loader image
Skip to content

Hiring, Onboarding Tech Makes Seasonal Help Easy to Find. But Should You Use It?

[RETHINK Retail] — Don’t judge a book by its cover. As common as this saying is, people are still accused of doing it anyway — especially when it comes to employment.

According to Harvard Business School, psychologists refer to it as “fundamental attribution errors.” And for job applicants, snap judgments like these from hiring managers can make or break the interview process.

Recruitment software initially may level the playing field, allowing algorithms to filter through job applicants based on their academic and work experience. So, by the time they get to the interview, the hiring managers already know they have the required work background. However, some retail job applicants are getting dismissed by computers quicker than it took them to write out their cover letters. This is usually due to poorly written or badly formatted resumes and applications.

But let’s assume that these employees make it through the application process and then the interviewing process. Now they’re hired and a member of the team. Did the retail company make the right decision? There’s no way to know for sure without letting the employee prove it. But what happens when the retailer was just too busy to properly filter the employee for training and customers have to deal with the fallout?


Work culture versus GPAs

Even though some unqualified applicants can squeeze their way into the interviewing room, this is still the exception. According to Bullhorn (via Workopolis), 30 percent of 1,500 recruiters and hiring managers reported that “irrelevant” applications are the worst turnoff. In fact, 43 percent of this group went as far as blacklisting these same job candidates from future resume searches and additional jobs.

But what if some of the 98 percent of job applicants who were eliminated would mesh far better than the 2 percent who make it to the interview? And should this matter as much for seasonal jobs?

According to Jim Roddy, author of “Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer,” seasonal help may not need the same strict requirements.

“If you’re hiring just seasonal help, you’re probably just looking for some fundamentals,”  Roddy explained on a recent RETHINK Retail podcast episode.

“But if you’re talking about a manager, a store manager or an assistant manager, that’s where you really have to crank up and make sure they have the right skills, the right personality and the character that goes along with it. Not one out of the three. Not two out of three. They have to have all three of those that you’re looking for.”

In retail especially, Roddy emphasized that new employees must have a strong work ethic, emotional control and a service-oriented attitude. But with advancements in technology, workers (including managers) are being moved to other work tasks. So how can upper management still have the bandwidth to look for these qualities in new or seasonal employees and get their additional jobs done?

One online retailer is trying to find a happy medium. Evo, an online retailer of outdoor gear and fashion apparel, is training its seasonal warehouse associates with Pixvana’s interactive virtual reality (VR) training. For Thanksgiving week (including Black Friday), Evo is guesstimated to ship more than 15,000 orders on a daily basis, which is far more than its 750 average the rest of the year.

In VR training, new seasonal employees shadow a warehouse lead to familiarize themselves with the warehouse space. VR training can also help Human Resource departments train employees in empathy training, and Customer Service leads can demonstrate how to respond to unhappy customers.


What customers need from retail employees

Communication is clearly in the top nine ways to maintain returning customers, according to Inc. Basic manners (i.e. “thank you” and “you’re welcome”), friendly employees and actually listening to customers are high on the list. And Shopify confirms that even unhappy customers shouldn’t be overlooked: “An effectively resolved complaint or problem can turn an unhappy customer into a loyal, repeat customer.”

An unhappy customer may have no idea who is a seasonal employee versus full-time, permanent staff. And if a unique customer walks out of that store because of a bad experience, chances significantly increase that that customer will not return. While regulars may notice a “new face” and give the same store another shot, an undesirable employee can lead to a permanent exit.


The downside to online training

While VR training certainly frees up time for hiring managers, there are some upsides and downfalls for new employees. Half of employees in an InterCall Survey (via Entrepreneur) felt that in-person training helped them retain information better. But 48 percent wanted to review the same training information later on. A mix of in-person and online resources for training seemed to work better than one or the other. For some new employees, mobile learning modules gave them more accessibility to have training references in the palms of their hands.

However, in a SkillSoft survey, visual learners were more likely to feel confident doing a job when they could test their new skills in a controlled environment. Visual learning also eliminates the risk of a frustrated customer and a manager trying to play mediator in a retail situation gone wrong. But in order for new employees, including seasonal employees, to have available controlled environments, paid staff must be scheduled and set aside from the regular day-to-day work to engage with new employees.

For the retail company that wants to maintain their regular customers and gain new ones, this may be worth it. But for hiring managers who really need employees to dive right in during the holidays, know the risks. In an ideal world when employees can learn at their own pace, technology tells a different story: It filters and delivers quickly, but it doesn’t always make the employees learn faster.