Around four percent of the retail industry workforce quits their job every month, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This constant churn of retail employees means businesses must continuously attract a steady stream of qualified applicants. When every store in town is hiring, retailers with the smartest recruitment strategies get ahead. Leading companies are making positions more attractive and leveraging their brands to attract candidates.
Strategies for Recruiting Retail Employees
Yes, the intense competition for retail employees stares you in the face every day, but let’s put that stressor aside for a few minutes and look on the bright side. Competition for employees is sparking innovation and collaboration at retail companies. Much of the innovation centers on improving the employee experience.
- Facilitate Flexible Scheduling
Retail employees see their friends who work in offices flex their schedules and work from home. Many retail employees have left stores for gig work. Now, retailers are combatting those influences by offering flexible schedules. This might mean an employee works fewer hours than their peers or their manager schedules around the employee’s other job. When a retailer has several locations in a city, they might allow employees to work at different locations to help them juggle family and work demands.
- Market Smarter, Not Harder
Competitive retailers employ sophisticated marketing strategies to attract more candidates. Corporate marketing teams begin with understanding the talent pool—What stage of life are they in, and what are they looking for in a job? Then, those marketing teams develop a unique selling proposition that can appeal to those candidates. For example, flexible scheduling might appeal to employees with children or sick parents to care for, while younger employees might want to hear about career opportunities and training.
Once the creative work is completed, marketers deploy advertisements across multiple channels. They also look for community events to sponsor and public relations opportunities. Our advice to human resources leaders and store managers is to make your company’s marketing leaders your new best friends.
- Automate Repetitive Tasks
As if getting new employees in the door wasn’t enough of a challenge, engaging employees to retain them once they are on the job is also key. Employees want to do meaningful, interesting work. To improve the employee experience, retail leaders look at frontline employees’ repetitive tasks and find ways to improve processes. Doing so enhances productivity and engages employees. One way that companies relieve employees of mundane tasks is by using automation. Self-checkouts, automated shelf scanners, and fully managed front-wall services like the Coinstar kiosk can lighten the load for your employees and boost productivity.
Tools for Streamlining Retail Employee Recruiting
With over 16 million people working in the retail industry and an average annual turnover rate of at least 60%, recruiters go through countless applications. Fortunately, several tools are available that help recruiters process applications faster:
- Artificial intelligence platforms facilitate text-to-hire, scan resumes, and chat with candidates. Retailers are using Paradox, Fletcher, and hireEZ, among others. Software solutions like these allow recruiters to devote more of their time to the most qualified candidates.
- Well-written job descriptions tell candidates the benefits of working for your company concisely. Bulleted lists of the experience required, responsibilities, and objectives should have no more than six bullets each. Check out LinkedIn Business for a template for a sales associate position and another for a manager position.
What Retail Employees Want at Every Level
Knowing what employees want at work helps you craft an effective position description and interview candidates. Employees at various levels have distinct needs. Here are the things candidates look for:
Frontline Retail Employees
To recruit frontline retail employees, clearly communicate your company’s values and demonstrate how much they matter. Retail workers also want to know their employer cares about their careers, life balance, diversity, equity, and inclusion. We can look to major retailers for ideas on delivering what frontline employees want:
- A brand vision they support. Employees want to know that their work is doing good in their community and the world. One example is Subaru’s campaign around “Subaru Loves Pets,” which extends the brand by connecting with the ASPCA and building Subaru’s reputation for being a pet-friendly (and family-friendly) company.
- Training, education, and advancement. A company providing training and education has a leg up on the competition. Candidates also want to see how they will move up in your organization. Wal-Mart, for example, does a great job at outlining a possible career path with their “There is a Path for Everyone” initiative, which appeals to everyone from recent graduates to people starting “second careers.”
- Flexibility. Retailers compete with other fields by offering flexible schedules. For example, Lowe’s touts its flexible schedules in its seasonal associate positions.
- A positive work environment. Employees want to work in a supportive, positive environment. Many retailers, like Target, communicate their kind corporate culture online—and thus can serve as a template for other retailers.
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Stores develop reputations for their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. When an employee accepts a position and then learns that DEI promises are not upheld, they usually don’t stay long. Schnucks, a grocery retailer based in St. Louis, MO., has made a strong commitment to DEI and offers an excellent example of communicating those values to employees.
Retail Store Managers
Retailers depend on store managers to set a positive tone and retain employees. Yet, the majority of current frontline retail managers are unsatisfied, with higher attrition rates than hourly employees. In a recent survey, 63 percent said they were thinking of leaving their positions, compared to approximately 50 percent of frontline employees. To recruit and retain store managers, companies should pay attention to their top three needs:
- Advancement opportunities. Store managers want to know if they will be considered for higher-level positions. With 63 percent of U.S. workers nationwide citing low pay and no room for advancement as to why they quit their jobs in 2021, smart retailers are building career paths for managers that pave the way toward regional leadership and corporate roles.
- Flexible scheduling. Candidates understand they will work nights, weekends, and holidays. Some managers ask for flexibility to have time with family and friends who work Monday through Friday. When a candidate for store manager asks you about working a flexible schedule, be willing to come up with a creative solution with the candidate.
To be competitive in recruiting employees in corporate headquarters, retailers must be forward-thinking. These are three of the top desires of corporate employees:
- Flexibility in where they work. Most knowledge workers want complete flexibility in where they work: in the office, at home, or while traveling.
- Outcomes over output. Eighty-six percent of employees surveyed want to be evaluated on meeting goals, not on how many tasks they performed.
- A diverse team. Knowledge workers want to be part of diverse teams, and they want trustworthy metrics measuring whether a company is keeping DEI commitments.
Setting Yourself Apart in Recruitment
Competition is fiercer than ever in the battle for talent in the retail industry, and every edge you can give your organization matters when it comes to recruitment. Larger initiatives such as diversity, equity, and inclusion commitments and flexible scheduling are critical…but we also know that the little things matter, too.
For example, the Coinstar kiosk lightens the load on frontline employees in retail environments that offer coin exchange and other self-serve financial services. Without the need to perform routine maintenance, retrieve and package coins, and manage tedious reconciliation processes, employees who work in stores with Coinstar are freer to focus on helping customers and performing more rewarding tasks.