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As retailers hope for big holiday seasons, hiring remains a challenge

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As retailers hope for big holiday seasons, hiring remains a challenge

This story is part of ‘Now What?’ Digiday Media’s 2021 fall preview, a look at how media, marketing and retail have changed over the past 18 months, and what it means for their futures. Check out the rest of the stories here.

Historically, the only holiday messaging retailers have embraced before Labor Day are Christmas in July-themed sales. This year, however, retailers want job applicants to start thinking about their holiday plans before the summer is over.

Crafting supplies retailer Michael’s, for example, put out a press release on August 24 announcing plans to hire over 20,000 retail workers ahead of the holidays. That’s two weeks earlier than when Michael’s put out its holiday hiring announcement last year. Similarly, Apple posted job openings for seasonal retail employees in mid-July, while Aldi announced plans last week to hire  20,000 workers ahead of the holidays.

The push to move up holiday hiring is indicative of the staffing crunch retailers have been in for much of 2021. In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, tens of thousands of retail workers were furloughed or laid off permanently. But the resurgence of brick-and-mortar sales hasn’t ushered in a corresponding rebound in retail employment: some retail employees who worked through the pandemic quit due to burnout, while a tight labor market means job applicants can be choosier.

In response, retailers are baking more time into the hiring process for new roles, raising wages, and offering short-term hiring bonuses to attract applicants. Still, this may not be enough come the holidays, when nearly every retailer will be fighting over an increasingly small talent pool.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, retail employment is down by 270,000 since February 2020. Part of that is due to bankruptcies and store closures — roughly 49 retailers went bankrupt last year — and part of that is due to large swaths of retail workers quitting, after sticking it out through the pandemic last year. Some 640,000 retail workers quit in April, the largest one-month total in nearly 20 years.

That’s left retailers — particularly those that were hoping to take advantage of cheap rent prices this year to expand their store fleet — with a large number of jobs to fill. And that’s good news for workers, who have found themselves with room to be choosier.

Retailers have responded, first and foremost, with monetary incentives, both to new applicants, and to keep existing workers on through the holidays. Walmart gave a temporary pay raise of $1-5 more per hour to its warehouse workers through January 2022, depending on the location. In late July, Tapestry, owner of Coach and other luxury brands, announced it was raising its minimum wage to $15 per hour, with CVS announcing that it was doing the same a week later.

Some retailers are also experimenting with new benefits for retail employees. Target, for example, announced a new tuition assistance program available to all full-time and part-time employees. Rebekah Kondrat, founder of consultancy Kondrat Retail, said she’s even seen a few retailers offer health benefits to employees of short-term retail pop-ups (ones that run six months or so).

Other retailers have tried broadening the scope of the job description to attract more candidates: athleticwear brand Vuori, for example, created a new role called “omni associates” last year.  These employees typically spend two days a week working in customer service, and three days working on the floor at one of Vuori’s nine stores.

“Our omni program continues to attract great candidates…because they see the value in working in two different departments,” Catherine Pike, senior director of retail at Vuori, said in an email. She also said that Vuori also tries to use its status as a fast-growing startup — the company was founded in 2013, and nearly tripled its revenue last year — as a selling point.

“We see that they are inspired by the potential for promotion and many of our associates have goals to move to new cities across the US where we are opening stores in order to be a part of bringing Vuori to new communities,” she said.

Still, it is taking Vuori longer to find enough qualified candidates. Pike said the biggest change Vuori has had to make to hiring in recent months is to simply bake more time into the interview process.

Those changes don’t address all the challenges that retailers face in convincing more people to take a job in retail. During the pandemic, some workers quit after facing hostility from customers that were asked to wear a mask or abide by social distancing guidelines. One former Target worker who quit last July, for example, previously told Modern Retail that the job started to take more of an emotional toll on her after some customers would lecture her about how the coronavirus was a hoax after she asked them to stand six feet away from her. “Retail is hard enough outside of a pandemic,” she said. 

And the fears of facing customers angry over Covid protocols haven’t completely subsided, particularly as the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. rises again, thanks to the Delta variant.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said in an email that another challenge retailers face in recruiting applicants is the lack of flexibility and irregular shifts that have long plagued retail. Though some states like California have passed laws that curb retailers’ ability to only schedule employees at the last minute, at many retail stores, getting called in to work last minute isn’t out of the question.

“Higher pay is helpful but the big problem a lot of people have is irregular shift patterns and variable hours,” he wrote. “This makes it very difficult for people to plan things with families and other activities and it puts them off retail work.”

The next couple of months will prove out which retailers have the right mix of incentives. Target typically has one of the biggest holiday hiring drives, having hired more than 130,000 seasonal workers last holiday season, while many other big-box retailers typically hire tens of thousands of workers in the lead up to Black Friday. The more job openings a retailer has, the closer it gets to the holidays, the more likely it is that they will have to ramp up incentives in order to get those jobs filled.

