How Retailers Can Hit Seasonal Hiring Quotas in Today’s Competitive Job Market

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For retailers, the fall means it’s time to kick off seasonal hiring efforts — and retailers have big plans for 2018.

Target hopes to hire 120,000 additional workers for the holiday season rush, Kohl’s is seeking 90,000, and Macy’s looks to add 80,000, according to CBS. These are ambitious targets, given the current 3.7 percent unemployment rate. Competition for good candidates will undoubtedly be fierce.

The reality of turnover in the retail industry only adds to the stress of holiday hiring. The industry experiences a 67 percent turnover rate for part-time employees, according to Hay Group.  For employees earning less than $30,000/year, it costs 16 percent of the employee’s salary to find, hire, and train a replacement. For example, it would cost $3,328 to replace a $10/hour retail employee.

With this in mind, it is clearly in a retailer’s best interest to optimize its hiring process as it tries to add tens, hundreds, or even thousands of hourly employees and rake in its share of holiday profits. To hire employees this year, retailers may need to start by looking inward at the industry’s own digital customer experience.

Creating a Candidate Experience out of the Customer Experience

As online shopping has moved center stage in the retail industry, retailers have invested heavily in their online shopping capabilities. The part-time seasonal employees that retailers hire often occupy a similar demographic as those they look to win over as customers. Since holiday employees share many of the same digital habits as your customers, you can transfer best practices from the customer experience to the employee experience to optimize your seasonal hiring process.

Specifically, there are a handful of best practices to keep in mind:

1. Go Mobile

Forty percent of Black Friday sales were on mobile in 2017, compared to 29 percent in 2016. It is forecasted we’ll see an even higher volume of mobile sales this year.

Mobile applications are on the rise as well. According to Indeed, 78 percent of millennials carry out their job searches on mobile devices. Consider using the same guidelines you use to optimize your site for mobile shopping to connect with job applicants. If applicants would struggle to complete your job application on a smartphone during a five-minute Uber ride, then your mobile applicant experience isn’t up to par.

2. Provide a Fast, Clean, and Simple ‘Checkout’ Process

Retailers have invested significant resources in perfecting their mobile checkout experiences — and for good reason. A poor checkout experience leads to cart abandonment and lost sales during the final stretch of the shopping experience. If a shopper has to create or sign into an account, or continuously scroll and zoom to type in a credit card number, they’re simply going to give up.

Hourly job applicants act similarly when it comes to the application process. If you’re asking applicants to upload resumes or connect their LinkedIn accounts, don’t force them to also manually type out their entire work histories or take a 45-minute work-style quiz. If you do, expect a high application abandonment rate and little progress in reaching your seasonal hiring quota.

3. Offer Prompt Service

During the holidays, customer service representatives don’t make customers wait weeks before receiving a response. If a customer has trouble with a discount code when trying to purchase a coat online, they reach out to the customer service chat channel for help with troubleshooting. They won’t tolerate waiting two weeks for a response from the agent — they’ll just buy the coat somewhere else, maybe even leaving a bad social media review in the process.

The same concepts should be applied to your holiday hiring process. Quick, automated responses should be sent to applicants letting them know if they can move on to the next round or if they don’t have the necessary qualifications. If you don’t invest in a strategy to provide quick feedback to applicants, you risk alienating quality hourly talent.

The holidays are a potentially lucrative season for retailers, who fight sluggish growth all year long. However, you can’t increase sales without a scaled-up staff ready to serve the holiday crowds. In a competitive job market, you have to woo candidates just as hard as customers. By intentionally easing the recruiting and hiring process, you can recruit a reliable and engaged seasonal staff this holiday shopping season.

Keith Ryu is CEO at Fountain.

By Keith Ryu