What’s New in Holiday Hiring?

The increasing importance of company culture in the talent-acquisition process doesn’t appear to just be reserved for full-time workers.

New research on major retailers’ practices for the holiday-hiring season shed light on the role that company culture may play in how–and who–the stores hire to handle the holiday-shopping boom. The Korn Ferry report, based on a survey of 20 major U.S. retailers representing 1 million employees and $1.2 billion in annual sales, found that 15 percent are placing a stronger emphasis on hiring seasonal workers who better align with the company’s culture.

Additionally, while holiday shopping is increasingly becoming a digital experience, 21 percent said they’re putting a greater emphasis on workers with in-store retail experience to enhance customers’ visits–a stat that Korn Ferry Senior Partner Craig Rowley says goes hand in hand with the emphasis on culture.

“When we come into a store, we’re looking for a positive experience; to drive that, retailers need people who buy into their culture and brand, and who can live and breathe it when they work with customers,” Rowley says.

Finding experienced seasonal talent who align with a company culture is easier said than done. Rowley says retailers can up their chances of successful seasonal hires by expanding training beyond technical and operational areas to include company culture and mission. “Training should include a focus on who we are and what our customers are looking for from us,” he says. Supervisors, especially those who work on the floor, can also help model culture for seasonal workers, Rowley notes.  

The survey also revealed that ongoing shifts to e-commerce led 55 percent of respondents to report they will hire more seasonal staff in distribution centers–an area that Rowley predicts will be “very disrupted” by Amazon’s recent announcement that it is hiking its minimum wage to $15 an hour. Nearly 67 percent of survey participants said minimum-wage and market increases in the retail industry are making holiday hiring harder this year.

However, the landscape seems to be in the favor of workers interested in permanent retail employment: Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of retailers expect a higher ratio of permanent to seasonal employees compared to last year. About 45 percent of survey respondents said they would retain 6-10 percent of seasonal employees, while another 45 percent plan to keep between 16-25 percent. Less than 10 percent of retailers said they would only retain 1-5 percent of seasonal workers.

“For those looking for permanent work, this is an opportunity to get it,” Rowley says.


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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.