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Seasonal Workers

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The holidays usher in the season of giving; but for some employees in the retail industry, it may mark the season of helping themselves.

The latest statistics on employee theft in the retail industry are telling. On average, each theft committed by an employee costs almost seven times that committed by a customer, according to a report published by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) - and these statistics may not tell the whole story as fewer than 40 per cent of such thefts were reported to the police last year.

As reported in Retail Gazette (30th September), while only accounting for 0.7% of crimes overall, employee theft was the third largest type of crime by value. While it was the only one of the key offences that dropped in terms of volume and value from the previous year, it remained at its second highest level for nine years.

First Advantage research shows that, when checking the CVs of contingent and seasonal workers, we uncover significantly more inaccuracies compared with the CVs of permanent workers. Nearly half of education verifications on seasonal workers uncover discrepancies, while a third of employment history verifications turn up inaccuracies and discrepancies.

These statistics highlight the need to integrate screening into seasonal hiring programs. Here are my tips and guidance on how to handle seasonal worker screening:

Treat holiday screening as a project For retailers large and small, holiday hiring is a spike unlike the business-as-usual (BAU) hiring that happens throughout the year, so standard screening processes may not scale to meet the increased demand.

Centralise the project. Whether you are recruiting for your large-scale distribution centres or for a half dozen stores, it will be easier to keep track of the recruitment and screening if it is managed by a central person or team. This can also help your BAU teams, who will get a central point of contact to assist with candidate and recruiter queries.

Talk to your agencies. If you routinely use agencies for volume hiring in the holiday season, help them get ready for the spike: hold screening education workshops or provide FAQs and other education materials to explain how screening fits into the holiday recruitment program. This will help them work with their candidates.

Consider candidate circumstances. Not all candidates may have regular access to the internet to access online application and screening forms. Be prepared for Plan B - having candidates fill in a paper form or visiting your store or offices to access the internet via a public computer or kiosk.

Develop a sensible seasonal program according to risk and role

Risk. Retailers face varying levels of risk depending on their business and business model. Electronics, computer and luxury-goods retailers, as well as those with significant online presence (where seasonal staff may be processing payment card details) face higher potential risk than those in other retail profiles.

Role. Just as you would not want to under-screen a candidate in a senior/managerial role in a high-risk position, neither would it be wise to over-screen entry level candidates with a one-size-fits-all screening program. Screening may be as basic as checking the most recent employer or as comprehensive as conducting criminal, credit, education, employment history, global watch-list and ID verification.

Consider your timings

With retailers searching and screening for the highest-quality seasonal workers, launching talent and screening campaigns are time sensitive – and time crunched. With many retailers hiring the bulk of their workers in the period from late October to early December, be mindful of turnaround time variances and how you can plan for potential delays. The screening program is important, but it doesn’t have to derail your volume hiring process:

If you are hiring seasoned retail staff and are looking for an employment reference, be aware that your fellow retailer is experiencing the same volume pressures, and may not come back as quickly as they normally would. You may consider collecting documentation from the candidate to prove employment (e.g. P45, pay stub or bank statement) whilst the verification at source is underway or has gone past a certain number of days.

If your candidates have non-UK backgrounds and you are conducting international credit or criminal checks, be aware that some turnaround times vary by country, so the results may come back slower – or faster – than the same check in the UK.

Your candidates are also consumers

Screening can help retailers manage business risk, but a bad screening experience can turn a candidate off the job – and your brand. Here are some tips on how to balance risk mitigation with candidate experience.

Published on Tuesday 21 October by Editorial Assistant
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