Jenn ThomasMay 16 2024
Topics: Customer Stories

Revolutionizing Retail and Hospitality Recruitment

Retail and hospitality HR leaders are facing challenges that are unique to their specific industry — where hiring needs can vary wildly when the seasons change and when market demands shift.

Whether hiring retail associates or warehouse workers, hotel or resort employees, critical healthcare staff, or professional salespeople, competition to hire and retain skilled frontline and hourly workers is stronger than ever. With sky-high candidate expectations, the all-too-familiar question becomes: How can I stand out from the competition?  

In a compelling live discussion, we welcomed industry leader and Chief Human Resources Officer Rebecca True from Pye-Barker Fire & Safety alongside Phenom's Cassie Dunn, Principal Product Manager for High Volume and Retail and Hospitality Solutions, and Bill Venteicher, Sr. Director of Product Marketing.

With her experience leading HR teams at Pye-Barker, TruGreen, and Marriott, Rebecca True has personally fought these battles with amazing success. She shared her expertise and experiences to illuminate the path forward in these dynamic sectors. Their discussion was a treasure trove of insights, emphasizing the pivotal role of frontline workers and the transformative power of technology in recruitment.

You can view the entire on-demand webinar here, or check out all the highlights below.

Expert Insights into Retail and Hospitality Hiring Trends

Pye-Barker Fire and Safety is driven by a team whose mission is to serve communities by keeping their businesses and families safe and secure. Since 1946 they have been a service provider that focuses on providing responsive, dependable recommendations and support, with trust, respect and commitment to quality and speed, in every customer interaction. They now have over 5,000 team members caring for customers across 170 locations and 40 states.    

"Frontline workers are not just employees; they're the embodiment of our brand in every interaction they have with customers," True shared. This sentiment echoed throughout the discussion, underscoring the critical importance of these roles in the industry.

The webinar kicked off with a candid exploration of the current hiring landscape in retail and hospitality — including its challenges, opportunities, and the indispensable role of frontline staff in shaping customer experience and brand perception.

Dunn summarized findings from recent research that found:

  • 57% of companies are planning to increase hiring in 2024

  • Average turnover rate of workers in hospitality is 130% each year

  • 700k+ people in retail and hospitality changed jobs in the first 2 months of 2024

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting that there is only 0.7 available workers for every open job

  • 32% of job seekers say that the hiring process is unpleasant

  • 51% of job seekers believe that their application is never seen

Frontline Workers: The Heartbeat of Customer Experience

The conversation highlighted how frontline employees are the linchpin of customer satisfaction and loyalty. For retail businesses, hotels and resorts, and retail services businesses, frontline associates are pivotal to providing a seamless end-to-end experience and driving customer loyalty and return business. "They're the first and often the last point of contact with our customers, making their role crucial in our success," noted Venteicher, emphasizing the direct impact these workers have on business outcomes.

True shared that as an HR professional, she is motivated by the massive opportunity to help frontline workers in their life from initial application, to job satisfaction, all the way to advancing their career. 

True shared how important frontline workers have been in her career — and believes she has an incredible opportunity and responsibility as an HR professional to impact the lives of these important employees:

“For frontline workers, everything that I do in my job, whether it’s the talent acquisition experience, whether it's the employee experience while you are there, or even when helping you off-board or move up in your career, I have a massive opportunity to really impact you and your life, and make the organization that you work for potentially the best place you go. For me, frontline and hourly workers are the place I can have the greatest impact," she shared.

For businesses, frontline associates drive revenue for the business and are critical to success on a daily basis. Often, they’re the ones driving change, innovation, and process improvement — which makes their feedback invaluable. “Every time I have set an HR agenda — either at TruGreen or at Pye-Barker — it has been critically important for me to hear what the field is saying,” True said. She added that even with all the tools available to her to solve problems and make the company better, she has to hear from workers on the frontline to know what the situation is to be able to leverage technology to solve the challenge.

