This week, in our series of HR expert interviews, I had the pleasure of connecting with Jasmine Bailey, a Human Resources Associate for Belk, a retail department store based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. Belk’s warm and welcoming Southern-style stretches across 16 Southern states. The portfolio company of the private equity firm Sycamore Partners, based in New York, not only offers a wide range of national brands and private label fashion apparel, but they also cover cosmetics, home merchandise and more! In this interview, Jasmine and I spoke about new hire training and the transition recruitment is currently going through.
Focused on Employee Experience
I found it fitting to share this interview today, as it is International Workers’ Day, also known as Labor Day in the United States. Celebrating the workforce right now, is more important than ever, considering the challenges everyone is currently facing. With that said, what caught my attention about Belk was what they stood for as a company, and how they appeared to be focused on fostering an atmosphere that invites employees to bring their authentic selves to work every day. Creating a positive employee experience is something Belk firmly believes in. I was curious to dive deeper and hear how Belk was managing during the current pandemic, and what changes they were needing to make in order to adapt.
“Belk is a fast-growing company, in which new roles and responsibilities are constantly being created to keep up with demands. Building a strong working environment and providing guidance and leadership is always the main priority in building effective teams.”
Jasmine, having worked at Belk for over 3 years, has become an expert in recruitment and selection, as well as what it takes to build a successful recruitment talent pool strategy. Like many other HR associates, in addition to conducting recruitment selection and onboarding, she also gracefully juggles payroll processing, organization of events, budget planning, employee scheduling, and leads recruiting efforts to help store managers hire the best talent with the right combination of skills and experience. Jasmine shared with us her take on the current situation, and how managers are adapting to the changes.
How the Covid-19 Crisis is Affecting the Retail Industry
Two of the hardest-hit industries in the USA, and across the world, as a result of the pandemic, are Hospitality and Retail. With the ‘Shelter in Place’ order that was rolled out in mid-March, countless companies have been forced to lay off employees. Companies like Belk stress the importance of nurturing their workforce by continuing to support them, even throughout times of layoffs and uncertainty.
“With social distancing still remaining an important factor, we are checking on our associates while the stay at home order is still active. We are following up with associates that may need additional support.”
What are the changes that you’ve seen companies like Belk needing to make as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Companies that are still working, have switched over to online recruitment and digital onboarding. Whereas, many of those under ‘Shelter in Place’ orders have needed to halt their operations completely. This means that hiring has also come to a pause. Jasmine shared that before the pandemic, Belk followed standard recruitment practices which included phone screenings and face-to-face interviews. Once companies can return to work, she expects that face-to-face interviews will continue taking place with manageable safety precautions in addition to online self-assessment interviews.
“After experiencing this unpredictable event, I am absolutely positive that our hiring process will change as social distancing may still occur in the near future.”
Many of us may be ready to rush back to what was ‘normal’ prior to the pandemic, but as Jasmine shares, this situation has shaped and will continue to shape the hiring process of the future. Although Belk’s recruitment process is currently suspended, the company is still placing importance on continuing to network with others, including potential talent, through social media. Sharing insights and resources during this time is something incredibly important for them, and a way they can continue to offer support to the community.
How has the process of onboarding needed to adapt to suit the current situation?
Belk, having converted to a paperless recruitment system more than a year ago, was sufficiently prepared for moving their processes to digital. Thanks to an electronic database, new hires can fill out required documents and submit them to administration easily. This resource has helped streamline document management processes for Belk, as well as countless other companies.
Let’s talk a bit about new hire training and the difficulties managers currently face…
Without a doubt, the way employers conduct new hire training has drastically transformed over the past few months. Managers are faced with new challenges and are needing to implement workarounds to train their employees. For those companies still at work, training at a distance of 6 feet apart has become commonplace. This not only creates more hassle but often consumes more time than if an employee was able to be training alongside an experienced team member.
“Call center agencies and most retail stores have reduced their number of employees to adhere to the distancing guidelines and employees are not receiving proper training or guidance.”
In cases such as these, virtual reality training and implementing AI in the workplace may be a viable solution to assist new hires in their training during this pandemic. The increasing interest in workforce planning and the implementation of new and improved practices is more prominent than ever. With so many free online tools and digital applications, companies can more easily keep teams connected during crises.
“Workforce planning during this crisis is incredible! I am seeing members of all parts of companies team up and work together virtually to meet attainable goals to keep their company flourishing.”
Looking Towards the Future
The coronavirus situation has presented us all with new challenges and difficulties to work through. Amidst the struggles of recent months, there exists a great deal of growth and abundance. In the process of transitioning the way we work, managers and employees alike, have become more comfortable working with digital solutions. As a result, companies have been able to successfully work through the crisis whilst continuing to meet their OKRs and KPIs.
In closing, Jasmine shares that the shifts companies are experiencing have pushed them into seeking new ways of working and performing tasks. These ‘new norms’ will carry into the future and open up new opportunities for both employees and those in HR management positions, seeking more flexibility and opportunity to work remotely.