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Retail employers that can address workers' flexibility needs will be better positioned to attract top candidates in the market, according to new research on job seekers' preferences.
Retail workers value flexible work arrangements over other traditional benefits and even increased compensation, according to the survey of 1,500 retail workers across the U.S., conducted by ManpowerGroup Solutions, a recruitment process outsourcing firm based in Milwaukee, and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, headquartered in Arlington, Va.
The main takeaway for retail employers is that they should prioritize workplace flexibility, allowing employees more say in scheduling, especially as gig work has begun to compete with retailers to attract workers seeking flexibility.
"As opportunities to participate in the gig economy increase, retailers will be competing for workers with companies like Uber and Lyft," said Christopher Doherty, vice president of business development for ManpowerGroup Solutions. "These companies provide the ultimate flexibility and autonomous work environments, allowing workers to decide when and how long to work."
Survey results showed that nearly 40 percent of retail workers are employed in part-time work. Twice as many retail candidates said they are looking for part-time work than any other industry surveyed. "The retail industry is a great home for people who want part-time or flexible work," said Evan Armstrong, vice president of government affairs at the Retail Industry Leaders Association. "There seems to be a perspective that a person working part time in retail is stuck there or forced to do it, when in reality a lot of retail workers want those part-time flexible roles because the job fits into the rest of their lives."
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About 30 percent of retail workers said they prefer to choose their own shifts versus 18 percent of employees in other industries. Retail workers also value the ability to work compressed shifts or a shortened workweek more than other workers.
Retailers can learn a lot from the gig economy and the technology that enables it. Restaurants have started to figure this out.
"In many restaurants, trading shifts is now automated through apps that empower workers and ensure managers have coverage," Doherty said.
San Francisco-based Forge lets hourly workers in retail and fast-food restaurants pick their own hours and set their own schedules. Employees can work at multiple employers for which they have been approved and pick up the shifts they would prefer, allowing greater flexibility and reducing attrition. Like Uber drivers, Forge's on-demand workers, managers and store locations are all rated.
"We are excited to be solving certain pain points for retail as a whole," said Stacey Ferreira, Forge's co-founder and CEO. "One of our primary goals is to serve as a conduit between retailers and the Millennial workforce. By 2025, approximately 75 percent of the global workforce will be comprised of Millennials, who we know value flexible and mobile working schedules more than the traditional 9-5 model."
Companies growing their flexible workforce can also benefit from collaborative hiring systems. Collaborative hiring can be especially useful to retail employers facing seasonal hiring challenges. Platforms such as WorkMyWay.com assist companies with similar workforce needs by offering a single career portal. Employers within the same industry requiring similar skills collaborate and hire from one shared local pool. At the same time, talent within the pool has the flexibility and opportunity to move from one organization to another.
"The key to finding talent in the future may very well require competitors in the same industry to share talent pools," said Amy Doyle, vice president of strategic client solutions at ManpowerGroup Solutions. "It is admittedly a radical idea that may initially necessitate awkward conversations among companies otherwise competing for both market share and for the same talent … [but] this is not as radical as it might first sound."
Doyle said that freelancer platforms can be seen as a precursor to shared talent pools in that they offer project-based talent cultivated by third parties. However, "many of these systems do not bring in industry expertise, market knowledge or compliance experience, nor are they designed to promote the engagement and development of talent," she said.
Major shifts are needed in both thought and action to create collaborative hiring systems that are legally compliant and beneficial to all parties, she said.
The end result will be employers being able to "share costs and resources related to sourcing, recruiting and administration; lowering overall costs; and providing access to an established pool of talent on an as-needed basis."
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