A Retrenching or a Renaissance?

April 3, 2019 | Shannon Seery | Symphony Talent
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Reports on the so-called “death of retail” are highly overrated. In fact, according to an analysis by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. about 700,000 workers were hired in the retail industry as seasonal employees in 2018, the most since 2015.

That being said, retail employees – both full-time and seasonal – are feeling the effects of a highly volatile market. For several years now, many big-name organizations – from Sears to Payless, Barnes & Noble and countless others – have been closing their doors. However, this doesn’t mean the need for talent is in decline. In fact, retailers who promote better in-store experiences are still growing and are letting candidates know that their doors are wide open.

Bridging the gap

While there will always be a need for additional talent during peak seasons, it comes down to more than staffing up. After all, we are social creatures and retailers understand that engaged and knowledgeable employees are the key element of a positive customer experience – and a healthy bottom line.

Hitting every touchpoint

What does this mean for retailers who want to attract the best candidates for their peak hiring seasons? For starters, it’s about creating a truly omnichannel talent marketing strategy that combines online, traditional, and in-store tactics that grab attention and build candidate relationships at every touchpoint.

A client of ours, DICK’S Sporting Goods, recently had great success with their National Signing Day. This event was introduced first through online channels, including a takeover banner of their careers page, supplemented by ads running in media. But an equally important part of the strategy involved creating an event in the stores, too – which covered all the bases. By using online and offline seamlessly together DICK’S was able to quickly fill nearly 4500 open positions.

In similar fashion, another client, a big-box retailer in the do-it-yourself sector created as seasonal-only microsite separate from their career site, with traffic totally driven through media vs. traditional search. The microsite experience functions like an enhanced job description – driving people directly to the jobs. If a candidate engaged with the content initially but dropped off before completing an application, they were retargeted throughout the campaign using drip emails selling them on benefits such as flexibility, stability, and growth potential. In the end, over 30% of these drop-offs converted.

The in-store recruiting experience was equally comprehensive. Where candidates were waiting to be interviewed, posters and phone texting were used to encourage them to enter key information about their interests and qualifications and apply online BEFORE the face-to-face.

Setting the stage

The first and most important step to taking charge of your peak hiring season is knowing your specific market challenges. Media is critical to your talent marketing story. It’s your invitation to the party – and if the invitation isn’t compelling, nobody’s showing up. In areas that have consistent hard-to-fill situations, this could mean thinking a bit more out of the box – including incorporating radio and outdoor advertising strategies to increase awareness.

For many of our national-level clients, we compile a list of the states that have had the most retail layoffs (by citing unemployment request data) and compare it against clients’ needs by location. This helps us create geotargeted campaigns that reflect the local market and the needs of candidates residing in it.

Seasonal campaigns are also more specific to timetables – with different industries having different and distinct peak seasons. Using AI-enabled technology, it’s possible to pinpoint candidates with specific skills and alert them when you’re about to have an opening available.

Remember, it’s never too soon to start thinking about your next peak season. Did you keep track of the people you hired to get you through the last crunch? What could you be doing to keep them engaged and thinking about working for you again?

Partnering up!

Today’s TA leaders should always be looking for ways to become truly strategic partners with others in their organizations. Many are becoming more closely allied with marketing and social media teams, especially when it comes to community-based events which often feature highly compelling employee stories which can be used on career websites, social media, and in personalized job descriptions.

Moreover, TA teams in hard-to-fill markets should reach out to each other, combining resources to develop larger promotions that draw talent to opportunities in multiple store locations – and feature messaging about benefits that speak directly to that market.

Keeping the Momentum Going

The best way to get ahead of your peak season is to let your strategy build on itself and be agile, with tweaks and pivots depending on the location, as well as what’s happening in the larger retail universe.

Think in terms of the candidate’s journey through this lens, create personalized and engaging experiences across every channel and be sure to carefully monitor how your efforts are performing. The cumulative effect will ensure you have the talent pool you need - when you need it most!