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The holidays are the biggest time of year for retailers. Everything is on the line when consumers are spending more than $600 billion in only a couple months. In fact, this season is so important for commerce that it accounts for more than 8x the next biggest sales drive season: back to school.
Whether you own a physical retail store or you run an ecommerce site (or both), the biggest challenge to achieving your sales goals lies with the people you have on your team. For half a decade, there has been a steady year-over-year uptick in holiday hiring, with a 6% increase just over the last year.
Hiring within the retail industry is getting more and more competitive, especially when looking for holiday help, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get an upper hand. The following tactics will help your scaling SMB find, recruit and hire the best possible talent.
Always Be Recruiting
Many tips out there will tell you to “start recruiting early” or “plan ahead.” The truth is that you should always be recruiting and looking for that perfect fit. You might find people you’d like to hire, but don’t have a position for now. That’s OK. Keep your good candidates warm and when the time is right you can bring them on board.
Learn from Previous Years, Economic Trends
Nobody knows your company better than you and no matter how many articles you read, the best insight will come from what happened to your business previously. Look at last year’s holiday sales and traffic data, and use it to plan and forecast for this year’s holiday season. By combining this information with the current economic climate, you have a solid predictor for this year’s holiday performance.
Identify Key Employee Traits
Before you start evaluating candidates, ask yourself what traits you want to have in those employees to ensure you’re aligning your new hires with your business objectives. Some common traits that I’ve seen among hiring for ecommerce and physical retailers include flexibility, high energy, fast learner and social media capabilities.
Also, be sure to balance your wants with what you actually need. For some roles, being punctual, polite and professional is all you need for success. Experience and education may be irrelevant if they can do the job, so figure out how to test them on job performance — not just behind an interview desk.
Recruit Former Employees
There’s an old adage that states it is easier to keep a client than it is to get a new one. The same is true for employees. The hiring process can be resource-intensive and it will save you a lot of money and time to hire past employees. Specifically, you can avoid items like recruiting, interviewing and both initial and ongoing training. Reach out to former employees to bring back help that already know the ropes.
Hire for Key Areas
Where do you need help this season: customer service, returns, warehouse, marketing, all of it? Once this is determined, it’s easier to map out how many employees you need and where you can plug in certain individuals based on strengths. But, build flexibility into your staff. You’ll want to shift your stronger talent to the more important roles and focus recruiting on the entry level positions. For example, it is easier to find warehouse and merchandising employees on short notice than it is to find a strong in-store sales person.
Don’t hire more than you need and waste payroll on days when you are overstaffed. If you are always recruiting (as mentioned above), then you’ll have people you can tap when the demand hits. If you’re in a pinch without qualified candidates, there are on-demand staffing options to help you staff up during peak hours. Always be sure, though, to use slow periods to recruit, interview and get ready to hire.
Have a Training Program Ready
Have your A players trained to do any job in the store and leave the less skilled or less trained people to do the jobs that have the least impact on sales and customer experience. Put the stronger players in the front of the store with customer interaction, and put the weaker players in the back focused on behind-the-scenes roles.
Use Technology to your Benefit
In full disclosure, I am the co-founder of an on-demand staffing platform that helps companies find talent to fill temporary positions immediately, so I know it’s important to leverage new technologies and services to make it easier to fill roles and get your job done. Whether you decide to use traditional agencies, smarter job boards, innovative interviewing systems or on-demand staffing, plan to spend the time now researching your options before the holiday rush.
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