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Study: Flexible work schedules most important to retail job seekers

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Retail candidates across the nation value shorter work weeks and flexible shift patterns over compensation and benefits. Retail candidates across the nation value shorter work weeks and flexible shift patterns over compensation and benefits.

This was according to “Inside the Heads of Job Seekers: U.S. Retail Candidate Preferences,” a study from ManpowerGroup Solutions, and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA). The study surveyed nearly 1,500 retail workers across the United States.

Retail roles are the third hardest job to fill in the U.S., and the talent shortage will continue to escalate as the gig economy (a marketplace based on short-term contracts and freelancers) attracts workers seeking flexibility. This mindset is also influencing retail candidates’ expectations.

For example, job seekers rank schedule flexibility and type of work as the top two reasons why they want to work in retail. Flexibility is so important that twice as many retail candidates want part time work than any other industry. Meanwhile, 31% of retail workers also prefer to choose their own shifts versus 18% of employees across other industries.

“Employers across the U.S. are experiencing talent shortages, and retailers are not immune. The retail industry is competing for workers who seek new ways of working, value flexibility and the ability to choose their own schedule,” said Jim McCoy, VP of ManpowerGroup Solutions RPO and Global Practice Leader.  “To attract the brightest and best, employers need to develop an attractive employer brand and demonstrate that they can offer people flexibility, the option to better blend work and home, and the opportunity to develop their skills.”

To ensure retailers engage with the best talent —  for the busy holiday period and beyond — retailers should consider the following strategies:

Limber Up. Retail candidates value flexible working, and that’s not just part-time jobs. Prioritizing workplace flexibility, supported by technology, will enable managers and employees to have a say in scheduling.

Diversify. Apply your market segmentation strategy to recruiting employees. Programs targeted at specific groups will open up new talent pools. For example, attract students with a well-crafted, flexible, term-time offer to build a steady pipeline of workers with in demand skills.

Collaborate. The retail industry depends on a part-time workforce to meet seasonal demands, and collaborative hiring platforms and communities provide access to on-tap talent seeking flexibility.

Ping and Push. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of retail candidates want to be contacted two to four times per month by potential employers. With 86% of retail candidates using Facebook and 52% on Instagram, social media is an effective and efficient way to keep your brand front of mind, and push information about job opportunities direct to candidates.

“As one of the nation’s largest employers providing careers and opportunities to over 42 million Americans, the retail industry must continue to adopt hiring practices that offer employees the balance and flexibility they crave,” said Evan Armstrong, VP of government affairs at RILA. “The industry must innovate as the marketplace for job-seekers becomes more tech-forward and candidates are prioritizing flexible and innovative work arrangements.”

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In a 21st Century Workforce, Flexibility is Key

As the nation’s largest private sector employer, retail supports 42 million American jobs. Retail is unique in that it offers more opportunity with a lower barrier to entry than virtually any other industry. Employees seeking their first job, a second chance or a long-lasting career will find a path towards upward mobility through retail employment.

Attracting and engaging talent is vital to the retail ecosystem. Twenty-four percent of retail candidates are students and one in three is a young millennial between 18 and 24 years old. Retail candidates are also more likely than average to be Baby Boomers. As these age groups are balancing school, family and personal life, the key to appealing to and retaining top talent may rely on flexibility.

According to new research from ManpowerGroup Solutions, approximately a quarter of retail candidates (23 percent) want the part-time work that retail provides. They also value schedule flexibility. Unlike other industries where compensation is ranked as the top motivator, retail candidates rank type of work and schedule flexibility as the top two reasons they seek retail employment.

As retailers look to attract and retain talent, there are three areas of focus that can help them entice potential candidates.

Choice in shifts is important
Whether balancing schoolwork, caregiving, volunteering, a second career or simply life’s frequent curveballs, today’s retail candidates value choosing their own shift schedule. As opportunities to participate in the gig economy increase, retailers will be competing for employees with companies like Uber and Lyft. The ability to turn work on and off is one of the characteristics that make being an Uber or Lyft driver appealing.

