How Retail Hiring Will Change in the Next 5 Years

The shopping experience has changed a lot over the past 10 years. But the experience of applying for a retail job is pretty stuck in the past.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016 there were nearly 5 million retail sales jobs in the U.S. While the retail industry is changing fast and moving from brick-and-mortar to online, retailers still employ a large demographic of Americans. And retailers that want to attract and retain those workers will need to stay innovative.

We asked Kimberly Carroll, principal at HR consulting firm IA, how she sees recruiting and hiring changing among her retail clients.

Goodbye to Paper Applications

“If you can’t hire people quickly, you’re in trouble,” she says. If you’re working with paper applications, like a lot of retailers still are, you slow down the hiring pipeline and deter young applicants. “Especially with seasonal hiring, you need to be able to get candidates in quickly and stay in contact with them.”

Many retailers hire thousands of seasonal employees around the holidays. When you have to manually process paper applications, you can’t quickly assess, hire and onboard candidates — and you likely can’t stay in touch with them about future openings. For all those reasons, paper applications are quickly on their way out as companies move to fully digital hiring processes.

A Better Application Experience

Even the retailers that offer online applications for hourly employees still have big opportunities to improve the user experience. “These days, it’s all about the candidate experience,” she says. Retailers can take a page from tech companies’ playbooks and spend more time understanding their users: the applicants.

“Create a more unified experience,” she says. “Don’t send applicants to different apps and websites to do E-Verify and background checks. Keep them on one online platform, with one look and feel.”

Same-Day Hiring

Carroll mapped out a typical retail hiring scenario. A candidate goes to the mall to apply for jobs. They fill out a paper application, they talk to the store manager — and then they leave the store without a clear answer about next steps, since the manager has to get the employee into the system and go through approvals to make a hire.

But other retailers, maybe at the same mall, support same-day hiring. The candidate can walk a few yards away from that first business and get a job on the spot. “As soon as an applicant leaves, you’ve lost them,” she says.

Amazon is a retailer that’s set a new standard for hiring speed. At Amazon, candidates can fill out an application online and schedule an interview, after which they can be hired on the spot and even start working that day.

When it comes to competing for retail talent, it’s all about speed, Carroll says.

Daily Pay

Not only are companies figuring out how to hire someone right away, Carroll says she’s talking to companies that are paying employees every day.

“Companies are looking at paying retail employees on a daily basis. They’re saying, ‘Can we support that? And if we can, why not do it?’” She says employees are drawn to the instant gratification of immediate pay for every day they work, instead of waiting for a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly check.

Retention Programs for Hourly Employees

For most brick-and-mortar retailers, the largest employee demographic is hourly workers. Retaining hourly workers is always a challenge, but there’s an opportunity to retain and promote those employees, offering them growth beyond entry-level positions.“If you keep losing those employees, you’re losing the skill set you might want in the future. So, the most successful retail organizations are building leaders from within, focusing on retaining more of their hourly workforce,” she says.

She suggests building a career path that starts at the entry-level, hourly position. “People put such a focus on higher education, but there’s nothing wrong with starting at an entry-level job and moving up,” she says. “Take an interest in those employees. Teach them skills, help them process, and turn the job into a career. Retailers need to extend their retention programs to hourly workers, not just salaried employees. ”

4 HR Tech Trends That Are Changing HR for Retailers

From cloud-based data management to employee apps, the way retailers use technology to do business is shifting, and that shift starts with employees. When executed thoughtfully, better HR tech leads to better work culture, increased retention rates and improved efficiency — a win-win situation all around.

“Seventy to 90% of retail staff are hourly, and by using the right technologies, you can create an employee experience that makes them feel connected to your company no matter their location,” says Alesandra Gonzalez-Martinez, director of HR at Taylor Gourmet. As a company that prides itself on retention, HR tech is part of that success equation.

Here are four HR tech trends that have gained traction in the retail world and affected how retailers are running their businesses.

Multilingual Communication

In the restaurant world, roughly 50% of employees are native Spanish-speakers. In order to foster transparent and consistent communication between HR departments and all employees, companies have deployed multilingual communication tools.

“These systems can translate anything I write into the employee’s native language, which expedites everything from the hiring and application process to onboarding employees,” says Gonzalez-Martinez. From these systems, HR teams can send messages, documents and notices all in each employee’s native language, eliminating misunderstandings and showing employees that the company cares about their experience at work.

Employee Engagement

New HR platforms make personal interaction possible at any size company. These systems allow employees to check their schedules and allow HR departments to ask questions to get a pulse on each retail location.

“When an employee clocks in, questions pop up that require an answer before they can log their time. From simply indicating whether they had a good day to verifying their boss completed their performance review, this sends critical information back to the company’s home base,” says, Gonzalez-Martinez. For growing companies with locations around the country or the globe, these systems provide critical feedback about each store, its employees and managers and give employees a voice and connection to HQ.

Paperless HR Departments

Traditional HR departments are filled with filing cabinets for endless amounts of paper. Now, thanks to new technology, HR teams can be completely paperless. Not only does this make workspaces clean and manageable, but it also “allows companies not to worry about where files are, especially when they’re in growth mode,” says Gonzalez-Martinez. Using cloud technology means all documents from offer letters to I-9s are accessible, no matter where someone physically works.

Performance Management

The majority of retail staff is hourly, and retail tends to have a high turnover rate. To mitigate staff fluctuations and retain great employees, performance-management systems have gained popularity. With the help of these systems, retailers can focus on identifying skills gaps and implementing training programs that benefit their staff. These technologies have enabled retailers to become more action-oriented and proactive, since they have real data at their fingertips that speak to what employees need.

Performance-management systems have also encouraged more regular conversations between employees and managers for feedback and praise, which was not the norm a few years ago. These systems are shifting how retailers groom their employees and create opportunities for growth within their companies.

HR technologies are improving how retailers run their HR departments as they promote the business’s mission, no matter the location. Most importantly, they “provide a sense of security and connection for employees,” says Gonzalez-Martinez. “Our work culture lives in these technologies.”