Retail Hiring Extends Beyond Store Workers

It’s that most wonderful time of the year for retailers, and sure enough, they’ve been on a hiring spree. 

In contrast to mixed results in the third quarter, Black Friday and Cyber Monday posted strong sales. This is particularly important given that the holiday shopping season — typically between Thanksgiving and Christmas — has six fewer days this year. Despite the challenging calendar and some early mixed signals, the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts holiday retail sales during November and December will increase about 4% compared to 2018, totaling approximately $730 billion.

Overall benign economic conditions have buttressed the optimism. Despite a downturn in manufacturing and slowing in overall economic growth, the U.S. consumer has generally remained resilient amid record-low unemployment, a strong stock market, and wage growth well above inflation.

iCIMS data confirms that employers have been ramping up their hiring over the past few months, with a 6.3% increase in retail job openings through November of this year, as well as a 4.5% increase in new hires.

But the real story here is not about companies staffing their stores. 

It’s about staffing to build online presence, as Americans have come to expect seamless online shopping experiences. According to the NRF’s annual October holiday consumer survey, 56% of Americans plan to shop online this season, and 73% plan to use their smartphone or tablet to make a purchase. The NRF estimates that 23% of that predicted $730 billion in holiday sales will be spent online, while a majority of Americans are already using personal technology as part of their own purchasing process. Already, reports from Adobe Analytics and the U.S. Commerce Department indicate that growth in online holiday sales is outstripping all other categories.

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To keep up with the latest in ecommerce, retailers are recruiting tech workers more aggressively. Among new job openings in retail, web developers and computer-system analysts have seen the fastest growth this year. Graphic designers are in demand, as well, to help consumers search for and purchase items more efficiently. 

These positions aren’t easy to fill. Across industries, it takes 50% longer to hire for a tech role — 70 days on average — than for all other types of roles. To beat that benchmark, here are some ways to engage both tech and other candidates this holiday season:

  • Use text messaging and AI-powered chatbots to deliver a personalized experience 24/7. When RPM Pizza (Domino’s largest franchisee in the United States) added AI to its hiring process, hiring accelerated 66%.
  • Offer medical benefits even to part-time and seasonal employees. For example, grocery retailer Lidl will provide medical benefits for all its employees in more than 70 stores, no matter how many hours they work.
  • Organize virtual career fairs, where employers can interact directly with talent regardless of location, and without the headaches of campus visits.
  • Keep previous seasonal employees engaged using recruitment marketing software to encourage past workers to apply to new positions when they become available. Modern furniture and home furnishings retailer Room & Board uses candidate relationship management tools to update their seasonal alums with company news and maintain a pipeline of qualified leads. The results speak for themselves: Their turnover rate is 15%, well below the retail industry average of 59%.

As they plunge deeper into the competition for tech talent, retailers need to bring everything they’ve learned about marketing products to marketing jobs. Meeting people where they are increasingly means meeting them not just online but via mobile. And just as sales are driven by personalized experiences, so too with recruiting results.

As iCIMS’ chief economist, Josh Wright leads a team of data scientists in analyzing U.S. labor market trends. With nearly 15 years of experience, Wright previously served as a U.S. economist with Bloomberg L.P., and was a staff researcher at the Federal Reserve. Wright holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University. His publications span academic and policy journals, popular blogs, and major media outlets.

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