Will virtual recruiting and onboarding hurt seasonal hiring?

Discussion
Source: gapinc.com
Oct 20, 2020
Tom Ryan

The practice of virtually hiring and onboarding seasonal help has been on the rise in recent years as online technology advances, but this holiday season, due to COVID-19, it has become the primary option for many retailers.

Gap, for the first time, is allowing seasonal hires to apply online for any role in three minutes or less. In 2019, seasonal hiring took place in-person on one day in all stores as well as at select distribution and customer contact centers.

Macy’s is filling seasonal work positions on Oct. 22 during a virtual hiring event where interviews will be conducted by phone. The department store operator said in a statement, “The quick and convenient process allows seasonal candidates to interview from wherever.”

While supporting social distancing and easing interviewing for recruits, the promised benefits to retailers from virtual hiring include reaching a larger pool of candidates, flexibility for assessments, reduced costs and faster time-to-hire. Remote recruitment also enables retailers to collect digital feedback, and it is said that video interviews can help eliminate interviewer biases.

Will virtual recruiting and onboarding hurt seasonal hiring?
Source: macysjobs.com

Virtual onboarding likewise promises convenience for both recruits and potential employers as well as efficiencies in getting new employees up to speed.

Traditionally, for instance, Sprouts Farmers Market oriented new hires in person, with trainers traveling around to stores to conduct cluster training sessions. The organic grocer recently shifted to a virtual reality tool that gives new recruits a way to experience a store nearly identical to where they’ll be working. The technology promises to enable recruits to learn in a self-paced manner and be trained the same way about safety protocols, customer service and Sprouts’ culture.

“I’m so grateful we launched this before COVID-19,” Cindy Chikahisa, Sprouts’ VP of store operations, recently told the Harvard Business Review of the online training system. “I can’t imagine hiring thousands of people — which we’ve done over the last few months — and trying to give them an onboarding experience during a pandemic.”

As with remote working, experts project that companies will shift to virtual hiring and training post-COVID.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will the quality of retail’s seasonal staff be impacted by the shift toward virtual hiring and onboarding? Do you see more pros than cons should retailers shift in the years ahead to virtual over in-person recruiting and onboarding for new employees?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The challenges of the pandemic require more effective training, onboarding, and coaching. The way these people are hired shouldn’t affect their performance."
"While there is no substitute for an in-person meeting, I doubt that the quality of seasonal retail staff will be dramatically impacted by virtual hiring/onboarding."
"In areas where no-shows are a problem, virtual hiring could make it worse – which could lead to bad surprises on peak days."

Join the Discussion!

18 Comments on "Will virtual recruiting and onboarding hurt seasonal hiring?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

While there is no substitute for an in-person meeting, I doubt that the quality of seasonal retail staff will be dramatically impacted by virtual hiring/onboarding. Let’s face it, doing things virtually is becoming a way of life, and employers are going to have to find ways to make it work. Ultimately, I believe in-person interviews and onboarding will return to normal, but like so many other things that have been permanently impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, I suspect that some elements of virtual hiring will remain.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Online onboarding will be as successful as the quality of the questions asked to elicit responses to determine the appropriate level of employee. It’s like taking a survey. The quality of the responses is directly related to the quality of the questions asked.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Gap hiring in three minutes is little more than fogging a mirror – sorry. If you’re just looking for bodies to fill spaces on the floor, such a system is ideal. But if you want to hire people who can actually talk to other people, you’d want to know that before throwing them into your store culture. That is, if you craft it like Lululemon or Starbucks. Virtual onboarding is what we’ve offered for almost six years and it does cut down the learning curve significantly. There is still a huge role for location-based learning but you can build a foundation virtually to maximize time.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

It’s all about process and technology. The world has changed. Hopefully, AI will help retailers make better choices, but overall, I do think it’s here to stay.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

Modernizing the application, screening and background check process can make hiring safer, more efficient, and more inclusive.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Yes. Vetting will become overwhelmingly important.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I don’t think this will go away anytime soon. Let’s hope the technology is robust enough to hire the right people for the right fit in an organization.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

I believe the quality of hires will increase using this technique. Virtual hiring and training enforce a consistent criteria and lessen the variability in seasonal hiring. The convenient and frictionless process will increase the pool of potential hires so I see this as yet another pandemic-induced reduction of the adoption curve of HR technologies.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

What is the alternative in this environment?

