Employment Hero

Retail Recruitment Guide

Retail recruitment can be more hectic than a department store at Christmas time. The industry is huge. It encompasses everything from international department stores to local family-run shops selling everything from fruits and vegetables to the latest fashion trends. Just within one store, you could need sales assistants, finance buffs, administrators, a stock buyer, maybe security and many more roles that all sit underneath the retail umbrella. 

The expectations of employees and candidates also change every year. Reward and recognition remain important, but more and more candidates are looking for a job with a company whose values align with their own and where they can learn and develop both professional and personal skills. Their expectations of the candidate and employee experience are also far greater than ever before. Further making recruitment harder, especially for smaller retail businesses that do all their hiring in-house. 

Finding quality candidates takes time, but with the right approach, you can attract quality and quantity without paying the big bucks! We’ve put together this guide to show you how you can streamline your retail recruitment approach.

Industry-specific problems

If you work in retail, you know times are tough. There’s plenty of industry-specific problems you need to deal with every day as a business but we want to focus on the main two: 

Problem #1. Online sales are growing rapidly and large overseas retailers are continuing to open in Australia. 

According to WebAlive last year Australians spent a total of $28.6 billion on online shopping. As of January 2019, online shopping is responsible for 9% of Australia’s total retail sales.

Statista predicts that by the end of this year Australian online businesses will see a 15.1% growth in revenue. Also, the number of online shoppers will reach 20.3 million in 2019 (5% more than last year). This leads to the initial problem with retail recruitment, that less and less people are now considering retail as a life-long career path. Especially in the more customer-facing roles. How do you encourage or find more candidates interested in retail and train them to give customers that personal experience you can’t get online? 

Problem #2. High turnover 

Similarly to the hospitality industry, seasonality is a common problem in retail businesses. Across the board, Christmas is the busiest time for retail, but the Easter school holidays can also equal shopping mayhem. With fluctuating volumes of foot traffic, you might have periods where you need to rapidly double your workforce. 

The staffing needs of retail businesses are quite volatile and this leads to high staff turnover. This seasonality poses a big recruitment challenge for retail businesses as well, as it requires what’s called “high volume hiring” which means hiring multiple employees over a short period of time.

Sometimes, this type of recruitment brings challenges and gets worse if the regular retail employees end up quitting because of it. Also, the competition for local talent can heat up during busier times of the retail year. 

Employment Hero Guide to Retail Recruitment 

With these in mind, we want to run you through a quick Employment Hero guide on how to get the most out of your retail recruitment strategy so you’re hiring the best, more qualified talent for your business. 

Step 1. Define Your Hiring Goals

The start of any recruitment strategy should be to define your recruitment goals: 

  • Outline how many new employees you need 
  • What kind of employees you need or are looking for
  • Establish a timeline you’d like to follow throughout the recruitment process 

In the retail world, your hiring goals may vary depending on the type and time of year you’re looking to onboard new employees.

If you’ve been in the business for a long time, you should have a firm understanding of the history and growth of the business you’re hiring for, as well as any upcoming holidays or events. This will mean you already have a good understanding of when you’ll need to start hiring more employees in preparation for a rush of customers! 

Step 2. Know Your Candidates

Because retail encompasses such a large range of individuals, it can be difficult to narrow down who your ideal candidate is. While some companies may focus on hiring high school or college students looking for part-time or seasonal employment, others may only want experienced full-time candidates to help run their business. Work out what would work best for your business and make sure you know who the right person to hire actually is. 

Get an understanding of the kinds of employees you need working for your company. Then look for ways to best attract that particular audience. For example: 

  • If you’re hiring more junior candidates, who are happy with part-time or seasonal hours, look at social media groups, Craigslist or standard job boards to help you attract candidates, students or young individuals looking to gain some extra cash and experience. Keep in mind that they might be inexperienced but they’re usually perfect for shorter shifts and flexible working hours. 
  • If you’re looking for more experienced retail workers, you will want to search on more targeted job boards or LinkedIn. Or use an outsourced agency that has expertise in hiring more senior retail workers. 

It is essential to know where your potential candidates are active so that you can promote your job ad in the right places. 

Remember to also look locally for new employees, especially for shift workers and during busy seasons you’ll want staff who are already in the area. Use location-specific job boards, local papers or blogs, or other targeted strategies to help pinpoint your area for the best type of candidates.

Step 3. Create an Employer Brand

mecca employer branding instagram

Mecca showing off their amazing employer branding on Instagram.

We love a good employer brand here at Employment Hero! Employer branding can help you attract a stronger applicant base, as well as encourage current employees to stick around longer. It’s something we encourage all businesses to create and evolve the business grows

Having a defined employer brand shows potential and current hires who you are, what you offer, and what they can expect out of their potential employer. By creating a clear image of what your business stands for and what it means to work there, your employees can feel like they’re a part of something greater before they’ve even come in for an interview.  

A good employer brand is extremely beneficial to any business, and having a strong employee brand can help you attract and retain your best employees. 

There are a number of hard facts on how employer branding helps your bottom line from the LinkedIn Ultimate List of Employer Brand Stats:

  • 28% reduction in employee turnover
  • 50% reduction in cost to hire
  • 1 – 2X faster to hire

Once your employer brand is established, you want to ensure it’s featured throughout your job descriptions, hiring and onboarding process. Don’t worry we’ve also got a great piece on how to include your employer brand and an employee value proposition (EVP) into a candidate search. 

Step 4. Have a Retention Plan

Hiring retail employees is just one half of the battle. In order to truly grow and sustain your business, you need to hire employees who will stick around. An employee retention plan is important for any business. 

Unfortunately, many individuals who accept retail positions are only looking for short-term employment. They might be students, backpackers or individuals hoping for some side income to supplement their full-time positions.

While these kinds of employees do serve a purpose, if you’re only hiring individuals who have no plans to grow with the company, you’ll find yourself constantly restarting the recruitment process over and over again – which can be both time-consuming and costly for the business. 

Instead, you want to develop a retention plan to help improve the number of employees who remain within your retail business. You’ll also want to create a clear roadmap for promotions, raises, and additional opportunities that you can share with potential candidates or employees. You want them to know exactly how they can advance throughout the business and what the benefits will be if they stick around a little longer.

For example, if you’re hiring a casual sales assistant, create a career roadmap to show them their advancement options. If stability is what they’re after, talk to them about future options for a part-time role. For the more ambitious, outline possible promotion paths. 

Above all else, keep an open dialogue with your employees. By doing this you can best understand their long-term needs. And in turn, they can understand how you see them progressing in the business.

Pro tip: A lot of retail recruitment goes through the regional manager. We recommend talking to the actual store manager if possible to find out exactly what sort of person would work well in their team.

The Wrap Up 

Although retail recruitment can come with many challenges, the right strategies in place can help make sure you’re getting the right people through the door. And once they’re in, enable growth and development to make sure you don’t lose them.

Follow these simple steps and you’ll create a workforce that only has the business’s best interest at heart.


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