Live from NCOF: recruiting seasonal help the Lands’ End way

Nashville, TN–Recruiting and retaining seasonal employees is a challenge for many consumer catalogers. For instance, Dodgeville, WI-based Lands’ End needs to hire more than 2,000 seasonal employees to help it through the fourth quarter, which is when it does 40% of its business, according to Phyllis Irish, manager of recruitment for the apparel and home goods catalog. Irish discussed Lands’ End’s seasonal staffing practices during an April 29 session at the National Conference on Operations and Fulfillment (NCOF).

During the first three quarters of the year, Lands’ End employs more than 7,000 employees. Finding an additional 2,000 workers for the fall/holiday season is especially tough for the mailer, given that the lion’s share of its facilities are in rural areas of Wisconsin.

So how does Lands’ End do it? “We try to be the employer of choice in the community,” Irish said. To that end, Lands’ End is big on recognizing employees’ birthdays and anniversaries and will even give out spot cash awards—of up to $2,000–for a job well done.

Lands’ End also participates in numerous community events, such as the Butterfest Parade in nearby Reedsville. Maintaining a high profile acts as a recruitment tool, Irish noted. Community events, she said, emphasize “the competitive advantage of working for Lands’ End.”

Keeping employees happy motivates them to refer friends and family to work for the company. Employee referrals account for about 55% of Lands’ End’s applications. What’s more, Irish described such referrals as “a better quality of candidate.”

All told, it costs Lands’ End about $1,200 to recruit each seasonal employee, Irish said. She also disclosed that the company’s benefit costs rose 12% last year. To mitigate the additional expense, in January the cataloger mandated that only employees who work at least 1,650 hours a year qualify for benefits. The company used to offer benefits to employees who worked at least 1,250 hours annually.

Cosponsored by “Operations and Fulfillment” magazine and the Direct Marketing Association, NCOF runs through Wednesday at the Opryland Resort here.