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7 Tricks to Speed Up Retail Recruiting in China

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China’s retail market is booming! In Q1 of 2018, total retail sales of consumer goods was up 9.8% year-on-year[1]. China has eclipsed the US as the largest retail market in the world, which is great news for Chinese retailers. From high-end brands such as Prada, to high-street favorites like H&M, retailers are rapidly expanding their footprint all over the country, looking to meet demand and reach millions of new customers.

While the buoyant market is driving strong sales, this exponential growth is presenting significant new challenges for those responsible for retail recruiting in China. Considering the country’s gigantic labor force, many intuitively think that recruiting talent should be relatively easy. But the number of people entering the workforce is declining and labor-intensive positions are becoming increasingly hard to fill. In China’s volatile, candidate-driven market the task of retail store recruitment is a tough one.

Depending on the location of your stores, the steadily increasing minimum wage is another pressure you’re probably having to contend with. Ongoing large-scale growth in the retail sector has enabled candidates to weigh professional opportunities by salary and smoothly transition from one company to another.

In the face of high turnover rate and the war for finding and hiring the retail employees you need to make your business a success, we’re going to examine 7 tricks that can help you fill in-store vacancies more quickly.

1. Leverage WeChat to generate strong candidate leads

We are well aware of the power of WeChat from an e-commerce and branding perspective. Many retailers are using WeChat as an effective “membership” communication channel, using anything from authentic branded content to WeChat coupons to drive fan engagement. But from a retail recruiting perspective, your customers and followers could also be potential candidates.

Some brands are already using WeChat as a recruiting tool. However, few are offering truly original content that showcases their employer brand. In a saturated market, if you really want to take advantage of this channel as part of your retail store recruitment strategy, you must differentiate and accentuate your company’s Employer Value Proposition.

  • Focus on developing topics that resonate with target candidates
  • Make your content highly visual
  • Don’t copy the GIFs and memes everyone is using
  • Ensure your call-to-action is clear and powerful
  • Achieve maximum reach by incentivizing your colleagues to share content.

Thanks to Avature’s integration with WeChat, you can offer candidates the option of applying to jobs using their WeChat profiles.

2. Ensure your candidate processes are frictionless

Convenience has become a key trait of retail here in China. If you’re doing it right, your customers have not only grown accustomed to a friction-free experience when it comes to transactions, but they consider your brand a partner that helps with daily living. Alibaba’s purchase of the Hema supermarket chain is a great example of how the boundaries are blurring between online and offline when it comes to retail.

In this context, when you’re looking to fill in-store vacancies with top talent at speed, designing a frictionless application process is an important step. Candidates associate your brand with a seamless experience and if that’s not what they get when they apply for a job it’ll put them off straight away. You should take advantage of personalization to tailor the application process depending on a candidate’s location or the position they’re applying for.

3. Build talent pools so you can backfill at speed

For the majority of non-managerial positions, your Store Managers are most probably relying on RPOs to fill vacancies. But Talent Acquisition teams are frequently under pressure to source and hire senior candidates within very short timeframes. This is a tough task which can’t be avoided as retailers continue to grow at such a rapid pace. So what can you do to meet these hiring demands quickly?

Investing in technology that facilitates the creation of talent pipelines and pools is a great way to win the race for talent. Ready access to pre-identified individuals drastically improves a recruiter’s ability to fill multiple positions simultaneously against the clock. It’s also much more efficient than the excel spreadsheets that decentralized hiring models rely on.

With a retail-specific platform, such as Avature In-Store, you can identify potential candidates and keep them warm before a specific role opens up. For example, you can set up automated email campaigns that deliver timely company news or industry trends. As soon as the vacancy opens, you can reach out to someone in your existing talent pipeline instead of having to start the search from scratch.

4. Maximize internal mobility to tackle turnover across locations

You’re probably already reliant on internal mobility to cover vacancies as you roll out new stores across China. Moving existing Store Managers to a brand new location minimizes risk. They already have a strong understanding of your processes and brand and can be trusted to implement them again.

With a roadmap in place of upcoming store openings, there are many benefits to introducing an internal mobility program. You can offer top managers the opportunity to move around the business in a more structured way, which can help with organizational planning. This kind of program can also help increase loyalty and reduce turnover. After all, internal mobility is a way to provide employees with career progression opportunities and new challenges.

5. Flex your approach according to location

When looking to implement an optimized recruiting solution across your business, it’s important to take into account the nuances in customs or processes in different locations. This is something that comes naturally to the marketing and sales teams. But the same approach isn’t always considered when it comes to recruiting.

Retailers across China regularly implement localized go-to-market strategies at the cluster or city tier level[2]. This practical approach allows them to better align resources with population size and wealth. As a result, tier 1 cities tend to have bigger flagship-style stores. Naturally, organizations will face different recruiting challenges across different locations.

Forward-thinking talent acquisition teams should consider how to localize processes in order to better connect with potential candidates. In order to do so in the most cost-effective and efficient manner, you should invest in one central technology that can be configured to meet the recruiting needs of each location.

6. Take advantage of technology to source top talent

In addition to talent pools, job board apps can fast-forward your efforts to fill vacancies when faced with a new store opening. A great example is Boss Zhipin which efficiently matches job seekers and recruiters based on their preferences and behavior using advanced data technology. It allows you to chat directly to potential candidates via instant message and constantly optimizes its algorithm by learning user behavior.

With QR code adoption so high across China, it goes without saying that you can use them to efficiently capture walk-in applicants.

 7. Optimize how you manage RPOs

As we’ve mentioned, you’re probably heavily relevant on agencies to source high numbers of suitable candidates for more junior roles. With many retailers pursuing an aggressive store rollout strategy, Store Managers receive hundreds of emails from RPOs with candidates to review.

This tends to be a time consuming and inefficient process which requires them to manually analyze and upload resumes from emails. With an agency management solution, such as Avature’s, Store Managers can visually compare candidates in one place at a glance. This rapidly speeds up the hiring process and gives them time back in their day to focus on the business.

Trends suggest that retail recruiting in China will continue to challenge TA professionals for the near term. By taking into account the tips mentioned in this article, your recruiters will be in a better position to fill in-store vacancies quickly.


[2] China Development Research Foundation identified 12 key clusters which represent c.80% of China’s GDP.

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