Retail Recruitment and Retention, Part 1: 5 Tips for Attracting Top Talent

It’s no secret that retail is in the throes of a massive labor shortage right now. From attracting sales associates to your store, to keeping employees happy and engaged (and not tempted to leave for a better offer) — there’s so much to consider as a retail operator. In this two-part series Retail Recruitment and Retention” we will dive into not only advice for getting employees hired in the first place, but also how to then ensure you don’t lose them to the competition — or other industries.

For this Part 1 on recruitment, iQmetrix sat down with leading expert Jonathan Bergman, CEO of Hire Well Now, a recruitment company that operates in wireless and other retail spaces. Bergman offered fascinating insights and tips on how to beat the competition when it comes to recruiting talent to your stores.

1. Offer As Much (If Not More) Pay than the Competition — and Show It

There’s no doubt about it: in a labor market where employees have control, money talks loudest. Everyone’s on fire to hire,” said Bergman. That means it’s an employee market. Job seekers can not only find jobs that they want to do, but also those with the income they want to make. A lot of retailers still don’t advertise the compensation offered. That’s a huge mistake and they will lose the applicant to the next job.” 

He explained that you need to do a competitive analysis of what others are offering — and not only limited to wireless retail but also other retailers — and ensure your compensation is at least matching it. Then you need to be upfront about the pay in your recruitment advertising. You have to make sure you’re in the game,” added Bergman. Otherwise your time to hire will be longer, and you’ll get a lower quality of applicants.”

2. Take a Hard Look at Your Commission Structures

Commission structures are changing,” said Bergman. Previously, as much as 50-60% of an associate’s pay would be based on commission, with a 40-50% base pay. Today, especially since the US minimum wage was splashed across the news as $15 an hour, people expect a higher base pay. So funds are being taken away from commissions and added to base pay, with some as much as 75% base pay and 25% commission. Associates expect to be able to earn $15 an hour guaranteed, and earn an extra $5 an hour on commission, for example.”

Doesn’t the lowering of commission-based earnings and the higher guaranteed pay negatively impact employees’ sales performance? You’d think so, but it has the opposite effect,” explained Bergman. When you’re paying a guaranteed living wage, when employees are less stressed and feel their company is looking after them, you get traction with those employees. They have a sense of loyalty, they stay longer, they are motivated, they become skilled and experienced, and you make more money in the end.”

3. Offer a Gen Z/Millennial-Friendly Benefits Package 

Once you’ve got applicants’ attention with your competitive pay offering, now is the time to win them over further with a great benefits package. Bergman points out that most new sales associates you’re hiring are likely to be in the 18 to 30 age range, and young people have specific wants and needs. Younger people value, and use, health benefits less than older people,” said Bergman. What they’re interested in is free time and flexibility. They have lifestyles they want to live, and events going on, and they want to be able to attend something and make up those hours later, without losing the hours or pay.” This is where a smart scheduling platform is essential, to allow for this flexibility while maximizing productivity. 

He added that company philanthropy is also important to this demographic. The opportunity to give back is near and dear to this group’s heart,” said Bergman. Offering staff paid days off to work for a charity of their choice is a valued benefit.”

4. Tip the Balance With Company Culture and Growth Potential 

Maybe your applicants are deciding between several opportunities that offer competitive pay and benefits. You have an opportunity to tip the scales in your favor by luring them with less tangible — but just as important — additional benefits. These be a great working culture that offers fantastic coaching and mentoring programs, buddy initiatives, rewards for performance and engagement, career growth potential beyond simply promotion to store manager — and so on. 

Right now, young people are motivated and eager to learn,” said Bergman. Not just about sales skills, but also life skills. Are they going to learn to be a better negotiator? Will they gain confidence and learn communications skills, after two years in lockdown? A lot of young people only communicate through their phones and have a hard time interacting with people face to face — will this job change that for them?” 

This growth potential is where the retention side of the equation comes into play (more on this in Part 2), as your applicants want to know that these opportunities will be there if they come to work at your store. As a hiring manager or company recruiter, you need to show applicants that they will be. 

5. Sell Your Job Opportunity and Benefits Effectively

Once you’ve got all the above elements in place, and you’re offering the absolute best job opportunity around, it’s still not going to work if you don’t share that story effectively and sell your company as the applicant’s best option. 

You’ve really only got the first couple of sentences of a job listing to grab their attention initially,” said Bergman. The only differentiator you have is your wage and your benefits package, and you need to be upfront about those.” He adds that you have to be really quick to react to job applicants, as if they don’t hear back from you after submitting their application, they’ll move on within as little as three days. 

The next steps are crucial to keep them in your recruitment pipeline. Once you’ve got them interested, and they’ve applied or are in interview stages, that’s when you start talking about the culture, and those intangible benefits we were talking about. Gone are the days when the applicant has to sell a company on why they should get the job; now the company has to sell themselves to the applicant. You’re the one on audition now.”

Bergman recommends following up every application with an automatic email response that thanks the applicant and gives them more information and assets to help sell the role. It could be a link to a cool video about your company culture, for example, or your company web page on employee engagement programs. This is the beginning of your interaction with the applicant and content such as this marks you out as different, and shows them why they would enjoy working for you. For the applicant, this is their time, and they can choose to go anywhere. Throughout the application and interview process, you must make sure they know you’re the right choice.”

Want to learn how to retain these great applicants once you’ve hired them? Check out Part 2 below.