Pandemic stresses retail HR departments
Retail staffing has become its own version of a “Tale of Two Cities” in the age of COVID-19. Essential retailers, grocers and their ecosystems are hiring like crazy, even as non-essential retailers are firing and furloughing thousands. To meet market demands and safety regulations, retailers must modernize human resources (HR) processes and systems.
A Harvard Business Review report — “Adopting Innovative Technologies Gives HR Leaders a Seat at the Table” — reveals that 74 percent of companies use between one and six tech tools in their HR departments. From online applications, interviews and background checks to payroll, training and scheduling, HR processes must be integrated, automated and streamlined to support short- and long-term business changes.
Restaurants, which have been hit hard, have been creative in implementing new service models and offerings to generate sales and feed communities. Panera Bread is selling groceries and providing meal pick-up, drive-through and home delivery. Chipotle is holding Virtual Lunch Meet-ups to connect customers. Einstein Bagels is selling DIY Pizza Kits, while fast-casual operators Qdoba and El Pollo Loco are offering Family Meals To Go. And many chains are able to sell alcohol-to-go as local beverage commissions have relaxed rules.
In support of these new programs, HR must train and cross-train employees on multiple job functions to accommodate lean staffing levels and develop, roll out and monitor health and safety processes to ensure compliance.
Gorillas (Amazon, Walmart, Target) and grocers are expecting online food sales to grow 40 percent in 2020. These companies will need large numbers of in-store fulfillment, warehouse workers and delivery staff to accommodate this demand. Making the right hire is vital for associates that interface directly with customers or make home deliveries. Digital HR systems can automate screening (criminal record, employment and education verification, drug screening and background checks) to speed high-volume hiring while mitigating risk.
HR must become more virtual, digital and automated so all retailers can make smart hires, optimize candidate pools in real-time, and adapt to new models and changing demand. The industry landscape will continue to evolve. Efficient, flexible and digital HR processes and systems will help retailers effectively balance service, safety and demand now and in the future.
- Adopting Innovative Technologies Gives HR Leaders a Seat at the Table – Harvard Business Review/Checkr
- Will selling groceries help restaurants ride out COVID-19? – RetailWire
- Online grocery sales to grow 40% in 2020 – Supermarket News
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing retail human resources departments at this time? Which tech applications are most helpful to retailers in working through HR challenges and which, if any, have a tendency to become problematic?