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Analysts predict holiday sales will be up nearly 4 percent this year. Companies of all sizes are preparing for this anticipated spending surge by making tens of thousands of seasonal hires.

To give you an idea of the number of temporary workers retailers are looking to bring on this holiday season, consider Target’s recent announcement that it is looking to beef up its workforce by 77,500. Macy’s claims it needs an additional 83,000 associates. Making that many hires requires dedicating A LOT of time and money to HR efforts, which could prove more costly than ever this year. With fewer Americans out of work this year, retailers will need to be much smarter in how they go about finding and attracting applicants.

The burden of meeting the demand for seasonal help can quickly overwhelm hiring departments. The challenge of identifying, processing, and training new hires for specific job functions is very time-consuming and expensive.

This is where bots can come into play. Retailers looking to get a leg up on the competition will leverage bots to attract top talent while streamlining the seasonal hiring process. Here are three ways bots can grease the wheels of the holiday hiring machine.

Bring on the elves

The phone is quiet and the inbox is empty. This year, retailers are struggling more than ever to find enough temporary talent to fill the open roles, and they have an ultra-compressed hiring window to work with.

While a troupe of elves would be helpful, most will be otherwise occupied up north. Savvy hiring professionals have started to explore AI technology to shift from an exhausting “pull mode” workflow, which requires teams to manually scour hiring platforms for potential candidates, to a “push mode” workflow, where relevant applicants are sent to them directly. Application assistant and recruiting bots like one we have created here at Wirkn are proving to be highly efficient resources for pre-qualifying and confirming a candidate’s interest and availability before a human hiring manager ever has to lift a finger.

Due to the nature of the technology, bots offer a certain level of personalization and intelligence that is more appealing than traditional approaches, such as an auto-response from a web-based resume upload. By leveraging bots, organizations can also customize the application process to identify traits that may make a candidate a better fit for certain jobs or organizations. This results in more qualified candidates making it to the in-person interview.

Naughty or nice?

Discovering and hiring the best tribe of elves is only the beginning of the hectic holiday challenge. Once you’ve welcomed the best possible talent, you must onboard and train them. If you don’t have the right team in place from the beginning, the entire season could be a bust — especially when it comes to workers who will interact directly with customers.

A recent survey by Onestop Internet found that 75 percent of consumers are either “highly unlikely” or “unlikely” to shop from a retailer again after one bad customer experience. On the flip side, 98 percent of consumers are either “highly likely” or “likely” to buy from a retailer again after one positive customer service experience.

Not having enough time to properly screen, interview, and onboard talent can result in bad hires, which can, in turn, lead to poor customer experiences and a subsequent decrease in sales — not to mention ancillary losses surrounding poor hiring techniques, wasted training resources and a negative impact on team morale. According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 27 percent of U.S. employers said that just one bad hire had cost their company more than $50,000.

Deck the halls with savings

So your new hires have made it through the initial gauntlet, now it’s time to show them the ropes and initiate them into your culture. Every time a temporary worker starts a new work assignment — no matter how skilled or unskilled — a certain amount of onboarding and training is required in order for them to perform the assigned tasks to the specifications of that organization. Boston-based startup Talla and The Innovation Labs division of HR services company, ADP, are two organizations focused on developing bots to help new workers get up to speed and be more productive.

In addition to facilitating new hire paperwork and answering basic HR questions like “When do I get paid?” bots can be used to guide full-time and seasonal hires through digital employee handbooks and standard operating processes to evaluate which associates are ready to hit the floor and interact with customers. Employees who answer questions incorrectly or who aren’t sure of company policies will be identified and guided through training manuals without requiring human interference. Considering the impact of a positive customer experience, this element alone could put your organization on the top of Santa’s “nice” list.

The moral of the story is that if you are a retailer facing the brutal task of seasonal hiring, embrace your bot brethren! You’ll save time and money while ensuring your organization attracts the best possible talent. And a year from now, when the season is upon us once again, you’ll be able to unleash your stable of bots to re-engage your best performers in a one-to-one manner to see if they are interested in an open position. When properly integrated into your hiring process, bots are like the gift that keeps on giving for years to come.


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