Tackling Turnover: Strategies for Attracting and Retaining Talent

For True and Pye-Barker, choosing the right approach for hiring frontline and hourly workers is key, and your best talent acquisition strategy starts with talent retention. The turnover challenge was a big focus when True first started at TruGreen. She shared, “As a talent acquisition professional, your questions really need to be around employee experience and talent retention.” You need to set expectations correctly with candidates from the very beginning.

The high turnover rates in retail and hospitality were a major discussion point. Strategies to address this, from improving the application process to fostering career development, were shared, offering attendees actionable strategies to enhance retention and attract top talent. “What you have in your talent acquisition process,” True said, “whether it’s the application, your career site, the touchpoints like emails or automated messages that go back out, the simplicity of that process and the ease of going through it speak for you whether you want it to or not.”

AI and data analytics are not just buzzwords, but pivotal tools in creating more efficient and candidate-centric recruitment processes. Applying, determining qualifications, assessing culture fit, scheduling interviews, and interviewing are all causing bottlenecks in the process and poor experiences for job seekers. 

Elements that modernize the candidate journey such as chatbots, automated interview scheduling, convenient email or text reminders, and touchpoints throughout the process speak volumes about what it will be like to work for your company in the future.

“How are you engaging people and where?” True asked. “You really want to be thoughtful about your audience,” explaining that there’s no one-size-fits-all experience. You have to use specific messaging to engage candidates for each role and meet them where they are. (And this is the huge advantage that Phenom X+ offers customers since it serves up contextually relevant suggestions and content.)

Seasonality Considerations in Retail and Hospitality

The ebb and flow in seasonal hiring demands for talent varies from one business to the next — whether that’s because of holidays, the vacation season, opening a new location, or moving into a new market. There are lots of seasonal hiring pressures that people don’t often think about that can impact your strategy and talent acquisition approach. 

For True, it all starts with finding the people who are going to be great living in a seasonal work lifestyle. “Who is that workforce?” she asked. “What TruGreen did a really great job of through the years was cultivating a workforce that was really comfortable working from, let's call it, February to November.” 

It turns out that finding a workforce that can thrive in seasonal work is a massive talent acquisition challenge. You need to go after the workers who have experience with similar seasonality needs, and who may be working at companies across different industries — think education, events staffing, and retail, for example — to find people who match with your company’s requirements from day one.

“For me, the biggest thing about seasonal workers, and the work that we did at TruGreen, was: Let’s identify where our employees are coming from… and where are they going to?,” True shared.

Takeaways for Your Business:

Personalize the recruitment journey and make the application process as easy as possible: Tailoring the recruitment process with easy-to-apply jobs, shared all in a single platform. Offer omnichannel communication via chat, SMS, Whatsapp, email, phone and in-person interviews. Make sure applicants can quickly complete the entire process via mobile so they can apply between shifts, or during a meal break at work. This attention to the application process can significantly impact candidate engagement and conversion.

Related Case Study: See DHL Group's high-volume hiring success

Invest in Retention: "Retention starts with recruitment," True pointed out, highlighting the need to think long-term about employee engagement and satisfaction from the first touchpoint. Assess that people are the right fit for the job and the demands of seasonal work. Make sure you illustrate your culture, career path, and what the team does every day to meet your customers’ needs. Then, invest in training and employee experience from day one.

Embrace Tech Innovations: Use AI and analytics not as a replacement for human interaction, but as tools to augment the recruitment process, making it more efficient and candidate-friendly. Automate the tedious, repetitive tasks that slow down your recruiters and TA teams and create amazing candidate experiences with High-Volume Hiring workflows and innovation.

Build your team: Talent acquisition is a growth driver of the business, noted True. Make sure your organization is sized correctly to meet the demands across the year. “For us, it was the need to make sure our TA organization was right-sized for the demand.”

By prioritizing the candidate experience, leveraging the right technology, and focusing on retention, businesses can overcome the industry's unique challenges and build a workforce that drives success.

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