Live from NCOF: Recruiting Seasonal Employees: The Lands’ End Way

Recruiting and retaining seasonal employees is a common challenge for marketers, especially for Dodgeville, WI-based Lands’ End. The general merchandise cataloger depends on the influx of more than 2,000 seasonal employees to help it through the fourth quarter when it does 40% of its business, according to Phyllis Irish, the manager of recruitment at Lands’ End, during a session at the National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment in Nashville. Staffing is no small matter for Lands’ End, given that most of Lands’ End’s operations lie in rural Wisconsin. Lands’ End employs more than 7,000 employees year-round. During peak season–September through December–Lands’ End employees more than 9,000.

So how does Lands’ End do it? “We try to be the employer of choice in the community,” Irish says. What’s more, Lands’ End is big on recognizing the achievements of employees on everything from birthdays and anniversaries to giving spot cash awards of $50–$2,000 for a job well done. And according to Irish, Lands’ End pays more than lip service to suggestions from employees. “We try to implement as many as possible. It makes employees feel good knowing that the company is doing the right thing by its employees.” Lands’ End also surveys employees to get feedback on the company’s environment.

Lands’ End is also active in the community, participating in community events such as the Butterfest Parade in nearby Reedsville, which helps act as a recruitment tool. Lands’ End also relies on employee referrals for its new hires, Irish says. Community events help stress, “the competitive advantage of working for Lands’ End. About 55% of Lands’ End’s applications have come from employee referrals. We find we get a better quality of candidate that way.” So what’s the payout? According to Irish, Lands’ End employee retention rates have increased 24%.

But the cost is not cheap: Lands’ End shells out about $1,200 per employee to recruit seasonal employees.

But rising costs have hurt Lands’ End, particularly in the area of compensation and benefits. Benefit costs have increased 12%; so last January, Lands’ End mandated that employees must work 1,650 hours annually to qualify for benefits. Before January, Lands’ End offered benefits for employees who worked at least 1,250 hours a year. About 44% of employees work flex-time. “Communication is the key,” Irish says. “We probably rolled that out a little too quickly,” she adds.