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Four Strategies for Hiring and Retaining Retail Workers

Joshua Spears

COO for Traitify | Film, Books & Animals, aspiring Kool-Aid man | Inventor/Visionary in Work

If your retail business is in need of workers, get in line – and not just any line. Yours is one of the longest queues in all of business.

The retail industry employs, by far, more people than any other in the United States. When workers at food service and drinking establishments are included, the retail trade accounts for nearly 29 million jobs, 46 percent more than the runner-up industry, healthcare, and 130 percent more than the third-place finisher, manufacturing.

Keeping all of those positions filled with high-quality employees is obviously a colossal undertaking – one that's made all the more challenging with a national unemployment rate that's now below 5 percent; relatively low pay compared to other industries; and the perception among workers that retail jobs are easily found – and, if necessary, easily replaced. Yet even more so than in most sectors, retail employees are quite literally the face of your business in the eyes of customers.

So what can you do to improve recruitment and retention of the kinds of workers you need and want? Here are four suggestions:

Understand what you are looking for. Different jobs and different cultures call for different types of people. The conscientious introvert so perfectly suited to work at the bookstore down the street may not be right for the kids' pizza party palace across town. And vice versa. Spend some time thinking about your culture and about the qualities needed to succeed in your workplace. Knowing what you're after is the essential first step to finding it.

Understand your applicants. You're already spending a monstrous amount of time reviewing applications, conducting interviews, and making reference calls. But you can gain even more insight by administering personality assessments, which can reliably reveal so much helpful information about job candidates. What's more, after you identify and hire people who are good fits in terms of personality, you can use what you've learned to more effectively manage and engage your team. More on this in a moment.

Stand out during the hiring process. Retailers today are competing for employees, not the other way around. Cumbersome hiring processes can drive good recruits to your competitors. Retail jobseekers want simplicity and, ideally, engagement. Think of how you work to entice and care for customers. Now apply the same energy and thought to staffing.

Tailor management to the individual. We humans are as varied as snowflakes, and yet too many managers attempt to handle us as if we are all alike. Instead of being a one-size-fits-all company, try to customize your approach to the individual. This is a large ask for companies that employ hundreds and even thousands of employees. But the alternative (i.e. losing and replacing an employee) is also wildly time-consuming and expensive.

So use the information generated by your personality assessment. If you've assigned an extrovert to relatively isolated tasks, he or she will likely quit in fairly short order – and you may never know why. But if you deploy an assessment to gain insight into the employee's personality and assign tasks accordingly, that employee will likely stick around much longer. We have a lot more ideas on how to hang on to your best employees in our Guide, 6 Ways to Reduce Turnover.

Hiring and retaining the right employees is one of the toughest challenges any business confronts – and the challenge is orders of magnitude tougher in higher-turnover, lower-pay retail. A simple and mobile-friendly application process will boost the number of applicants you get. And acquiring insight into your applicants' personalities – and then using those insights to inform hiring decisions and management choices – will help you find and keep employees perfectly suited to your business.

Of course, you might be wondering how to get busy young people who live on their cell phones to take the time to complete the dozens, even hundreds, of questions that most personality assessments require. You probably can't. That's why a dramatically new approach to the assessment process is required. We'd be happy to show you what that looks like in a quick demo of our solution. Just ask.

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