Prepping for seasonal hires

businessman working with computer on the beach
Retailers have to prepare their workforce for the season. (anyaberkut/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Identifying and recruiting talent is one of the biggest challenges that retailers face in 2018, especially when looking to bring on seasonal workers. From a technology and staffing perspective, logistics is another challenge, as streamlining and automating staffing processes are necessary when navigating the increasing gig economy workforce, according to Stefan Midford, president and CEO of Natural Insight, a provider of a cloud-based advanced retail execution and workforce management platform. 

In addition, finding a cost-effective way to ensure employees are productive and quickly brought up to speed is a major challenge for retailers hiring seasonal employees. 

"Retailers must cost-effectively handle hiring procedures, from drug tests to background checks, and efficiently onboard new employees as well as make sure they understand their tasks and general processes," Midford told FierceRetail. 

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So as spring and summer begin to bloom, retailers need to be thinking about the hiring and training of seasonal staff at stores that sell hardware and outdoor merchandise. Midford says that ideally employees would show up a week before starting work for training, but the reality is that companies often scramble to hire staff. 

"To avoid this, the national recruiting team should typically begin preparing 90 to 120 days in advance to get seasonal employees in the pipeline," he said. "The in-store team needs to be preparing at least 60 days in advance. Within these 60 days, the in-store training team has to prep, gather materials, decide which tasks they’ll be distributing and manage scheduling. On average, it takes 30 days to complete the initial preparations, while the next 30 days are dedicated to on-boarding." However, he notes that this process can’t take longer than 120 days, or the candidates lose interest.

Plus, retailers need to prepare their current staff for the busy upcoming season. The first step is to identify and separate the normal day-to-day activities from tasks that need to be specifically planned and sourced; for instance, separating tasks such as customer engagement from logistics for shipments.

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So when it comes to hiring seasonal workers, Midford recommends that retailers take the time to identify each potential hire’s powers and passions. 

"In a tight labor market, retailers often forgo this and simply look for any adequate worker rather than people who are passionate about the brand," he said. "Unfortunately, this is when brick-and-mortar retailers lose to e-commerce. If shoppers don’t have access to a talented and trained employee to help them make their purchases in-store, they feel like they’re wasting their time and can find the same or even better information online."

In addition, Midford recommends personalizing the process by hiring based on an individual’s unique skill set and product knowledge, as well as personal interests, preferences, passions, location and availability to work. These criteria will enable companies to save time and recruit more engaged employees, leading to an increase in customer satisfaction and sales performance.

Natural Insight’s clients include Nintendo, Godiva and Petco. Through Natural Insight’s robust platform, retailers reap the benefits of productivity gains, time efficiencies and enhanced compliance.  

"Brands should be thinking about and developing a marketing strategy targeting college students when considering the seasonal hiring initiatives," Midford added. "We’re in late-March right now; in 60 to 90 days these students will be looking for work. Retailers need to begin putting together their strategy to take advantage of this influx of job applicants."