Employee Retention

WorkStep & RILA retail roundtable: hiring and retention best practices

October 15, 2021

a woman buying clothing at a shop in a mall

RESOURCES WorkStep & RILA retail roundtable: hiring and retention best practices

What’s the impact of not hiring & retaining your frontline workers on your business?

It’s October, which means the holiday retail boom is just around the corner. Typically this spurs an influx of hires of both in-store associates and supply chain frontline workers. But with the struggling labor market, companies are feeling the pressure to hire and retain enough frontline workers to keep up with demand.

Recent reports show the U.S. retail industry is projected to see a labor shortage of nearly 350,000 workers across the supply chain and stores during this peak season. As companies scramble to fill these positions, they are turning to various incentives to help fuel the number of applicants.

a woman buying clothing at a shop in a mall

Increasing hiring wages is often the first effort along with hiring bonuses, but even if it helps bring in candidates, is it really a good long-term solution to retain frontline workers? The answer is no.

Last week, WorkStep partnered with RILA (Retail Industry Leaders Association) to facilitate a discussion with human resource executives from the retail industry on what challenges they’ve been facing with hiring and retention, and what best practices they have implemented to combat these issues.

The race to hire

Hiring qualified candidates for hourly supply chain positions has become more competitive than ever before. With giants like Amazon expediting and automating the application and interview process to what seems like lightspeed, other companies are struggling to recruit talent quickly enough to compete.

During the roundtable, HR professionals from a range of leading big-box retailers deliberated over strategies to accelerate the hiring process while still bringing in top talent.

Some of the main topics considered were:

  • Eliminating background checks and drug testing
  • Offering sign-on incentives
  • Updating or improving technology
  • Breaking down language barriers
  • Safely conducting on-site visits during the interview process
  • Providing flexible scheduling for shifts
  • Issuing referral bonuses to current staff

However, hiring is only half the battle. Once a candidate is successfully hired, then companies are facing the challenge of how to retain that person for the long run.

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Retaining the incoming workforce (but don’t forget your existing workforce!)

A common trend seemed to be shared across all companies who participated in the roundtable discussion; it’s a struggle to keep new frontline workers past 90 days. For many, it’s difficult to keep them for the first couple weeks. And some even noted it was common for a new hire to completely “ghost” them on the first day.

While speeding up the hiring process may help eliminate those who abandon the job for another offer before even starting, keeping people through onboarding and the first few months is proving to be a much greater problem.

In some cases, sign-on incentives have backfired. The new term, “Incentive-Hopping,” has been coined as a result of candidates starting a position long enough to reap the benefit, then leaving for another job with a similar offer.

Many companies are finding that although these bonuses or increased in-hire wages may get applicants in the door, it’s not ultimately what keeps them in the role long-term.

Here are some of the retention tactics our roundtable guests found most successful so far:

  • Leader-culture engagement
  • Cultural initiatives
  • Referral hires are often more likely to stay
  • Touchpoints to help understand the candidate experience – leadership check-ins, surveys, etc.
  • Opportunities to excel
  • Training improvements

We’ll be taking a deeper look into these hiring and retention strategies in future blog posts, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about how WorkStep is helping drive hiring and retention for frontline workers, contact us today!

Kristina Finn

Kristina Finn, Content Marketing Manager | kristina@workstep.com