Retail candidates are almost twice as likely to prefer the ability to choose their own shift schedule — 31% versus 18% among U.S. candidates. The ability to work compressed shifts or a shortened work week is also a key focal point.

Retail employers can look to the restaurant industry for lessons learned. In many restaurants, trading shifts is now automated through apps that empower employees to manage their own schedule and ensure managers of shift coverage. Even smaller initiatives can make a difference; shifts can be timed to coincide with school drop-off and pickup or weekend shifts for students can be streamlined through an app.

Look in new places but respond quickly
Retail candidates, in particular, want to apply for jobs via apps on their smartphones. Over half (53%) of candidates asked are willing to apply via an app. Students who often applied to colleges using universal applications now expect the same when applying for a job. Apps that facilitate applications appeal to the one-click ordering mindset.

However, retailers don not have to reinvent the wheel. Employers can tap into existing apps specifically targeted for retail workers and must be prepared to respond. Candidates who apply for jobs via mobile apps, also tend to apply for more jobs. The employer who responds first often responds best as candidates expect to engage quickly. Failure to be responsive erodes employer brand and customer loyalty.

Collaborate for talent
Companies growing their part-time workforce can benefit from new talent communities, such as innovative collaborative hiring systems. Collaborative hiring is especially useful for retailers, where seasonal needs are predictable. Sharing talent pools with other companies can mitigate risk, reduce costs and increase agility.

Technologies, such as WorkMyWay.com, offer companies with similar profile needs a single career portal. Candidates leverage their skill sets across employers and decide where they want to work. Companies with strong employer brands will have a new way to pool qualified talent for the exact right time of need, and smaller companies will benefit from being associated with larger names.

As retail continues its transformation and moves towards appealing to a modernized workforce, targeted outreach, a good candidate experience, a strong employer brand and a willingness for creativity will make a significant difference. Understanding candidate preferences is critical. Today’s employees are looking for the power to choose a schedule that meets their individual needs. Employees are among the most powerful assets retailers have in a changing marketplace and flexibility may hold the key towards keeping pace with today’s 21st century workforce.

Jim McCoy is global practice leader, ManpowerGroup Solutions; Melissa Hassett is VP, client delivery, ManpowerGroup Solutions; and Evan Armstrong is VP, government affairs, Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA).

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M.Hassett says:
Oct-30-2017 02:49 pm

Many retailers I speak with are surprised not to see comp and benefits on the list of top things employers can do to attract and retain talent. Feel free to reach out anytime if you would like to discuss these methods further... [email protected]

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Discounter partners with retail accelerator program start-up to monitor product inspections

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Target has found a way to get more visibility into its vendors’ production efforts.

Product inspections are often a manual, time-consuming process — a practice that Target knows first-hand. After handwriting details about merchandise, including potential product defects, inspectors create a report which may not get into the retailer’s hands until a few days later. However, it can take weeks for the information to get back to everyone involved, according to Target’s blog, “A Bullseye View.”

Target hopes to solve these issues with a solution from Inspectario, a start-up firm that developed a Web- and mobile-enabled platform that provides real-time transparency into factory work happening around the world. Specifically, the platform can manage purchase orders, book inspections, generate reports for retailers, predict defections in products, and provide factory risk assessments and reports on their inspections.

The discounter is currently rolling out the technology platform with 50 of our apparel vendors in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

“This kind of transparency will allow us to make real-time decisions about our products,” said Irene Quarshie, Target’s VP of product quality and responsible sourcing. “Second, it will help us greatly improve the consistency and quality of the products we offer, making it really clear where and how they’re made — that’s something guests care a lot about and have come to expect from Target.”

Target is no stranger to the start-up company — Inspectario participated in the discounter’s inaugural Target + Techstars Retail Accelerator class. Following the program, Inspectario raised $3.7 million in seed round of funding. Investments were led by Target, with smaller contributions from Matchstick Ventures, a Minneapolis-based venture capital firm, and Techstars Ventures, according to The Star Tribune.

To learn more about the partnership, click here.

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