Fill your staffing void the way Future Shop did, by using social media.

In an era when there are more jobs than people to fill them, today’s employers devise many techniques to woo workers. This is especially true for retailers, which have been scrambling for some time to find not only qualified workers, but any workers at all. When Burnaby-based Future Shop Ltd., one of Canada’s largest retailers, had to find 6,000 short-term workers for the Christmas holiday shopping season, the company managed the flood by linking marketing, human resources and technology with social-media thinking.The ProblemRaising this crowd of part-timers wasn’t really a problem before. In past years, store managers could meet their needs by simply advertising or hitting the recruitment job boards. But the labour market has changed, and so has Future Shop, which now offers a brand promise that its employees are expert in the wares it sells. It also sees itself as a nexus for various communities among technology enthusiasts and the young and diverse ethnic groups in today’s fractured marketplace. Not only did it have to raise and train an army of part-timers quickly, but it also had to ensure that new troops were knowledgeable and could speak to multiple markets.The SolutionWhen hiring for the 2007 Christmas season, Future Shop began changing the way it recruits this throng, centralizing some hiring and dipping into the power of networking to generate enough troops. For the 2008 shopping crunch, that strategy evolved, relying heavily on modern communications and the new social media technique of crowd powering.

 

For two months, Future Shop ran a disciplined recruitment strategy that would put modern political campaigns to shame. To bring in vast numbers of potential hires, it continued its traditional advertising but also leveraged its employee networks, offering financial incentives to staff for bringing in friends, family members and others who shared their expertise and interests.

Since most of its employees – full- and part-time – are young, the retailer also posted on social networking sites such as Facebook. Further, it hired from among its customers, placing recruiting tables in stores and guiding the interested to an in-store kiosk where they could apply online. This wide end of the recruitment funnel provided a huge database of potential hires, which, in major markets such as Vancouver, was sent to a recruitment nerve centre modelled on a call centre. There, recruiters conducted interviews by phone, did reference checks and handled most of the chores previously done by managers.

The centres were also able to separate employees by location, ethnography and interests, and match them to the communities in which they would work. For example, appliance sales required more mature workers, so the company database was used to segment off stay-at-home moms who had first-hand knowledge of appliance use.

Using all these techniques, the retailer was able to maintain its brand promise for the 25 million Canadians who coursed through its stores over the season.Lessons

  • Find opportunity in the problem. Overwhelmed by recruiting, Future Shop created a specialized and disciplined process to tackle the problem. This process can now be applied elsewhere in the operation.
  • Narrow your scope to achieve volume. Sounds oxymoronic, but it isn’t. By aiming directly at specific groups and working them, you have a better chance of generating the volume you need.
  • Recognize the broader impacts. Simply taking all comers would impact the Future Shop marketing promise of knowledge and expertise. So the system ensured that those chosen fit the philosophy.