The final third of the year is well and truly upon on us, people are already talking about Christmas. This marks the beginning of Peak and the challenges logistics operations face at this time of year have never been more complex. In an age where digital dominates commerce, the ease of ordering and an increase in demand from customers, has meant that continuous product flow has become the status quo for many retailers. Given the fact that we now live in a world where tomorrow isn’t good enough, we don’t want to have to wait three or four days for our orders to arrive – we expect it to arrive same day or next day at the latest, and quite often with delivery charges waived. At a time where some of the most iconic brands have struggled – or even gone into administration - reputation and meeting expectations are everything, meaning some brands are prepared to make a loss on fulfilling next day orders with an eye on long-term gains.
These key challenges of modern e-commerce only intensify around the peak period. Over recent years, a number of key spikes of retail activity in the run-up to Christmas have been established, where incredible demand from consumers puts a strain on even the largest and best-prepared operations. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are so ubiquitous that they’re almost as much of a fixture in the calendar as Christmas Day itself, as retailers operating in challenging business environments go to war in their efforts to attract consumers.
With all this in mind, it’s important to be going into this year’s peak period with a clear plan of action, so here are our top tips for success:
Plan and prepare
The old adage that if you fail to plan you plan to fail, is very much the case when it comes to preparing for peak. With a shortage of candidates in the market, many retailers are recruiting earlier and earlier – Q3 is typically seen as the key time for increasing your employee pool as we start to make operational adjustments to meet our Christmas forecast. This can present a challenge as we are faced with a number of public holidays in quick succession, (particularly in Victoria) – meaning it can be easy for the start of September to quickly bleed into the start of October or beyond if you’re not careful. Of course, you can’t know exactly how many staff you’re going to need if you haven’t forecasted properly, so it’s essential this has been carried out as early as possible. Ideally, your organisation will have already carried out a full review of the previous year’s peak to work out what worked – and more importantly what didn’t. This should give you a great starting point to work from.
Although taking the learnings from your previous year’s plan is important, it’s also worth remembering that no two peak periods are ever the same. Although consumer demands are increasing, particularly around next day delivery, IT systems and automated processes are also improving in kind to keep up with demand. So don’t automatically assume that an expected increase in demand means that you need more staff. In fact, it may be that you need a smaller headcount but skills in these different areas:
- Knowledge of e-commerce operations
- Knowledge of multi-drop
- Automation experience
Increasing your employee pool flexibly can be the key, so keep in regular communication with your agency suppliers so that they are primed to provide the right calibre of staff you need, as and when you need them.
Hire the right talent
With widespread candidate shortages coming into play, it’s never been more important to get your talent attraction strategies right. To this end, it’s important to promote a solid brand and career development at the interview stage, then hire quickly with a strong initial offer. Otherwise, you risk a competitor getting in there first – which has been a very common occurrence of late. You also need to consider what types of people you need – keeping in mind that interim employees will always have a preference for permanent work. How can you keep temporary staff incentivised to fulfil the length of their assignment? Thinking outside the box and offering incentives such as putting a retainer bonus in place to ensure that interim staff are motivated to complete their assignment, in what is your busiest and most challenging period of the year.
Arm yourself with the right information
Being aware of the right information is always going to be the key to delivering a successful peak. This goes right across the board, from understanding consumer demand and requirements to building in contingency in terms of labour and equipment. It’s also important to understand as much about your candidates as possible. In a candidate-short market where competition is fierce, it’s essential to know how much you need to pay to attract and retain your top talent. The last thing that you will want is to have a key team member hand in their notice in the coming months. To this end, at Michael Page, we can provide salary benchmarking information to help inform your decisions and strategies.
Why not get in touch with one of our specialist recruitment consultants to discuss your recruitment needs?