Industry News

From TikTok to tuition reimbursement: Retailers adapt to the future of work

When college student Makena Yee wanted find a new job, she turned to TikTok. Its Resumes platform is one place where companies like Target, Shopify and Chipotle are turning their recruitment efforts as they get creative in a tight job market.

Even though about 8.4 million Americans are jobless, retailers are struggling to fill openings and retain staff. An estimated 879,000 jobs were open across the sector in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and about half of small-business owners can’t fill jobs, the National Federation of International Business reported in August. Industry shifts are complicating matters, with the fulfillment jobs and online support becoming more important as e-commerce expands.

“Consumer demand has shifted; therefore, the way work is done has shifted,” Bryan Hancock, global leader of McKinsey’s work on talent, said in a recent podcast. He noted the relevance of retail work to other industries, adding, “We’ve got to do a better job of recognizing the great skills that people learn in retail.”

To draw people to the industry, retailers are sweetening benefits such as tuition reimbursement and signing bonuses, loosening job requirements and adding flexibility. Recruitment efforts are also getting a fresh spin.

Denny’s recently wrapped up a hiring tour across Route 66, handing out free pancake breakfasts to potential job applicants with a goal of hiring 20,000 workers. For Chipotle, turning to TikTok to find new employees made sense given its existing fan base on the platform.

“TikTok Resumes is a way to engage with them in a way they already like to connect with us,” Chipotle Chief People Officer Marissa Andrada told CNBC, noting that the platform lets people showcase their creativity. “You see their excitement and passion for our food and get a sense for how this person would be as a team member, which is different than just accepting a resume or an application.”

Walmart’s efforts to retain workers and grow its workforce include expanding its college tuition reimbursement program. The retailer noted that participants of the program are more likely to get promoted and stick around.

Meanwhile, CVS Health, facing a shortage of workers as vaccine rollouts increase demand for its services, recently dropped its requirement of a high school diploma to open up the field of candidates. Walgreens has offered cash rewards to recruit pharmacy staff.

Some retailers are also looking for ways to respond to the growing demand for flexible work options.

Apple is experimenting with hybrid positions that let employees split their time between working at stores and working from home fulfilling online sales and helping customers, people familiar with the pilot program told Bloomberg.

The program gives flexibility to Apple as much as its employees, allowing the company to shift its labor force according to how people are shopping in a particular season. Now that e-commerce has been widely embraced, retailers need to upskill workers and have an adaptable workforce to ensure they are able to meet consumer expectations, according to a recent Accenture report.

The report noted that companies such as PacSun are prioritizing employee mental health as a way of making their workspaces more attractive to job candidates. Best Buy is growing its tech talent in line with its business growth strategy.

As customer experiences become a key differentiator, retailers are thinking beyond higher wages to recruit the best talent to provide those experiences, noted Michael Gretczko, strategic growth partner leader for Deloitte.

“[D]ifferent kinds of workers will be needed as the industry evolves,” he wrote. “There will be more need for customer service and less for cashiers; more need for problem solving and return resolution; and finally, more need for innovation and technology skills.”