Resilient and Flexible Workforces Are Key to Retail Success
The retail industry is facing a labor shortage, and companies are thinking creatively about how to solve staffing challenges. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, there are more unfilled jobs than unemployed retail workers and many employees left the retail and hospitality industries for good during the pandemic. The natural seasonality of retail adds another layer of complexity, as companies balance shopper demand and staffing levels.
High attrition among retail workers is also a contributing factor that, while not novel, has been exacerbated by the current economic landscape and lasting impact from the pandemic. According to recent research from McKinsey & Company, frontline retail employees are 1.3 times more likely to consider leaving their jobs, compared with the broader U.S. workforce. In addition, nearly half of these workers want to seek employment outside the retail sector.
With fluctuations across the economy, staffing, and hiring, resilient and flexible workforces are key to year-round success.
Embracing a Flexible Workforce Strategy
An extended workforce, also referred to as a contingent workforce, encompasses seasonal and part-time employees, temporary workers, and contractors. This flexibility enables organizations to assess their staffing needs on an ongoing basis to account for short-term seasonality, peak demands, and talent gaps. Additionally, the built-in elasticity helps retailers scale seamlessly while delivering exceptional customer service.
According to Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), 33 million people performed extended work in the U.S. in 2021, generating $1.7 trillion in revenue. This number is expected to increase over the coming years. A recent global workforce study of 1,200 HR professionals revealed that 65 percent of employers surveyed expect to hire more extended workers over the next two years.
To create a successful extended workforce strategy, there must be a balanced structure in place to seamlessly onboard individuals and quickly turn background screenings.
Incorporating an extended workforce strategy in hiring is critical. For example, retailers are busy onboarding more customer service representatives ahead of the holiday season, and are scaling up their customer service teams to support peak season demands via an extended workforce provided through companies such as Liveops. In partnership with Sterling, Liveops provides a strong pool of agents who are on-brand and meet background check requirements. Liveops added over 20,000 roles for peak season between August and November.
Trust and Safety at the Forefront
In an era of blended workforces, workplace safety and trust must remain at the forefront of hiring. Even though they're not full-time employees, extended workers may still have access to sensitive information, interact with customers, impact company culture, and represent the employer brand. To improve workplace safety, companies must have the right onboarding process in place.
Identity verification should be at the start of every background screening process to provide proof that candidates are who they say they are. Companies that integrate identity verification into their hiring and onboarding processes can help to mitigate corporate risk, gain confidence when hiring, and promote trust and safety in the workplace.
On-demand work and extended workforce strategies have created new opportunities for workers and organizations to embrace flexibility and meet customer demand. With the proper workplace safety and background screening processes in place, this new way of working can offer a great experience for customers, workers and employers.
Joy Henry is the Head of Sterling’s Technology and Business Services group, where she holds responsibility for the P&L of the Financial Services, Retail, Gig, Staffing, Diligence, Technology, Media, Entertainment, and Hospitality practice areas of the business.
Related story: How Do Retailers Solve the Labor Shortage Crisis?
Joy Henry is the Head of Sterling’s Technology and Business Services group, where she holds responsibility for the P&L of the Financial Services, Retail, Gig, Staffing, Diligence, Technology, Media, Entertainment, and Hospitality practice areas of the business. Joy joined Sterling in 2013 and previously held the position of General Manager of the Financial and Business Services Practice Area. Prior to Sterling, Joy spent nearly 15 years at Dow Jones serving in various roles across the organization.