For retailers who find themselves short-staffed over the holidays — it might not completely derail their sales momentum, but it will likely mean that they will have to pay overtime to existing employees. It might also result in longer lines and wait times for popular services like buy online, pickup in-store — which might lead some customers to go with another retailer for last-minute orders.

“With a recruiting firm that I was talking to, they’re like, if you don’t have jobs posted for holiday, now, you’re kind of behind the Eight Ball,” said Kondrat.

https://digiday.com/?p=425425

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Roblox settles NMPA lawsuit, paving path to music in the metaverse

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Roblox settles NMPA lawsuit, paving path to music in the metaverse

Roblox Swordburst 2 and Flood Escape

Roblox Swordburst 2 and Flood Escape

Image Credit: Roblox

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Roblox announced today that it has settled a lawsuit filed by the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA). The lawsuit from the NMPA has been summarily dismissed, and Roblox will be open to further agreements with artists who want to debut their music in the game world, as they can now make their own deals with Roblox.

The NMPA originally sued Roblox for about $200 million for copyright infringement. Now the two companies appear to have come to an agreement that will allow music within the metaverse, or at least it will give publishers the chance to decide whether or not they are willing to allow it. NMPA President David Israelite called Roblox “a unique platform for musicians and songwriters in the metaverse” and said it offers unique options for artists to connect with fans.

According to the NMPA, this new settlement will allow Roblox to broker more agreements with music publishers going forward. They now have “an industry-wide opt-in open to all eligible NMPA publishers” with Roblox as well as a negotiating period that allows publishers to work out individual licensing contracts. The NMPA adds that these deals will offer new ways for songwriters to monetize their music.

Roblox has recently begun expanding its music offerings, most recently with the addition of Listening Parties — in-game music streams in which artists can show off their work. It’s also held several virtual concerts within its metaverse for users. Roblox’s Global Head of Music Jon Vlassopulos said in a statement: “We are pleased that the publishing industry sees the potential of Roblox to be a significant creative and commercial opportunity for its members.”

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The NMPA also recently settled a similar issue with Twitch, wherein it didn’t exactly condone the widespread use of licensed music on the platform, but it did leave the possibility open for individual artists or labels to have their own deals with the platform — an “opt-in” it described in almost identical language to its settlement with Roblox. The NMPA said this agreement will allow artists to find their audiences: “From virtual shows to studio sessions, the partnerships stemming from this agreement will connect the Twitch community in many ways to the music they enjoy.”

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How IT managers plan to deal with rapidly growing API complexity

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How IT managers plan to deal with rapidly growing API complexity

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The rapid increase and ceaseless evolution of API technology has ushered in a challenging new era of API complexity. A new study of IT leaders by Axway reveals that the average enterprise currently uses three different API management vendors, and plans to engage more to reach an average of four by 2023. In some countries, the number could even grow to five different API management solutions on average per company.

While 44% of IT leaders primarily benefit from reduced IT complexity and/or better oversight, 34% of enterprises do not have access to the multi-management capabilities needed to master API complexity, though 66% say they have some kind of plan in place to master these complexities.

There was a surprisingly strong correlation between enterprises that have mastered API complexity with an API-first approach (those who can build APIs the quickest), and the number of digital projects they can launch each year. Enterprises that build APIs in a matter of hours or days are more likely to launch more than 40 new digital projects every year, while enterprises that need weeks or months tend to launch fewer digital projects per year.

The study also showed the same correlation between the number of digital launches and the time to onboard new partners, or how often enterprises are able to reuse APIs. Companies stand to save nearly US$ 30K on average every time they reuse an API.

Axway, a global API Management company, analyzed new data from more than 800 senior IT and business decision-makers in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Australia, and Singapore. The study concluded that API complexity is negatively impacting the bottom line, raising numerous challenges and pain points — from security to governance to innovation and many others.

Read the full report by Axway

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Use your TV as a computer monitor: Everything you need to know

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Use your TV as a computer monitor: Everything you need to know

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Will that big, sexy screen look as good on your desk as it does in your living room? Let’s dig into the specifics of using an HDTV with your PC.

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You’re not the first person who’s wondered what it would be like to have a giant desktop monitor. Think of all the multi-tasking and immersive gaming you could manage if you had a 50- or 60-inch monitor instead of a standard 24-inch monitor! But you’ve probably noticed that as monitors get bigger, they also tend to get prohibitively expensive.

You’ve probably already got a big screen in your house, though—a high-definition television. At the end of the day, isn’t an HDTV just a giant, living-room-oriented computer monitor?

