Retail Employers Don’t Care about Flexibility this Fall

We know that hiring follows seasonal trends. But do the skills and qualifications employers desire change with the seasons as well?

In general, skills requirements, especially the most popular, are slow to change. Communication skills and customer service, for instance, have consistently ranked among the top two most popular skills in jobs posted to ZipRecruiter since we began tracking this data in January 2016.

Flexibility has also long-been a top skill valued by employers. It has ranked within the top 10 skills of all jobs posted to ZipRecruiter every month this year, at times ranking second behind communication skills. It was also a highly-valued skill within the retail industry all year, typically ranking third behind customer service and communication skills.

That is until this September, when flexibility disappeared from the top 10 retail skills ranking entirely, which is a trend that continued through October.

What is “Flexibility” and Why Does it Matter?

When employers include flexibility as a required skill in a job description, they are typically referring to one’s willingness and ability to take on a wide variety of responsibilities, even if they fall outside of their job description.

This is valuable to employers since it means having someone who can cover blind spots, help other team members whose skills may not be up to snuff, and generally get more stuff done. It’s also the trait of a potential future leader in an organization, since flexibility within one’s role is key to being productive both with assigned tasks and while managing the workflow of others.

Why then was flexibility such a highly-valued skill for retail employers all year only to become a non-issue this fall? In two words: seasonal employees.

Seasonal Workers

Retail jobs increased 24% month over month in August and 25% in September, according to ZipRecruiter data. This massive monthly spike in openings is owed to the seasonal hiring surge, which we know will taper off by December.

“It makes sense for flexibility to fall out of favor with retailers during the holiday hiring rush,” said Julia Pollak, ZipRecruiter’s Labor Economist. “Seasonal workers are brought on to fulfill very specific roles, such as Cashier or Delivery Driver. Employers don’t typically make the same investments in training and professional development for seasonal workers as they do with  full-time employees. Flexibility is a trait that’s sought after in people joining a company for the long haul.”

Whether or not retail employers ought to be treating their seasonal hires more like full-time employees is up for debate. The retail industry has not yet reached the point of having more job openings than workers available to fill the role, but it’s getting close. As of September, however, there was one retail job opening for every applicant, according to the ZipRecruiter Opportunity Index.

As the labor market continues to tighten, and if the retail industry lapses into a full-blown labor shortage, employers may very well need to keep some of their seasonal hires on full time.

Written by

ZipRecruiter's Data Journalist, Jeffery writes about emerging job market trends using proprietary ZipRecruiter data.

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