Aug 07, 2015

Taking Back Control Over Hiring Frontline Retail Workers

Frontline employees play an indispensable role in shaping a retail customer’s experience. A friendly, knowledgeable, experienced and accommodating staff member can be the difference between a one-time sale and a repeat shopper, making it critical for stores to hire and train these workers carefully. However, due to a number of factors outside of stores’ control, many retailers struggle with fragmented recruitment strategies that fail to do their businesses justice.

In plenty of instances, hiring is performed on a store-by-store basis, with little input from corporate headquarters or national HR teams, even if available. Complicating matters, recruitment decisions are often made based on interviews alone, leaving retailers with a grab bag of employee expertise and qualifications.

Thanks to vast improvements in hiring technology, these challenges can be overcome. By trading in manual recruitment methods for employee relationship management platforms that simplify and expedite the hiring process, retailers can bring on employees capable of turning consumers into brand advocates.

Mending a Fragmented Hiring Cycle

Despite retail corporate headquarters’ well-intentioned attempts at setting hiring guidelines, the quality of frontline workers tend to vary between stores. Local managers and shift leaders, strapped for time and resources, are unable to locate and identify the right candidates for their store. Even more concerning, HR is often left in the dark throughout the recruitment process. As a result, many retailers end up with an inconsistent customer experience, and corporate management can only guess as to why certain stores perform better than others. So long as employers keep relying on opaque, cumbersome hiring methods (e.g., paper applications, word-of-mouth referrals), this ineffective cycle rolls on.

Employee management platforms provide corporate teams with invaluable insight into their frontline staff’s performance while getting HR departments more involved in the hiring process. The shift away from manual, undocumented processes fosters transparency between local storefronts and headquarters, making it easier for HR to standardize candidate selection criteria and organizational fit across locations. With these integrated systems, retailers can recruit frontline workers based on the organization’s unique needs and minimize customer service fluctuations between stores.

Hiring Retailer Workers

Mind the Soft Skills

Left to their own devices, store managers generally hire employees based on specific skillsets, past experience, and referrals. Personality type and soft skills like patience and enthusiasm, however, factor into frontline workers’ success just as much (if not more) than their ability to do inventory or operate a register. Unlike industry experience and hard skills, soft skills often cannot be taught, though they can make or break a retailer’s customer experience.

Basing recruitment efforts off of resumes alone is counterproductive and fails to account for these valuable interpersonal skills. Given how many hourly retail applicants are Millennials (or younger) – who lack extensive work histories – a paper form rarely demonstrates a candidate’s true capabilities. Digital, customizable employee management platforms help retailers move beyond resume-based hiring and focus on the qualities that matter. Retailers can filter candidates by location, availability and preferences to reduce unnecessary interviews. This gives hiring managers more time to spend verifying the quality of candidates who make the cut, and lets retailers build a workforce better equipped to delight customers.

Some employee relationship management tools go beyond their traditional counterparts, providing applicant profiles that highlight prior jobs, along with individual skills or strengths. Retailers can review verified worker achievements and reviews from previous supervisors, granting a more comprehensive view of an applicant’s abilities. Especially during peak hiring periods such as the holiday and summer months, these tools save retailers time and expenses by accelerating the recruitment and onboarding cycle.

As competition between retailers intensifies, customer experience, and the frontline workers who provide it, grows in importance. Until recently, traditional hiring practices undermined this connection, leaving retailers to grapple with a handful of challenges in the search for qualified, well rounded employees. Today, the technology is in place for employers to simplify their hiring and seize a competitive advantage. When retailers begin to embrace these new solutions, everyone – including management, frontline staff and customers – wins.

Steven Kramer / Contributed to Independent Retailer

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