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Hiring for the Retail Holiday Season Shows the Future of Digital Human Resource Management

Like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, retail is leading the way this holiday season and shining a light on the future of digital human resource management. Always at the forefront of keeping overhead costs in line with sales, retailers are showing all of us how to navigate a digital journey through the clouds.

With store traffic down, brick-and-mortar retailers have been careful about not hiring too much seasonal help. Retail holiday season hiring has remained about the same in recent years, although it’s up this year in the transportation and warehousing sectors. This is likely a sign that this season’s holiday sales are part of the continued gradual market shift toward online shopping. Hiring at online retailers, such as Amazon, is up. Currently, online shopping represents about 10% of annual retail sales, and that number keeps growing.

A bright spot for brick-and-mortar retailers is that shoppers still value stores for atmosphere, social connection, and service. Store hiring managers know the risk of delivering a lackluster experience in any of these areas. Cutting back on head count is a risk, and pressure to keep wages low can affect quality. What to do?

Leading retailers are taking the hiring process online. Especially during the holidays, hiring automation takes the pressure off of already overburdened store managers and can increase the quality of new hires. Here’s what this looks like.  

Retail is ahead of other industries when it comes to brand definition and awareness. Refining the message to reach prospective employees isn’t a stretch for retailers. Often, possible employees are already loyal store customers. 

Employees and prospective employees today expect a digital experience. Although many retailers continue using paper applications, when getting the right employee for the right price is important, retailers must carefully weigh value versus cost.. Within a few clicks, online applications are submitted. Questionnaires automate screening. Online testing helps reduce high-cost retail fraud and store theft. Applicant job alerts notify candidates of immediate openings. Job alerts can even let qualified applicants know when future openings become available. Automation saves time and improves performance.

Digital processing is fast and efficient, which is important. Typical job seekers in retail apply to three or more jobs at once from their mobile phones. And hiring today is competitive; business rivals are just as hungry to fill open positions with the best available candidates. Retailers also compete with employers in other industries, such as banks and credit unions.

After a successful store interview, digital new-hire onboarding saves time and increases data accuracy, and mandatory store training can be focused by role or position. Ongoing employee training, goal setting, and performance collaborations can also be designed around specific areas.

To engage with and empower employees and increase productivity, many retailers are turning to digital innovations, including items such as smart shelves, which display promotions; sensors that detect customer movement; self-service kiosks; content management and collaboration solutions; and handheld mobile devices for in-store staff. These devices bring many benefits.

In-store digital automation makes life easier for employees and customers. With turnover high in retail today, employees are less likely to know the products well. But because digital technology makes product information readily accessible throughout the store, employees and customers can easily get product- and service-related questions answered without needing walk to another part of the store.

Most retailers manage multiple locations over a wide geography. Regional managers and store executives are using the power of data analytics to provide historical, real-time, and even predictive views, across all stores, just one store, or an individual department. For retailers, the power to predict turnover across remote store locations is nothing short of a miracle.

At the forefront of digital consumer life, retail is taking a leadership role this holiday season and beyond. We can all learn by watching what’s going on in that sector. Almost every industry and business will eventually need to fully move to this new way of working with and providing service to customers. What’s especially interesting about retail is that it needs to make the transition while keeping overhead costs, such as hiring and training additional employees, under control. 

The costs, efficiencies, and performance gains provided by digital technology are the bright light in what is otherwise a blinding snowstorm of paper and cumbersome manual processes. Don’t take my word for it though. Read how American Eagle is seeing great success by going digital with Oracle HCM Cloud. 

Happy holidays!

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