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I worked as a server at the Olive Garden in college. Good times, although I will never subject a waiter to an order of endless soup, salad and breadsticks on a busy weekend ever again.

It wasn’t my first choice, but I made my rounds to a few places I enjoyed eating at as a 20-year-old, and took what I could get (which was one call back from the Olive Garden, or “OG,” as I called it to make myself feel cooler).

I worked throughout the year, went back to my parents’ house over the summer, came back to school in the spring and returned to the Olive Garden – largely because my manager offered me some shifts (and I already had the required uniform, purple ties included). I would have been open to the other restaurants or bars I applied to the previous year, mostly because they were closer to campus, more of my friends would visit, and I probably wouldn’t have had to wear that stupid tie.

But no one ever reached out to me from any of the other places I applied the previous season, even when the semester started and students were back on campus, eating out in full force with their parents’ credit cards – and tons of graduating seniors left their college jobs unfilled to head out into the real world. Even worse, no one reached out to my friend at all – she had applied with me and never heard anything either way. She took another campus job, outside of the food service industry. We still joke to this day that she just wasn’t good enough for the OG.

Yes, this sounds like a lot of peoples’ experiences in applying to jobs – hourly or salaried, full-time or part-time. That sound is silence.

But the hourly market is a bit different – turnover is higher, seasonality drives a lot of hiring and, in many industries, quick hiring is imperative to day-to-day profitability and productivity. Of course there are costs to having an unfilled salaried position in a corporation; but just one day in a hotel, restaurant or health care facility that’s understaffed could mean overworked employees, poor customer service, potentially unsafe working environments and ultimately unhappy customers. 

Take in these stats for a second:

  • In January 2017, there were 1.28 million retail job openings and turnover, compared to just 672,000 hires.
  • 29% of hourly restaurant workers stay in a job for 6 months or less.
  • The average cost in productivity lost for each new vacancy, varying by role and industry, is $3,049.

Hourly workers are fundamental to making the world go round! So my question is: Why aren’t more organizations nurturing all the hourly applicants they have already attracted? Why are hundreds or thousands of interested applicants never communicated to again for the next season or a different role? Why are brands struggling to hire the best hourly workers over their competition, or worse, losing them down the road to competition?

I think the reasons are as follows:

  1. Their recruiting model is built on franchises or in-person applications.
  2. They don’t have the right strategy and/or technology to capture leads and communicate with them over time.
  3. They aren’t prioritizing employer brand in how they attract, hire and retain people.

Unfortunately, in the current landscape of the hourly market, organizations can’t use these three reasons as an argument to letting interested hourly applicants turn into cold leads – or worse, brand antagonists. Just as organizations are looking to hire a lot of hourly jobs quickly, people looking for hourly work are looking for proactive interest, and most likely, the right offer at the right time, which is usually now.  

Consider how one automated email in the beginning of the holiday shopping season could send a message to the inbox of hundreds of previous applicants to re-submit an application. Think about how an e-newsletter around company benefits or holiday get-togethers could influence a working parent to consider your new job opening over your competition’s. Consider how communicating growth opportunities in the company could sustain interest, increase productivity or improve retention. A proactive nurture strategy, or even simply hearing back after so many applications went unnoticed, is enough to fuel a positive impression of your employer brand – generating positive word of mouth and likely more accepted offers.

There is always a need to increase awareness and build a large pipeline of interested hourly talent. But before you continue to pay to market to more and more people, then only hire a fraction of them – think strongly about how you can re-market, nurture and hire the people you’ve already attracted.

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