All Hands on Deck: Retailers Bringing in More Experienced Staff This Holiday Season, According to Korn Ferry Hay Group Survey

-- Retailers paying more, offering more incentives to secure experienced in-store help to increase sales --

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 2, 2015 - This holiday season many retailers have adjusted their seasonal hiring to bring in more experience—and helping hands—according to a survey issued by Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY), the preeminent global people and organizational advisory firm.

The survey, conducted by Korn Ferry’s Hay Group business, shows that a vast majority (90%) of retailers are planning for the current holiday season to be strong, estimating sales will be on par or up to 10% better than last year’s sales. In preparation for this jump, 67% are hiring more seasonal staff in 2015 than they did last year.

“Despite mixed reaction from Black Friday and Cyber Monday, retailers have planned for optimistic sales leading into the Christmas season this year, and they have increased inventory levels and have hired more staff as a result,” said Craig Rowley, Hay Group’s global retail practice leader. “These additional holiday hires will help support retailers’ customer-centric approach to the holiday shopping season, as many look to improve the in-person customer experience and drive sales across all channels.”

In recognition of the critical importance of consumers’ in-person interactions in driving sales, retail employers are more focused on hiring in-store employees this year than in years past. Eighty-three percent of seasonal hires in 2015 will be in stores, according to the Hay Group survey. Additionally, employers are seeking more experienced candidates this year than they have in previous holiday seasons. Nineteen percent of respondents to the Hay Group survey are placing a greater emphasis on candidates with in-store experience in 2015, up from only 12 percent in 2014. Retailers are also onboarding more seasoned holiday workers, with respondents indicating that 57 percent of seasonal employees they have hired this year have two or more years of experience, compared with only 27 percent in 2014.

General economic conditions continue to be a concern, according to 76 percent of retailers and challenges abound in recruiting appropriate talent. Heading into the 2015 holiday season, more than a third (38 percent) of retailers surveyed indicated their current in-store staffing levels were already below average, feeding demand for seasonal staff. Retailers are thinking long-term as well—63 percent of retailers indicated they plan to hire at least one tenth of their seasonal employees on a full-time basis after the holidays. Yet, nearly one third (29 percent) of retailers indicate they have received fewer applicants for seasonal positions this year than in 2014.

Increased pressure on retail minimum wages—linked to recent highly visible wage boosts—is also adding to retailers’ concerns. As a result of increases across the industry, 72 percent of retailers surveyed say they recruited at higher wage levels this year than last year, compared with only 36 percent of retailers who said the same in 2014. Despite higher pay, seasonal hiring continues to be more difficult for 48 percent of the companies Hay Group surveyed. To get qualified candidates in the door, retailers are offering a host of incentives including employee discounts (43 percent), providing more flexible schedules (14 percent) and promising increased hours (10 percent).

“The coming weeks of holiday shopping will reveal whether higher in-store employment levels pay off for retailers in increased holiday sales,” explained Rowley. “But if the results of this year’s survey are a mark of things to come, seasonal staff may see higher wages and more employment incentives added in future seasons. Retailers, for their part, should brace for a more limited supply of experienced seasonal workers and should tailor their recruitment strategies to suit an ever-more competitive holiday hiring environment.”

About the 2015 Seasonal Hiring Survey

In its ninth year, the Hay Group 2015 Seasonal Hiring Survey analyzed responses from numerous leading U.S. retailers. All told, respondents collectively represent over 1.1 million employees and more than $200 billion in revenues in 2014.

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is the preeminent global people and organizational advisory firm. We help leaders, organizations and societies succeed by releasing the full power and potential of people. Our nearly 7,000 colleagues deliver services through Korn Ferry and our Hay Group and Futurestep divisions.