Hire Purpose: Five Creative Ways to Help Solve the Staff Shortage

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Restaurants have nearly 2 million unfilled jobs, and retailers are down about 5.5 million workers. If you work in these industries, you probably know the many reasons behind the staff shortage. The after-effects of the pandemic, demographic shifts, and the pressures of competitive salaries in other industries have created a huge challenge for hiring managers and brands.

The impact of short-staffing can be significant. Despite the rise of online shopping, people still frequent brick-and-mortar stores, and even in fast food restaurants where technology is on the upswing, diners expect human interactions that are pleasant and efficient.

So, how do brands with multiple locations close the hiring gap?

  1. Focus on the human side of your brand. We live in a world where a few negative reviews from disgruntled employees can go viral. Mass media posts lists like this of the best and worst brands to work for. Ensuring your brand is perceived as a great workplace for employees at all levels is more critical than ever. Look to those competitors who have created incentive programs and other perks to attract the best workers. If you’re in management, spend enough time in the field to understand why people may leave or choose not to interview. Tighten up your existing interview process and pay attention to patterns. Remember, too, that you are competing for candidates with a new range of flexible job options (like ride-share services, delivery, and errand-running). You need to put yourself inside the candidate’s head and speak confidently about the benefits of a retail or restaurant job.
  2. Make technology adoption a help, not a fear. The goal is to have your employees say things like, “This POS system makes my job so much easier,” or “I feel safe in my store at night because of the state-of-the-art security system.” Invest as much time in training your team members to embrace new systems as you did when selecting the system. Engage key employees in the decision-making.
  3. Keep the job fair and career day alive. Go into your local communities to recruit workers — both live and online. Reaching large groups of people at neighborhood events and letting them know you’re hiring can not only source new candidates but also spread word-of-mouth and build goodwill in the community. Show up at career night at your local high schools and demonstrate how and why frontline skills can be beneficial in future careers. That process is also a big part of #1. If people perceive your brand as a supporter of local commerce, they will be more likely to view you as an employer of choice. Use your store signage also to alert local visitors that you’re hiring.
  4. Become age-blind. One in six retirees is contemplating a return to the workforce. This presents a huge opportunity for hiring managers. Do not assume that this population is slow or out-of-touch with technology, and train your younger team members to work well with people of all ages and backgrounds.
  5. Respect and build programs for gig workers. Industry-specific apps like Qwick (hospitality hiring) and AppPasta (retail jobs) enable gig workers to search for slots that fit best with their own schedules. The gig economy has been growing steadily. If you tap into this huge population of people seeking flexibility and fair wages, you may discover a new range of candidates.

Hiring a large number of the right people can be way more challenging at times than filling executive roles. But if you approach your search as if your business depends on it (which it does), you will wind up with more of the right employees.

Once you’ve onboarded them, listen to their feedback, treat them with respect, reward them for accomplishments, give them opportunities to learn and grow in their roles (or apply for new roles), and rely on them to be the ambassadors of your brand.


Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in Inc.com, the New York Times and Forbes.