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Retail Volume Hiring Trends to Watch Out for in 2022

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To say the last few years have been volatile for the retail industry would be a serious understatement.

Only a year ago, when we published our retail hiring trends for 2021, the industry was dealing with a post-lockdown applicant boom: Candidate volumes were ‘through the roof’ as lockdowns eased and Covid-19 unemployment rates remained high following a surge in pandemic-induced shop closures.

But now, the retail job market has shifted so dramatically it’s hard to believe the position the industry was in just a year ago. 

Demand for retail workers has soared, and vacancies have become so difficult to fill that retail workers are seeing higher salaries and better perks as employers try to pull them through the door. 

So for employers, the focus has switched from managing vast numbers of candidates to doing everything they can to make the most of the applicants that enter the recruitment funnel. 

In such an uncertain market, it’s imperative for employers engaged in volume hiring to focus on making their recruitment process “future-fit”. This can be achieved by shifting from a reactive approach to a proactive approach which doesn’t just solve the problems of today, but also prepares organizations for the opportunities of tomorrow.

The leading retailers are already making this shift, and in doing so, they’re setting the trends that will shape the retail volume hiring landscape in 2022.


Context: The current state of hiring in retail

Right now, we’re seeing some changes happening in the retail space that are steering the trends for 2022. These are important to understand not just because they’re defining the current context, but also because they’re very unlikely to go away, so retailers should take advantage of the next few months and restructure their organizations for the post-Covid world.

The role of the retail frontline worker is changing 

During the pandemic, most non-essential retailers were forced to close their doors and move operations online in some capacity. They either shifted entirely to an e-commerce business model or developed some sort of click-and-collect or BOPIS model. And the leading retail organizations are planning to invest even more in e-commerce, as well as in digital solutions such as automated checkouts, voice commerce, or staff-free cashier-less stores.

The impact of this digital shift is that retailers are now generating a major stream of business from delivery services and online orders, not brick-and-mortal retail. And when the way people shop changes, so does the role of the retail worker. 

“The role of the retail worker is changing, and companies can no longer afford to hire for the same skills.”

Carly Miller

Experts are already noting that there’s now more need for customer service and less for cashiers; more need for problem-solving and return resolution, and for innovation and technology skills when hiring retail workers.

Companies can no longer hire the same kinds of candidates, or for the same sorts of skills, that they did pre-pandemic. Retail workers in this new reality need different skill sets, meaning recruitment selection processes need to adapt too.

Essentially, to hire workers that fit these new types of roles, employers need to rethink their selection methods and methodology and implement new solutions for finding the right candidates for this new retail reality.

Tendency to oversimplify the hiring process

At the moment, we’re also seeing a preoccupation with time-to-hire metrics. Because the retail labor market is tight, recruitment leaders believe the solution is to simplify the process by removing any type of filter. This is supposed to help them hire faster.

But while this is a natural response to the challenges of a tight labor market, it isn’t a long-term solution. If your hiring process is failing, speeding it up won’t solve the problem – it will only mean you hire poor-quality candidates faster. 

In volume recruitment, the speed of hiring only matters when you’re selecting quality candidates who stay on the job. If you have a short and fast process but a high rate of early attrition, due to a poor candidate fit, a short time to hire becomes a useless target. 

Oversimplifying the application process only leads to an influx of candidates who aren’t invested and a resulting surge in interview no-shows – which, ironically, drives the cost of hire up.

There’s no point in making a bad process – that leads to poor quality hires – faster; instead, employers should first focus on fixing the process to get higher quality candidates.

— Carly Miller, Retail AE

Shortage of both candidates and recruiters 

Not only is the retail world currently dealing with a lack of candidates. The candidate shortage is happening across almost all industries, and even the recruitment branch is experiencing a talent shortage of its own. 

According to LinkedIn, there was almost 7 times the number of recruiter vacancies posted in June 2021 compared to June 2020. The impact of this is that it puts even more strain on talent teams, who have to do more with less.

In more stable markets, when volume hiring employers are faced with a whole load of open vacancies to fill, their natural reaction is to hire more recruiters. But this strategy no longer works, so the focus needs to shift from increasing the recruiter headcount to improving the way of working and the efficiency of the recruitment process.

The rush to create a better candidate experience

Any time the labor market is tight, there’s a real rush to create a more competitive candidate experience to stand out from the crowd. 

With the Covid-driven shift to online, retailers are suddenly having to create a candidate experience that’s entirely digital. They now realize that their candidate experience is poor, their employer brand isn’t strong and therefore, they don’t stand out in the online market.