For the hiring of most holiday staff, the risk is quite low. Hire fast, fire fast if it doesn’t work out. The reality of the competence of the associate will become apparent quickly.

The other issue is what is expected of the associate. That is, the expectation by the customer. The expectation of staff at Walmart or Target is quite different than at Chanel or Burberry. Notably, both were conducting in-person interviews at their 57th Street stores two weeks ago.

Long-tern, simple positions will be filled this way. But I cannot imagine anything resembling a permanent position being filled virtually beyond the first interview. There are so many things beyond words that get lost in virtual communication that are make or break important.

Perry Kramer
BrainTrust

Virtual onboarding/hiring has been slowly moving into mainstream retail for the last few years and is now here to stay. The companies that have embraced it in the past have found it to be successful once they work through the nuances. This year’s seasonal hiring should have a larger than normal pool of capable candidates if retailers take their time to complete the virtual process and do not rely solely on predictive AI and screening questions.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Retailers are being shrewd about hiring because store associates’ work is more important than ever. The challenges of the pandemic require more effective training, onboarding, and coaching. The way these people are hired shouldn’t affect their performance.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

We’ve been screening candidates for full time positions virtually for decades. The reality is retailers scramble every year to fill seasonal positions. Technology that makes the recruitment and onboarding process more efficient only makes sense. Given that their candidates are already used to interacting with people and businesses virtually, this will be easy for candidates to adapt to.

Xavier Lederer
BrainTrust

While virtual hiring will probably not have an impact on the quality of the seasonal retail staff, it could have an impact on attendance and increase no-shows. Having an on-site interview makes the candidates realize what it takes to get to the retail location every day – which is when they realize that the subway/bus/train they were counting on is not as regular as advertised or is over-crowded. In areas where no-shows are a problem, virtual hiring could make it worse – which could lead to bad surprises on peak days. This, combined with the fact that staff members may call out any day because of COVID-19 symptoms, would probably entice retailers to have a larger “reserve” staff than they typically plan.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Of course it will be impacted, because vetting becomes at least marginally tougher. To me this isn’t a pro/con question. To quote somebody whose advice is often questionable, “It is what it is.” What’s the alternative?

Kevin Graff
BrainTrust

Anyone else getting a bit tired of this virtual world? No issues here with using virtual technology to do some of the lifting with hiring and on-boarding. Just remember though, it’s just a tool. You still need to jump into a proper selection process (three minutes at Gap — seriously?) Using virtual tools to onboard staff in advance of them starting is smart thinking. It speeds up the onboarding process. Just note that it’s a start, not the finish line.
As always, execution wins the game. No matter how sexy some of the virtual tools are, they are only part of the solution.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

Virtual recruiting and on-boarding is a requirement during the pandemic. But having taught a number of university courses through virtual, I find the idea that it’s a benefit to be quite a stretch.

Yes we need to do what’s right in this environment. But establishing more distance from the need for a recruiter to make a gut level choice? That’s not a good thing for the long term. (Hiring software and resume filtering has already created hidden problems for companies of all sorts. Let’s not make those worse.)

Natalie Walkley
BrainTrust

It doesn’t seem that “virtual” life is going away anytime soon—so retailers will have to find a way to adapt and make it work for hiring as well. For store associates, there is a chance that candidates who interview well virtually might be more likely to engage effectively with customers. For the fulfillment and supply chain side of the house, it might be trickier because many workers have English as a second language, so retailers would need to accommodate accordingly.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

If the virtual onboarding includes video of some sort (Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, WebEx, etc.) the process should be quite effective. Success depends upon how well the assessment process works over video, how well the training process works, and how well the reference/background check process works. If the whole process works well, then the virtual hiring process should be effective now and after the pandemic. The other outcome might be that some parts of the process work better using another format.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The challenges of the pandemic require more effective training, onboarding, and coaching. The way these people are hired shouldn’t affect their performance."
"While there is no substitute for an in-person meeting, I doubt that the quality of seasonal retail staff will be dramatically impacted by virtual hiring/onboarding."
"In areas where no-shows are a problem, virtual hiring could make it worse – which could lead to bad surprises on peak days."

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