The new reality of retail staffing post-COVID in 2022

Retail staffing has seen the biggest shift in 2020, as it affected the most prominent industry worldwide. As we approach a new year, these trends will shape the retail industry for years to come.

As of 2021, the retail industry employs 17 million people in the US alone, with the industry now having more workers than it did 5 years ago. While the last several months have been difficult for it, the retail industry is slowly recovering from the shell shock that was 2020, focusing on growth and hiring more people. However, the recruitment scenarios have changed drastically in the post-pandemic world and so should the strategies businesses apply.

From adopting an omnichannel business approach to focusing more on changing customer behavior, retail businesses have drastically changed their work culture, which also reflects in their recruitment process. In this blog, we shall look at the new reality of retail staffing for the year 2022 and beyond.

How has retail staffing changed post-pandemic?

Among the many industries affected by the pandemic, the retail industry has been one of the worst-hit, with global retail sales growth hitting -5.7% in 2020. It was especially devastating in the US, where more than one out of four jobs were from the retail industry in 2019.

With unprecedented permanent store closures and dozens of businesses filing for bankruptcy, came the inevitable rise of customer demands for online shopping options. As more and more customers preferred safer, at-home deliveries over physically visiting the store, more people were hired for packing and moving products door-to-door.

Such a dynamic shift in the retail industry had an enormous impact on its employees. Many workers found it hard to sustain employment during the pandemic because of permanent changes in the permitted capacity and modified business operations in retail stores post-pandemic. Many retailers and industry analysts say that the pandemic will shape the way retail stores will operate in terms of policies on employee strength for years to come.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 15.7 million employees were recruited by retailers in February 2020. It witnesses a drop of 2.4 million in March and April as the pandemic spread rapidly. As of June, 14.4 million retail employees began working in retail as things were slowly getting back to normal, with 1.9 million in-store workers unemployed, either temporarily or permanently.

Moving forward, retail businesses are likely to adopt the strategy of less is more, which can further shrink headcounts at retail stores. However, the demand for skilled, fast learning, and tech-savvy employees will always be high.

New realities and trends in retail hiring in 2022

Here are some of the key retail staffing trends we think will influence hiring in 2022 and beyond:

Multi-channel recruiting

As mentioned before, the demand for skilled retail employees will continue to be high, with many companies competing to gain the best talent as quickly as possible. To do this effectively, they need to expand their recruitment efforts beyond traditional means.

Designing a recruitment strategy to appeal to the fast-growing millennial and Gen Z workforce requires using social media extensively, along with online job platforms. This kind of multi-channel approach to recruitment can help you reach out to a wider pool of candidates.

Focus on safety

Even though rapid vaccination has reduced the risks of being infected by COVID-19, the safety of both employees and customers is still a crucial factor for retailers. Creating safe working conditions with enough space to move around and using protective masks will remain a common scenario for stores for upcoming years.

Retailers will have to be diligent in ensuring that new staff members are vaccinated. Additionally, businesses will have to conduct regular temperature checks for everyone and observe other safety measures throughout the end of 2021 and some parts of 2022 until further guidelines by the FDA.

Workforce outsourcing

Another measure for saving time and money in the recruitment process is outsourcing to staffing or recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) firms. Partnering with a third-party recruitment outsourcing firm can make your retail staffing strategy and implementation more accurate and agile to meet market needs. It will also help you manage the seasonal demands of customers by hiring more employees at peak business months.

Focused sales training

Spending on sales training is an expense you cannot work around if you want to grow your revenues. In fact, focused sales training for retail employees, like working with new technology, managing online sales systems, and flexible communication helps leverage the full capabilities of your sales teams.

Prominence of technology

Since a large portion of customer interactions are taking place online, salespersons must make the most of in-person interactions to build customer relationships and upsell at the store. Moreover, expanding their business digitally also helped many small and medium-sized businesses survive and grow by taking orders online and ramping up delivery infrastructure. This means hiring skilled talent to create and maintain digital platforms with programming expertise. As these businesses grow, they will therefore require employees who are skilled in using certain platforms, working with data, managing a digital brand and social media, and much more.

Final Thoughts

Retail staffing has seen the biggest shift in 2020 as it affected one of the largest industries in the world. As we head towards a new year, the factors we mentioned above are likely to influence the retail industry and business models for years to come.

VBeyond Corporation is here to help you keep with these trends and provide bespoke talent acquisition strategies and solutions for your retail business. Reach out to us today and we can help you hire the best talent from across the globe.


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