Historically, retail businesses haven’t been the quickest to change. Compared to industries like tech and automotive where new technologies are always being created, refined, and integrated into daily life, many brick and mortar retailers have gotten by for long stretches of time by doing business the way they’ve always done it. As new industries and technologies change and evolve all around us, however, it looks like retail is finally ready for its digital transformation. After all, how are companies supposed to keep up with e-commerce giants like Amazon if they’re not willing to adapt?
This applies to sales and marketing, obviously, but it’s also particularly the case when it comes to talent acquisition. It should come as no surprise that recruiting for retail positions is harder than ever, and that the old, pre-digital ways of finding job candidates aren’t going to cut it anymore when turnover rates are as high as 60%. Often, talent acquisition professionals in retail are trying to hire huge volumes of people, many of them for seasonal positions, even in markets where there aren’t very many younger workers to go around. These talent aquisition teams need to move away from in-store recruitment and job fairs and towards the digital channels where their ideal candidates spend their time online. Digital transformation might seem scary of daunting, but it will be a big help for doing just that.
Challenges in Retail Recruiting
Now, before we get too deep into the weeds, let’s talk a little bit about the challenges that face retail talent acquisition specialists undergoing digital transformation. After all, simply getting online and using traditional recruitment platforms like Craigslist and Indeed doesn’t really solve the problems that recruiters are currently grappling with. Using methods like these, it’s difficult to target your ideal candidates specifically and effectively (in part because most job seekers, even in retail, are passive rather than active), and even when the applications are coming in at a relatively high clip it’s difficult to track and measure them effectively. As a result, it’s almost impossible to know whether you’re meeting diversity and inclusion targets on these platforms. By the same token, it’s difficult to gather and analyze relevant data on things like click-rates, applies, application attrition, etc., meaning that improving your efforts over time becomes difficult.
For this reason, we think that when we say “digital transformation,” the emphasis really has to be on the “transformation” side of the equation. As we speak, the retail industry is working to reinvent the way consumers purchase goods, creating new relationships between digital and brick and mortar spaces in order to keep themselves relevant. Talent acquisition teams in this industry need to put themselves in a position to do the same thing for talent acquisition. Rather than taking your old-school hiring methods (think job fairs and in-store bulletin board job advertising) online, you need to reimagine the way that potential applicants learn about opportunities at your company.
The Future of Talent Acquisition is Digital
Okay, but what does this transformation really look like? Well, from our perspective, it begins with letting new technology empower people. With things like AI, predictive analytics, robotic process automation (RPA), and others, recruiters can connect to retail job candidates in new ways. This might take the form of automated, highly-targeted, and optimally budgeted social media campaigns designed to familiarize regional job candidates with your employer brand. Conversely, it might mean getting off the beaten trail and using RPA to automate job posting and advertising, as well as data collection, on niche web channels where you’ve determined that your ideal job candidates spend time online. Rather than shackling yourself to the roughly 20% of job candidates who are actively hunting for a new job at any given time, you give passive and active job seekers alike the chance to encounter your employer brand and get excited about a potential opportunity with your company.
Now, in the examples above, the automation of both job posting and reporting was key. This obviously represents a means of saving time and energy on recruiters’ parts, which in turns means an improved ROI. More than that, however, it also represents a way to give time back to recruiters so that they can focus on less mundane tasks. This might give them the power to be more thoughtful and creative about D&I initiatives, or the ability to examine the ways their employer brand plays out in-house, in order to address high turnover rates. In this way, digital transformation can help bring bolstered creativity and successful data-driven recruitment to the fore.
Speaking of data-driven recruitment… So far we’ve seen how automating repetitive tasks can turn digital transformation into a real value added proposition, empowering those in talent acquisition to focus on boosting engagement on the platforms where their candidates spend time. But what it does it mean to be truly data-driven when it comes to something like talent acquisition? Simply put, it means gathering information from every stage of the recruitment flow, from first touch content to online applications to the interview process and using that data to make better decisions. For example, in the pre-digital era, you might have noticed that a lot of candidates who expressed some interest in your employer brand weren’t going on to complete the entire application process. Though you might notice this happening, it’s unlikely that you’d be able to attribute it to any particular cause.
After your digital transformation, on the other hand, you might notice something similar. But here, you’re able to use Google Analytics and site-specific reporting to learn that most of your applicants are dropping out because they’re encountering your content on a mobile phone—only to find out that your online application isn’t mobile-friendly. Seeing that this is the case, you create a shorter, more streamlined mobile application, and your apply rates immediately tick up as a result. By the same token, you might notice that one channel was producing a lot of applications relative to the others, and as a result you decide to focus more of your resources on that particular channel—thereby boosting your application rates and improving your ROI. These are just a couple of examples of ways that the impending digital transformations in retail can power data-driven recruitment.