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Seasonal Hiring During COVID-19: 3 Challenges Retailers Face

Date Published: November 18, 2020 | Last Updated: September 15, 2023 | By Jeramy

The good news: When it comes to seasonal hiring during COVID-19, many retailers have more job openings than they can fill.

The bad news: The coronavirus has created new challenges as retailers struggle to stay afloat during these tumultuous economic times.

In the face of state-wide shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, hiring top talent is one of the many challenges impacting big and small retailers alike.

For years, trend data have increasingly shown consumers are more likely to do their holiday shopping online, changing the dynamic of brick-and-mortar business models and creating new challenges, especially for smaller retailers.

Warehouse jobs, such as fulfillment, sorting, delivery and more, are in high supply as larger retailers ramp up for what experts expect to be unprecedented online shopping.

Holiday shopping moves online

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, holiday shopping has been increasingly moving online.

Last year saw record-breaking holiday sales on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday — $7.4 billion and $9.4 billion, respectively — with Cyber Monday sales, driven heavily by mobile shopping, eclipsing Black Friday sales for the first time.

In 2020, retailers expect COVID-19 to push even more shoppers online as the two major shopping events continue to merge into one weekend-long shopping extravaganza.

And this trend is expected to outlast the pandemic.

According to a June 17 survey from Coresight Research, 45% of consumers said they would be more likely to shop online and less likely to shop in stores over the long term.

Seasonal hiring during COVID-19: 3 Challenges for Retailers

So, what does all this mean for seasonal hiring?

Most retailers got an early start on their seasonal hiring, with Labor Day weekend officially kicking off the “holiday season.”

Here are three challenges retailers face with seasonal hiring during COVID-19:

  1. Filling open positions: With coronavirus cases increasing exponentially and fear still high, many potential employees are shying away from jobs that require contact with the public or other people. This has led many employers to refine their hiring strategy and implement safety protocols that go above and beyond CDC workplace recommendations. Hiring is a struggle as face-to-face interviews are off the table for many employers. This has caused a growing number of businesses to rely more heavily on employment background checks to make informed hiring decisions.
  2. Shifting to e-commerce: The shift to e-commerce, which was well underway before the pandemic, has accelerated in recent months, forcing HR professionals and hiring managers to adapt quickly. Before the pandemic, brick-and-mortar stores were already in peril, with malls being hit the hardest, according to Coresight. Hiring for warehouse jobs, such as procurement, fulfillment, delivery and other “back-of-house” positions, has skyrocketed. This dynamic shift means retailers need to act quickly or face being left behind by competitors.
  3. Maintaining company culture: Company culture is an integral part of any business, but maintaining that culture is proving to be a major challenge, especially when it comes to seasonal hiring during Covid-19. Research has shown that your company culture must be able to adapt in real-time if it’s going to help you succeed in the long run. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, retailers need to seek new ways to curate and highlight desired examples of company culture.

Many larger organizations have adapted nicely to “the new normal,” but smaller retailers continue to struggle. With mounting costs and decreasing sales, communication remains the key to overcoming, both on an employee and customer level.

For more information on hiring during the coronavirus pandemic, check out our ebook “Back to Work: Ensure A Smooth Post-COVID transition.”