The 6 Challenges of Retail Recruitment

January 17, 2020 Aon's Assessment Solutions
This article first appeared as part of an article on HRZone


Job seekers have always been attracted to the retail industry because it offers opportunities, variety and flexible working. However, recruiting and retaining the right staff is often tougher in retail than in other sectors because the industry has its own particular characteristics. David Barrett talks about the six specific challenges that make retail recruitment so demanding.  In another article we look at how these challenges can be met

1. Recruitment is Highly Decentralized.

Large stores such as Ikea or Tesco may have HR expertise on site. But in the majority of retail outlets, the hiring is handled by the manager, who is rarely an expert in recruitment.

The productivity and profitability of the store can be directly linked to the number of people that are manning the till or able to re-stock the shelves. A two-three person store can see a cataclysmic drop in sales if they’re down one person. If someone’s there alone, they can’t go to the toilet unless they close the shop!

2. Early-Stage Recruitment is Often Conducted Face-to-Face.

Most candidates will apply for a ‘high street’ retail role that’s local to them, so there’s a strong chance that your candidates will ‘walk in’ asking for a job.

This presents a great opportunity for store managers to build a positive relationship with them at the outset.

However, walk-ins can be disruptive for busy store managers, who may not have time to deal with them. Or if the manager desperately needs someone at that moment, they may appoint whoever comes through the door, without properly assessing whether that person is really right for the role.

3. Recruitment Is Ongoing.

Retailers have the highest rate of ‘no-shows’ for job interviews, usually because the candidate has received a better offer elsewhere.

High staff turnover is also a problem. This isn’t necessarily because the jobs are unattractive, or the wrong people are being employed. The applicants may only want temporary work, as they might be students, or they may simply want to earn extra money as a stopgap.

Seasonal demands in the summer and at Christmas or the holiday season also lead to huge spikes in hiring.

The point is that vacancies are nearly always available, so retailers are continually recruiting. Again, this makes it difficult for hiring managers to control the quality of recruits, if they’re under intense pressure to fill their vacancies quickly.

Ongoing recruitment can disrupt the business and training costs may not be recouped if staff members leave before they become productive. On top of that, customers will invariably receive a bad service if the wrong people are recruited into frontline roles.

4. Quick Selection Decisions Must be Made.

A good candidate who walks into your store may have already walked into several other shops on the high street.

They’re likely to take the first position they’re offered, so you have to quickly decide whether you want them.

If you ask them to apply via your website, that can take time - and that’s not helpful if there’s an urgent need and the candidate seems a good fit. Losing them to a competitor can be deeply frustrating.

5. There Is No Shortage of Candidates.

Retail companies attract a diverse range of applicants, in terms of age and ethnicity, although the sector tends to be female-dominated. Almost everyone is eligible to work in retail, so your applicant pool will have varying levels of education and previous experience. This makes it more of a challenge to identify the right people.

6. Almost Definitively Your Candidates Will also Be Your Customers.

This is the case with many B2C industries, but it is particularly true in retail. It’s a big benefit for attracting candidates.

Your applicants may apply to you because they like your brand and your values. However, this also means that the way you reject candidates matters.

If someone is unsuited to the job and you reject them in an off-hand way, they may feel offended and they might vent their frustration by boycotting your brand.

Worse still, they might tell their family and friends about their bad experience - and through social media they can reach a lot of people!

If they start to boycott you too, you’ve just lost all the revenue that those people would’ve generated over their lifetime.

These are specific challenges facing retailers. The question is how can these challenges be overcome? We take a look at this in our article How Retail Recruiters Tackle the Challenges of the Sector.

About the Author

Aon creates smart measurement solutions with valid and innovative online assessment products. Aon is globally the preferred partner for organisations who demand the best.

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