Not exactly. While you can use a TV as a computer monitor in most cases, that doesn’t mean it’s the best option. In fact, it’s likely less attractive, convenient, and usable than you think (not to mention, probably not that cheap). There’s a reason dirt-cheap 32-inch HDTVs aren’t flying off the shelves to be used as budget-friendly jumbo screens.

You definitely can use an HDTV as your PC’s display, though, and your television can also work in a pinch if you suddenly need a second screen. Here’s everything you need to know about how to set up a TV as a computer monitor—and why you might not want to.

Will it even work?

The short answer: Yes. You may need a special cable, depending on your PC’s outputs and your HDTV’s inputs, and you’ll need to check a couple of settings, but you shouldn’t have too much trouble hooking most modern PCs up to most modern HDTVs. 

Modern HDTVs have HDMI outputs. Some older HDTVs have DVI inputs, and some even have VGA inputs specifically designated for “PC use.” If your graphics card has an HDMI output, you’re good to go: Just use an HDMI cable to connect your PC to your HDMI.

dsc01797 Brad Chacos/IDG

All modern graphics cards (like this Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600 XT) include at least one HDMI port (second from left, between several DisplayPorts).

If you’re using an older graphics card or motherboard that only has a DVI output, you can snag a cheap DVI-to-HDMI cable and plug it into your HDTV’s HDMI output. Amazon sells a six ft. AmazonBasics version for just $7. Although some older HDTVs and some older computers only have VGA inputs/outputs, they aren’t not an ideal choice. VGA’s an analog signal that will give you a far fuzzier, lower-resolution image than you’ll get with an HDMI or DVI cord.

If you want to use your HDTV as a second or third monitor, you may need to use a different port, such as your graphics card’s DisplayPort output. In this case, you’ll need to use a different cable (DisplayPort-to-HDMI). The main advantage to using the DisplayPort output instead of DVI or VGA is that HDMI and DisplayPort carry both video and audio signals. A DVI-to-HDMI cable can transmit both video and audio if your graphics card supports HDMI audio via DVI—unlikely if it doesn’t have any HDMI ports—while VGA only transmits video. If you use DVI or VGA, you will most likely need to connect your PC’s audio up to the HDTV separately, or use external speakers or a headset.

Bottom line? Try to stick to HDMI if or DisplayPort-to-HDMI connections if it’s possible. It’s the easiest solution.

Getting your PC ready

You’ll also need to determine whether your graphics card (or your PC’s integrated graphics) is capable of outputting at the resolution of your HDTV. To do this, you will first need to find the resolution of your HDTV by consulting the manufacturer’s manual. Some HDTVs have non-standard resolutions; it’s not a given that your HDTV will be supported. Most stick to standard 720p, 1080p, or 4K resolutions however. Next, find the maximum resolution your graphics card/integrated graphics supports.

display adapter properties Brad Chacos/IDG

Open the Windows 10 Start menu and head to Settings > System > Display > Advanced display settings > Display adapter properties for Display 1. In the window that pops up, click List All Modes. Find the resolution that matches your HDTV’s resolution and select it. 

If you’re using the HDTV to supplement a standard computer screen, simply follow our guide on how to set up two monitors to tell Windows how to manage both displays. 

Will it look good? Maybe. It depends on how you’re using your HDTV.

HDTV features to keep in mind

If you’re turning your HDTV into a PC-backed multimedia powerhouse, and you plan on using it primarily as a television and streaming hub—e.g. a screen you’ll continue to view from several feet away—it will probably look fine. But if you’re trying to stick a 60-inch HDTV on a desk, you’re more likely to end up with headaches and eye strain.

There are a few different factors to keep in mind if you want to use an HDTV as a computer monitor.

Pixel density

Pixel density, or the number of pixels packed into one square inch of screen (measured in pixels per inch or ppi), is the most important factor to consider. A 15.6-inch laptop screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution has a pixel density of 141.21ppi, while a 32-inch HDTV screen with the same resolution has a significantly lower pixel density of 68.84ppi. The lower the pixel density, the less clear and detailed the image becomes.

But the importance of pixel density decreases with viewing distance. The further you sit from a screen, the lower the pixel density need to be for you to have a comfortable viewing experience. You won’t have any problems looking at a 15.6-inch/141.21ppi screen from two feet away, but you will find it much harder to view a 32-inch/68.84ppi screen from the same distance. This is why a “Retina” screen on the iPhone has a pixel density of 326ppi, but a “Retina” screen on the Macbook Pro has a pixel density of just 226ppi.

55r635 front hero TCL

A normal user typically sits between two and three feet away from a desktop monitor. To comfortably view a monitor at this distance, you should aim for 80ppi or higher. This means that for 1920×1080 (1080p) resolution, your screen should be no larger than 27.5 inches diagonally, and for 4K sets, you’ll want to max out at 55 inches, like the $700 TCL 6-series 4K UHD quantum dot TV shown above. It’s our favorite bang-for-buck HDTV.

