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Managing seasonal retail recruitment spikes

By Retail Technology | Thursday September 5 2013

Retail expert Roger Greenway discusses how human resources can combat the paper storm of seasonal temporary employment applications

Take a quick look at Google and you can see that one of the top searches for students labels them as 'lazy,' according to Roger Greenway, retail specialist at electronic content management (ECM) technology vendor Perceptive Software

"Fair enough, they might only have a few hours of lectures per week, and yes they do also have a three-month summer break, but in fact, a lot of retailers rely on them for part-time work to cover the gaps in their rotas throughout the summer months," he said.

What’s more, the need for summer workers is on the increase, with last year seeing a peak in seasonal employment figures. According to the Office for National Statistics, part-time employment increased by 49,000 in the three months preceding September, taking the total number of people in these positions to 8.1 million; close to a record high. 

In addition, according to the ‘British Retail Consortium (BRC) Bond Dickinson Retail Employment Monitor’ figures, released earlier this summer, retail employment grew by nearly 4% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2013, the strongest growth since December 2009. 

Meeting seasonal employment demands

This positive development within retail is supported by recent comments from the BRC Director General, Helen Dickinson, who stated: “Retail employs more people than any other private sector industry, and is a major source of jobs for younger people. The boost in employment we have seen today will therefore be particularly welcome news for everyone entering the market this summer...four times as many retailers are looking to increase employment in the summer months as are looking to decrease it.”

Greenway said: "Retail employment growth is fantastic news but, with this sudden influx of staff, there’s a chance that employers can be caught out. Recruiting a new worker can be tricky and time-intensive, mainly down to the mountains of paperwork involved. This ranges from processing applications, all the way to issuing the final paycheque. On top of this, with any HR [human resources] system that relies on manual data entry and paper processes, there’s a chance that valuable documentation will be incorrect, misplaced or damaged due to human error. This can delay start times due to administrative errors, which can damage productivity and revenue. Notwithstanding the data protection benefits of having data securely stored and access to it managed and tracked."

So, how are retailers meant to approach and overcome these issues? Greenway said the answer lies in intelligent document capture and (ECM). "ECM systems allow organisations to capture into a workflow and electronically store paperwork, including tax forms, applications and payroll documentation, and place them in a centralised location, making the data more visible and easier to access," he claimed. "Then, not only can HR work collaboratively on inducting new starters, but it also ensures that any important documents are kept secure and out of harm’s way.

"Furthermore, optical character recognition (OCR) and capture functionality means paper forms can be read and classified and that valuable information can be inserted directly from the page into the HR system of record, for example a new starter’s bank details for payroll."

Counting the cost of man-management

These systems can also provide businesses with a number of other benefits aside from the on-boarding of new or temporary employees. "A HR employee’s average salary is £22.50 an hour and, in HR costs alone, a business loses 65 pence for every minute spent locating and modifying employee documents," Greenway stated. "This outlay is reduced substantially with an ECM system, as HR professionals can search and access employee records instantaneously."

ECM and data capture systems can also save retailers money in other ways. In a paper-based HR department, multiple copies of documents are usually required for filing and any changes to documentation require another print-out, which is a constant drain on budgets. But Greenway said that, with an ECM system, an office has the potential to eliminate many paper-based processes, saving company money in the process. Electronic forms provide a standard way of capturing consistent information, and electronic signatures can even be applied, which ensure records meet audit and compliance standards.

"Ultimately, the summer is a hectic time for retailers. Dealing with the sudden influx of temporary staff can be a source of major exasperation, but a data capture and ECM system can transform how HR deals with this issue," Greenway added. "The benefits go beyond just this period though; they can positively influence and streamline the entirety of the HR division, making it more efficient and easier to work in." 

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