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How Retail Recruiters Can Fight the 60%(!) Industry Turnover Rate

Damian Samoila
4 min. read

Yes, you read that right: the turnover rate in retail right now is a little over 60%, more than quadruple the United States average across all industries. Even the turnover rate for CEOs in retail is high right now (23%), albeit probably for different reasons. Retail positions like cashiers and inventory workers already need to be filled at tremendous volumes each year just to keep pace with demand, and the incredibly high turnover rate only exacerbates the problem. How are recruiters supposed to do their jobs in such an environment?


It might sound like an impossible task—but it doesn’t have to be. There are a number of strategies that recruiters and other HR employees can use to both reduce that turnover rate and hire more efficiently overall, leading to cost savings in the long run. Before you can implement those strategies, however, you need to gain an understanding of the factors that lead to high turnover in the first place, and how those factors pertain to modern recruitment methods.  


The Causes of High Turnover


Because many retail jobs are seasonal, a certain amount of attrition is essentially baked into the process. Of course, this doesn’t make it any easier to hire in huge volumes once or twice a year and then start the same process from scratch the next year, but we’ll get to that later. For non-seasonal jobs, employees might leave for better pay elsewhere, or they might feel like they’re not being offered enough opportunities for career growth, or they’ll find that the work or the working conditions simply aren’t what they expected them to be.


In each of the cases listed above, there is a serious disconnect between the expectations of the employee and the reality that’s being offered to them. It’s hard to place any blame here—most people’s expectations for particular jobs are shaped by their impressions of the retail industry as a whole—but it’s the job of recruiters put a message out into the world and then make sure they can back that message up. This is a two-way street: you can convince more engaged applicants to come aboard if you demonstrate real potential for career growth, but you have to actually deliver on that promise once they’re hired. By the same token, if you can set expectations clearly and concisely for seasonal hires, you might have an easier time asking them back during future hiring pushes, reducing your hiring costs by way of a more robust talent pool.


Employer Branding in the Retail Industry


In the paragraph above, we spoke of the different ways you can position your business in order to attract job candidates. But once you’ve developed a clear employer brand message, how can you be sure that you’re reaching the right applicants with that message? The simple answer is that you should take to social media and other web channels where your ideal job candidates already spend their time. By opting for sites where passive job candidates already spend their time, you can make sure that your brand narrative reaches not just people who are actively hunting for jobs, but those who might already have jobs but who could be convinced to take a better offer elsewhere. This is, in some ways, especially crucial when it comes to seasonal hiring, because you can greatly reduce hiring costs by making sure that your business is already top of mind for potential candidates when those seasonal roles become available.


Okay, but what should this employer branded content actually look like? Obviously, it will vary from one company to another, but it’s likely to start with your existing team. Highlight their daily victories and the ways that your company offers them value. This might look like relative schedule flexibility, a fun work environment, or perks like free coffee and snacks. Make sure this content is optimized for mobile, since that’s how many or most of your best applicants will encounter it. Give them the chance not just to apply for the job (ideally quickly and easily) but to sign up for a newsletter or stay connected to you in some other way. By doing so, you’ll create the beginnings of a real talent pool, which will speed up future hiring and reduce future hiring costs.


High Volume Recruitment


The tactics we outlined above aren’t just a way to attract more applicants—they’re a means of attracting better applicants. If you can offer real career advancement and get the attention of those are actively interested in advancing their careers, you can begin to create better alignment between your company's goals and those of your candidates—likely leading to lower attrition overall. If instead of offering career advancement you’re offering some other source of value, you’ll be able to more effectively engage candidates who are interested in whatever that value is—whether it’s comparatively high wages, nice employee perks, or anything else that would get prospective employees excited.


Better applicants should mean better hires, which should mean lower turnover rates. But even beyond that, these tactics can lay important groundwork when you’re faced with the task of hiring large volumes of people. How? Simply put, if you engage in continuous employer branding activities, you’ll build up not just a talent pool full of interested applicants, but a robust recruitment marketing infrastructure (i.e. a set of preferred channels, best practices, and performance benchmarks). This way, rather than reinventing the wheel for every holiday shopping season, you can simply pull from your talent pool as needed while you rely on your employer brand messaging to keep that talent pool healthy. This might not decrease turnover on its own, but it will make hiring itself much cheaper and less time-consuming, which ought to ease a number of the difficulties associated with retail hiring. Of course, promoting your employer brand across a number of channels on a consistent basis could potentially become time consuming in itself—but that’s what automation is for.

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