Important: “4K” is not a market standard. A 4K HDTV can mean 4x720p (3840×2160 resolution) or 4x1080p (4096×2160 resolution). Most models use 3840×2160, but you should check the exact specs of your model to determine pixel density.

Input lag

Input lag is the delay between movement you make on your input device (in this case, a mouse and keyboard) and what displays on your screen. While most computer monitors prioritize minimal lag times, HDTVs generally do not—they prioritize (laggy) video processing instead. These extra milliseconds may not seem like they matter, but they will make a massive difference if you’re trying to do something like competitive online gaming.

DisplayLag maintains a good database of input lag times, sortable by display type. An input lag of less than 30 milliseconds is considered good for an HDTV if you’re using it as an HDTV. For a computer monitor, you’ll want to aim for less than 20 milliseconds, and the lower you can go, the better.

Response time

Often confused with input lag, response time describes how long it takes for a display’s pixels to switch colors between scenes. HDTVs and computer monitors can have very different response times. HDTVs tend to prioritize richer colors, higher contrast, and wider viewing angles—all of which lend to a longer response time. Computer monitors tend to drop some of the image processing and viewing angles for faster response times. If you use a display with a slower response time, you may see “ghosting” in fast-paced video and gaming sequences.

lg oled55e8pua rear inputs LG

Also pay attention to the type and number of ports. This is only one of two port areas on an LG TV. Many TVs offer ports nearer the side as well for the sake of easy access.

Some HDTVs have a “game mode” setting, which cuts some of the image processing to improve both input lag and response time. If you plan to play PC games on your TV, definitely dig around in your HDTV’s options to see if it has this feature.

Refresh rate

Another factor that may affect performance is a display’s refresh rate. Refresh rate is the number of times a display “refreshes,” or re-draws, its image each second. Most modern displays have a refresh rate of 60Hz, which means they refresh their image 60 times per second. But you’ve probably also seen higher-end gaming monitors and HDTVs with higher advertised refresh rates—120Hz, 144Hz, or even 240Hz. This can be misleading, however, because a computer monitor with a 120Hz refresh rate may not be the same as an HDTV with a 120Hz refresh rate.

The reason for this is because the content people watch on a television is produced at either 24fps, 30fps, or 60fps. The content people view on a computer monitor can be very different—many games can output frame rates higher than 60fps if you have a powerful enough graphics card.

An HDTV with a high advertised refresh rate may use post-processing technology to achieve that rate, such as by creating additional frames to upscale content, or by adding black frames between each frame to prevent image blur. The good news is that this probably won’t make a difference if you’re not playing PC games at very fast frame rates. But if you have a PC designed for the best possible gaming experience, hooking up an HDTV instead of a computer monitor likely means that you’re not getting the most out of your machine.

Is it worth it?

There’s no harm trying to connect your computer to a TV you already own to see if it works for you. Go for it!

pcw windows10 tv Getty Images / Dmitriy Moroz

Our advice varies if you’re shopping though. If you’re looking to get the best bang for your buck, an HDTV isn’t necessarily going to save you money over a monitor. In fact, if you’re purchasing a new display, I recommend sticking with the tried-and-true computer monitor. For one thing, smaller, cheaper HDTVs are typically 720p resolution, not 1080p, while similarly priced monitors will almost always be 1080p. So if you’re looking for something under 27 inches, an HDTV will probably be more expensive and lower-resolution.

These lower-priced 1080p monitors often support AMD’s FreeSync adaptive sync technology as well, which can help your games look buttery smooth. You won’t find that in a cheap TV. 

If you’re looking for something larger than 27 inches, remember that pixel density decreases significantly with every few inches you gain, and there’s a reason HDTV-makers suggest sitting several feet away from their displays. If you need a display that will multitask as an up-close work/email display as well as a movie/entertainment display, you’ll want something with a high enough pixel density that text won’t be a pain to read—and even with a high pixel density, a large display may still cause eye and neck strain if you sit too close to it.

twitch stream Twitch

An HDTV as a secondary monitor is perfect for streaming Twitch, watching Netflix, or keeping an eye on Twitter in real time.

There is an ideal situation in which the HDTV-as-monitor shines, though.

If you want to add an extra display to a single- or multi-display setup for entertainment—say, so you can watch Netflix or Twitter while you write articles, or so you can play Skyrim on a 60-inch screen—then an HDTV can be a very capable (and cool!) monitor replacement. Bonus points if you happen to have an extra HDTV lying around, or if you can pick one up for dirt cheap.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor based in Los Angeles. She has a love/hate relationship with social media and a bad habit of describing technology as “sexy.”

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