros across sectors throw out resumes for people who don’t have the EXACT same experience they're hiring for. Take time to see how an applicant’s skills could be implemented into the role you’re hiring for, and train them for what specifically you need them to do.
Long Term: The Age of Automation
While the tactics above can be implemented in the near future, retailers need to consult their crystal ball and determine what the future of the industry will look like down the road — keeping in mind the largest impending changes in retail: automation. Talk to your company’s leadership team to consider the following when it comes to long-term recruitment planning:
- Adjust your staffing needs and timeline. While automation will bring new jobs to retail, it may also mean companies won’t need as many staffers. Hiring on a cyclical, “on-demand” basis will be an outdated practice once automation plays a larger role in the industry. Be better prepared by forecasting what your staffing needs will look like and adopting a long-term, “plan ahead” hiring approach, especially since the new retail roles of the future will be more complex, full-time opportunities.
- Ensure your workforce is prepared. People think robots taking over retail manufacturing or warehouse tasks will take job opportunities away. Instead, recognize that retail jobs will evolve. The age of automation may not require employees to operate an assembly line, but there will be a need for new positions people must oversee, like developing and managing automation tools. Employers must take the lead to properly prepare employees for the future, whether that means providing access to higher education, certification courses or other skills training. Being proactive on workforce preparedness will also save companies big bucks in the long run.
- Delivery time means everything. While the building of new warehouses and steady growth are the primary goals for most retailers today, you can only expand so much. The leaders of the industry will be those that can most quickly fulfill customers’ requests. And the more unexpected the request or delightful the delivery experience, the better (cue the need for drones and new employee skill sets). Whichever brands can achieve instant gratification for customers fastest will be crowned the retail king.
Tectonic shifts are happening now in the retail space and we haven’t even scratched the surface. Just as successful retailers were able to pivot business focus towards their online presence and increasing delivery speeds following the recession, industry recruiters and HR professionals will need to rethink hiring strategies and remain nimble in preparation for the sector’s evolving demands. While the short-term changes are fairly easy to implement, companies must start planning NOW for what the industry will look like in the future, how that will impact your workforce, being especially vigilant of the rise of automation. After all, the future belongs to those who prepare for it.
Joe Weinlick is the chief marketing officer at Nexxt, a recruitment media company.
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