Retail as we know it is experiencing a seismic shift.
2018 has been recognised as a particularly harsh year for businesses and the future of 2019 looks bleak.
Whilst employment levels are at their highest since ONS records began, the number of retail employees dropped 2.4% year-on-year in the first three months of 2019.
Technology is transforming the retail industry beyond recognition and demographic change continues to have a profound effect. Organisations are making huge adjustments to the way they do business and this includes HR departments too.
Millennials are already the largest segment in the workforce and are expected to make up 50% by 2020.
They’re famously depicted by Simon Sinek as having ‘unrealistic expectations in the workplace by being given everything for nothing growing up’.
When it comes to competing for talent, the needs, desires, and attitudes of this unique generation cannot be ignored.
From getting the right fit of candidate culturally to using emerging technologies to your advantage and all the social and environmental issues in between, this post explores the innovative ideas retailers are implementing to achieve a successful and relevant recruitment strategy.
Despite having a bad rep, the set of characteristics millennials possess is largely down to the world and culture they grew up in.
With access to laptops and smartphones at a very young age, using technology is second nature to them and its use will increase up to 32% in the workplace from where it is now.
Family is prioritised over work, with a third saying work-life balance was most important when picking a job according to a survey by YouGov.
The same survey found that with a fifth expecting to have up to ten roles during their lifetime which is miles apart from the previous generation’s “job for life” mentality.
They are confident, ambitious and achievement-oriented, seek out challenging and meaningful work and believe business’ have a duty to become involved in improving society.
“These cohorts feel business leaders have placed too high a premium on their companies’ agendas without considering their contributions to society at large. Businesses need to identify ways in which they can positively impact the communities they work in and focus on issues like diversity, inclusion, and flexibility if they want to earn the trust and loyalty of millennial and Gen Z workers.” Punit Renjen, Deloitte Global CEO
Getting to Know You
Hire the right person.
It seems simple enough, but time and time again companies hire too quickly out of desperation.
They hire based on skill and not on character, and if the person they end up with is not right for the job, they’re likely to either quit or be fired, which costs organisations more time and money (approximately £11,000 to replace each employee) in the long run.
Jeff Bezos, founder, and CEO of the world’s largest retailer Amazon explained “I’d rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person,” Inside the Mind of Jeff Bezos
Find someone who is aligned with the mission, vision, and values of the company.
Someone who has a real investment in the company.
More and more retailers are taking a leaf out of the hospitality book and offering ‘test run shifts’ to candidates.
This gives an insight into not only what happens in the head office, on the shop floor but even in the stockroom, so they can get a real sense of working life there, the brand and its culture, rather than the corporately generated view.
Hive’s customers partner River Island offer industrial placements, its own apprenticeship program and work experience in a variety of roles and encourages candidates to ‘join the family’.
This allows employers to see if they are a good fit culturally, which in turn, leads to the most successful hires – Robert Half
Let’s get digital
Millennials do just about everything on their smartphones.
Snagajob’s recent ‘State of the Hourly Worker’ survey found 82% of hourly workers will now actually look for jobs on their mobiles.
Instagram and Snapchat are being used to showcase ‘great places to work’ and companies are using social channels to reach an audience that may not have visited their website.
Employee generated content is becoming more impactful and L’Oreal is now encouraging its staff to use the hashtag #lifeatloreal to showcase the culture of the organisation.
Missguided have also just announced that Channel 4 will be filming Inside Missguided – ‘an unfiltered insight into the madness, hustle, and passion of working for the brand.’
The thinking is that this kind of transparency will help with not only recruiting new people but retaining people too.
Putting all the perks of the job front and centre is an incredibly simple but effective tactic, one that big names like Oracle, Google, Deloitte have also adopted.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is taking the world by storm, especially in retail.
Innovative retailers are beginning to come up with ways to use AI to combat their most prominent HR challenges.
This new technology can be used to streamline and automate repetitive, high-volume tasks within the recruitment process.
Chatbots can keep candidates engaged as they are available 24/7 to answer questions, schedule and perform basic interviews, send out confirmation emails, etc.
According to a study conducted by CARAVAN, about 2 of 5 millennials actually think that chatbots provide better service than humans!
AI-powered writing tools can make sure the language you use in your job ads is attracting the right candidates in the first place.
Unilever, a transnational consumer goods company, has over 400 brands in over 190 countries.
It recruits more than 30,000 people a year, processes around 1.8 million job applications and is using machine learning algorithms to assess a candidate’s suitability for roles.
The algorithm examines the videos of candidates who answer questions for 30 minutes.
Through a mixture of natural language processing and body language analysis, it determines who is likely to be a good fit.
With enough time and the right data, AI can be leveraged in a way that allows retails to be more proactive than ever before with their approach to recruitment.
Battling for Equality
Retailers are making steady progress in the realm of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Diversity refers to the numerical representation of different identities at Warby Parker, whereas inclusion refers to employees feeling supported by company policies and processes that account for those various identities and experiences. (In short: Diversity ensures that you have a seat at the table, and inclusion ensures that your voice is heard.) Warby Parker Sustainability Report 2018
Warby Parker, an online retailer of prescription glasses and sunglasses, is known for being a ‘wonderful place to work’ and began its diversity and inclusion program after realising some employees were being misgendered in their administrative system.
By changing the system to be more inclusive to transgender employees, they realised some customers would have been facing the same problem and have since updated their website accordingly.
They have also removed all bias from the recruitment process by getting rid of names and genders on CV reviews and developed unconscious bias training for managers to enable them to make decisions for their employees with the right mindset.
Successfully attracting a diverse workforce has never been more important for companies. Not only is it profitable, but it also encourages innovation, trust and problem-solving.
“When we do diversity right, we can be innovative and creative and do great things,” said Prof. Stephanie J. Creary
The Sustainable Millennial
Sustainability has been a pretty niche approach in retail, until recently.
Today’s younger talent wants to work for brands that care about driving positive change in the world.
We’re starting to see organisations take on more Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives as a way to reduce their environmental impact and attract an eco-conscious generation.
Shop Direct, Hive’s customer partners, are determined to behave in a responsible way with strong ethical and environmental standards, and ‘to be the best possible citizen we can in the communities where we operate.’ according to its 2017 COP report.
They are continually investing in developing programs to keep CSR at the heart of the business.
According to a 2016 CONE Communications study,
- 64% of Millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work
- 83% would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues.
- 88% say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues
“There is a war for talent going on right now, we’re all in the middle of it,” said Marissa Pagnani McGowan, senior vice president, corporate responsibility at PVH, one of the largest global apparel companies, which owns brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein
Candidates often want to know where a company stands on environmental issues, an example McGowan gave was one actually asking the interviewer about details of the CSR report before the benefits.
Farfetch has just opened applications for its 2019 technology accelerator program which provides start-ups access to an initiative of mentorship, networking opportunities, and early-stage funding.
This year, they are seeking applications that drive social or environmental benefit with a focus on sustainability.
Both Stella McCartney and Burberry are industry partners, which shows how the Luxury industry can lead the way in supporting sustainability.
So, what does this mean for retailers?
We know that hiring young talent needs special attention, but needn’t be a daunting experience.
Put in the graft upfront and you’ll be greatly rewarded with inspired, engaged, and high performing employees – who provide better customer experiences, encourage customer loyalty and contribute heavily to the success of your company.
I’d love to know more about your retail recruitment strategies –
– What is your current retail recruitment strategy?
– Which is your favourite idea above?
– What are your biggest retail recruitment challenges?
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