As a result, many retailers rush to adopt the shiny new thing, anything that looks innovative, different, and eye-catching. A move which doesn’t always take into consideration what candidates for hourly roles actually want from a hiring process: job security at the end of a fast, engaging, and fair experience.

With these in mind, let’s see what trends will shape the retail volume hiring landscape this year, and what retailers can do to avoid falling behind.

Trend no. 1: Recruitment agility will become essential

With so much instability in the retail labor market, organizations will need an agile recruitment process that can act as both a talent filter and a conversion driver, depending on what the market looks like. 

In 2020, we saw unemployment soar in the retail sector, and employers struggled to manage candidate volumes. But quickly, the market turned on its head and employers were dealing with a labor crisis.

Agile recruitment processes allow you to filter talent out when there are too many candidates and drive conversion by reducing drop-off rates when there is a shortage of candidates.

By building agility and flexibility into your hiring process, you can adapt quickly and move with the market, regardless of the direction it goes. This gives your recruitment team an enormous advantage, as they don’t have to restructure the hiring process every time the market changes.

Trend no. 2: Hiring for skills, not experience 

The pandemic has changed not only the nature of the frontline worker’s role, but also the type of candidate applying to retail jobs – at least in the first part of the crisis. The coronavirus outbreak has triggered unprecedented layoffs across industries, forcing workers to apply to hourly roles in sectors such as retail or contact centers.

As a result, retail talent teams saw an increase not only in the number but also in the quality of candidates applying to their openings. And this has created very high expectations for hiring managers, who are now prioritizing candidates’ experience over skills.

This reliance on CVs and past experience, coupled with a lack of data to drive hiring decisions, leads to the rejection of candidates who may have been a good fit. Moreover, it accentuates the impression of a shortage of talent at the top of the hiring funnel.

Leading retail organizations know that in hourly roles, experience is not the best predictor of job performance, and that assessing the right set of skills and making data-driven decisions leads to better quality hires in the long run. Because of this, they’re moving away from CV-based applications and embracing hiring solutions that focus on skills.

Especially now, when the labor market is still tight, leading retail employers are using technology to assess candidates’ skills and characteristics and screen job seekers in, rather than filtering them out.

“The reliance on CVs and past experience, coupled with a lack of data to drive hiring decisions, leads to the rejection of candidates who may have been a good fit.”

Carly Miller

Trend no.3: Frictionless hiring process for a better experience

In 2022, we’ll see retailers using process automation less as a solution for cutting costs and more as a way to cope with the shortage of recruiters and speed up the selection of candidates. 

Instead of randomly replacing manual tasks with automated, digital-first processes, leading employers will focus on creating a frictionless hiring experience for all parties involved – recruiters, hiring managers, and candidates.

Removing unnecessary stages that require human input from the hiring process will drastically reduce time to hire and improve candidate experience too. At the same time, enabling candidates to self-select out of the application process and to self-schedule interviews will lead to a better experience and a faster process.

In 2022, leading retail employers will focus on creating a frictionless hiring experience for all parties involved – recruiters, hiring managers, and candidates.

— Carly Miller, Retail AE

But again, the focus won’t be on time to hire alone. Instead, leading retailers will take a holistic approach and look at the bigger picture of their recruitment practices, to make sure the technology used works in their favor, not against.

Which leads us to the fourth trend shaping the retail volume hiring landscape this year.

Trend no. 4: Building a tech stack around a core system

We mentioned earlier that there’s a real rush right now to improve the candidate experience for retail applicants, who are now applying for roles entirely online. We’re seeing that employers are looking to replace their entire tech stack, starting with the ATS, because they think it’s the only way to offer a better candidate – and recruiter – experience. 

But the real success stories in 2022 will be the retailers who build their recruitment stack around a core, end-to-end solution that ensures agility, modularity, scalability, and visibility into recruitment metrics, for data-driven decisions. A system that enables talent teams to scale operations up and down, as needed, and that ensures an agile recruitment process that helps companies move with the market.

Leading retail employers are investing heavily in recruitment and employee retention, and are moving towards solutions that augment and improve the candidate experience, while ensuring an automated and effective candidate selection process.

And this is happening because employers are starting to realize that volume hiring is different from regular recruitment, and requires software that’s built to handle volume: technology that’s purposely built to take their hiring strategy from where it is today to where it should be in the future.

What’s next?

For retailers, 2022 is set to be all about adapting the hiring process to the new talent landscape: assessing candidates for new skills, hiring for new kinds of roles and having a process that both supplements recruiter shortages and is ready to adapt quickly to any more sudden changes in the market. 

With this in mind, it’s clear that staying ahead of the curve will come easily to those retailers who are using powerful recruitment technology to support their volume hiring process.

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