Are You Confident In Your Retail Workforce Plans For Seasonal Peak?

 In Evolution of Talent

The end of the calendar year can make (or break) a retailer. October, November and December are the months when retailers do the bulk of their business, with Black Friday, Christmas and other festivities boosting consumer demand. It’s critical that their operations are executed effectively, to ensure a healthy profit. Our latest ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey uncovered cautiously optimistic hiring intentions across the retail sector for the next three months. But steps must be taken to ensure this cautious optimism translates into success on the bottom line for the rest of the year.

There are many factors that can damage a retailer’s success in Q4, and we certainly saw the affect of this last Christmas. Increased discounting, weak consumer confidence, lower footfall and Brexit were just some of the challenges cited by retailers who did not fare well over the 2018 festive period. Many of these factors could not have been avoided, and unfortunately there’s a chance that some of them will be repeated this year. Nonetheless, organisations that comprehensively plan for all occurrences during the festive season will be the ones that are best placed to weather the storm.

Forecasting Retail Staffing Requirements

Effective workforce planning is a key component of this. Many retailers recruit large numbers of temporary workers during Q4 – not just to deal with customers in-store, but across logistics, distribution, supply chain and manufacturing roles too. However, it’s a Goldilocks-style conundrum. Too many workers, and you’ll eat into your profits (which may be limited, given the economic climate). Too few workers, and you won’t be able to keep up with customer demand. Accurately forecasting your staffing requirements is critical. This has always been important, but it’s even more so now, since the festive peak period has become shorter and more spiked.

Nonetheless, accurately forecasting your seasonal staffing requirements is no easy feat – partially because the goal posts are constantly moving. Consumers are demanding more and more from retailers where choice, cost, delivery time, and in-store experience are concerned. They want to purchase your products in the way that best suits them, and this is changing quicker than ever before. This means the workforce strategies you put in place last year may not cut the mustard this time around.

Even when you do forecast your staffing requirements, delivering against them is another challenge entirely. How exactly will you find large amounts of temporary talent, and secure them for the duration of your needs? At a top level, there are three key areas to consider:

Market Mapping
Just because a strategy worked last year, doesn’t mean it’s the right approach to take this year. Even this close to Q4, it’s not too late to review the market and map the availability of skills against your forecasted skill requirements. This is even more important, given that EU net migration recently fell to it’s lowest level since 2009. If the talent you need isn’t available in the place you need it, it’s better that you know this now (and look at a plan B), rather than wait until October or November to find out.

 

Attraction and Selection
There’s immense competition for talent around peak period, so you need to make sure your hiring process is quick and efficient, to make sure great workers don’t go elsewhere. Reassess each stage of the hiring process, and ask yourself what value it adds. Also consider new advertising channels that may not have been so fruitful in the past. Speed is of the essence, and any steps in the hiring process that aren’t completely necessary should be reviewed.

 

Onboarding
Again, speed is of the essence. These workers are only going to be with you for a few months, so you can’t waste weeks getting them up to speed on your processes. Streamline wherever possible, without compromising on the must-know information. Most retailers will have been working with their recruitment partner to plan for Q4 since January. There’s only a few months to go until peak season begins in force – and what if your recruitment provider isn’t prepared? You won’t be able to recruit hundreds or thousands of workers overnight.

That’s where ManpowerGroup can help. We’ve partnered with some of Britain’s best-known names in retail and logistics – including big 4 supermarkets, an iconic food and clothing store, and the UK’s most trusted delivery company. We’ve supported them with temporary and permanent recruitment; blue collar and white collar roles; business-as-usual and seasonal peaks.

There are few retail recruitment challenges we haven’t faced, and we’re perfectly experienced and equipped to enhance your hiring process for this year’s seasonal peak. And because we have a nationwide reach, we can help you to understand how competitive the jobs market is in each of your locations. Not only does our Employment Outlook Survey help us to understand future demand for talent in the retail sector, but it also allows us to look at competition for skills in each of the UK’s regions. This means we can advise you on when, where and how to build a retail workforce that meets your strategic business goals.

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If you’d like more information about how we can support your recruitment requirements, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Alternatively, if you’d like to learn more about the hiring outlook for the coming quarter, download the latest ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey by clicking on the button below.