Retail business leaders are quickly realizing that additional focus and investment are needed in field recruitment to support the industry’s most critical role: the store manager.  With unemployment at an all-time low, the labor pool, particularly for hourly retail workers, is shallow and draining rapidly, and delivering a best customer experience depends on having the right talent working in the stores.

And the evidence is there. According to Harvard Business Review, customers who have had the best past experience spend 140% more compared to those who had a poor past experience. Sixty-six percent of millennials find store employees “extremely important” to their shopping experience, according to a study by ChargeItSpot.

Why Better Matters

Just look at Bonobos, an e-commerce-driven men’s clothing store recently acquired by Walmart. I was blown away by how the “Customer Experience Ninjas” engaged with me as I entered the store; as they explained how buying their clothes works, and started the brick and mortar experience with my measurements. I’m shaped like Sully from Monsters Inc., so clothes shopping is difficult, and Bonobos quickly became an example of a best experience for me.  

In a recent interview, Angela Goldstein, Bonobos’ director of operations, says it comes down to one thing: “People Before Profit”.  The Ninjas are carefully selected to provide a superior customer experience, contribute to innovation and grow the brand. “It’s about empathizing with the customer, providing transparency on issues that arise, making our wrongs right, and personalizing the experience as much as possible,” Goldstein said.

Already strapped store managers feel the pain of being the head recruiter for their store – posting job ads, screening applications, and selecting great people (or just someone that can fill a shift) all while adhering to HR policy and procedures. Combine that with the critical responsibilities of running a retail store, and much of the hiring work above is done after hours, after a long day.  

Is your business strategy to hire your equivalent of Ninjas across hundreds of store locations? If so, centralizing field recruiting or outsourcing to an RPO provider (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) can help your store managers be Ninja Warriors when it comes to recruiting. Consider these three core tenets when building your winning strategy.

Candidate Experience

Remember candidates are potential customers.  By providing a superior candidate experience, you’ll drive higher engagement from the start leading to more sales, better performance, and optimal retention. Centralizing or outsourcing recruiting will provide necessary hiring support structure for store managers to succeed–enabling consistency of hire and eliminating bottlenecks — resulting in a more efficient and effective process. Desirable candidates are more likely to stay engaged during the hiring process and not get lost in the shuffle.

Candidate Attraction

If you want new Ninjas, whether in a high-end clothing store, restaurant or a hotel chain, start by continuously engaging with candidates with targeted employment message. While receiving a large number of applicants from a job ad can feel good, it isn’t necessarily helping time-strapped store managers find quality employees in the stack either. RPO or centralizing hiring can add immeasurable value by delivering that message to local pools of talent using a systematic and disciplined approach to attract and screeen for ‘best fit’ candidates. Integrating technology accelerators, such as video and scheduling tools, to manage that volume should enhance the candidate experience while also saving time for the store manager.   

Candidate Assessment

Defining what a great candidate looks like, in terms of behaviors/skills and culture fit, is a crucial part of the hiring process. Next, efficiently assessing people at scale who meet your new requirements is an equally important task since applicant-to-hire ratios can be as high as 33:1 during low unemployment (SilkRoad’s 2017 Sources of Hire Study). Pre-employment assessment tools (e.g. PeopleAnswers, ADEPT-15, Koru) can significantly improve the likelihood of post-hire success. Assessment tools also reduce time by eliminating potential bad apples early on, ensuring your store managers aren’t wasting their time on poor interviews and early turnover.  

Let’s face it – retail store managers need help recruiting and attracting talent to their stores whether building the capability in-house or leveraging an outside firm or somewhere in between.

As retail disruption prevails, think about integrating an internal or external recruiting partner with more expertise and focus on hiring than most store managers can possibly muster.  

Getting the right people—your Ninjas—hired into frontline positions is a proven winning strategy: People, as Bonobos and other disruptive retailers know, do drive profit.

Jason Krumwiede

About the Author

Jason brings twenty years of leadership, business development, consulting and management experience in Talent Acquisition and Human Capital services.

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