Big ecommerce players with deep pockets are pulling out all the stops to get the workers they need to keep up with surging web sales. And companies are doubling down on their hiring efforts in the lead-up to the crucial holiday season.
Amazon.com Inc. said it will pay college tuition for select frontline employees, becoming the latest big U.S. employer to offer educational perks to attract and retain workers in a tight labor market.
The Seattle-based company, No. 1 in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000, said it will spend an additional $1.2 billion by 2025 on education and skills training, including, for the first time, paying the complete costs of college tuition. Amazon has offered a range of educational and job-training perks focused on in-demand fields like nursing and trucking since 2012, many under the banner of its Career Choice program.
Beginning in January, more than 750,000 of Amazon’s U.S. employees, mostly hourly workers in its logistics unit, will be eligible for paid tuition at “hundreds” of education partners, the company said in a statement. The benefit applies to workers seeking bachelor’s or associate degrees, as well as high school diplomas and English as a second language proficiency certificates.
Amazon also said earlier this month that it is hiring more than 40,000 corporate and technology employees across more than 220 locations in the U.S., as well as “tens of thousands” of hourly employees in Amazon’s operations network, and holding its biggest-ever training and recruiting event. Career Day will take place on September 15, Amazon says. At the event, more than 1,200 Amazon recruiters will offer 20,000 career-coaching sessions to job seekers.
Amazon has hired more than 450,000 employees in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic, and says it is now the largest job creator in the U.S. Of the new employees hired across Amazon’s operations network in 2020, nearly 30,000 joined Amazon from the manufacturing sector, another 19,000 from traditional retail and 16,500 from education and healthcare. The company received more than 30 million job applications for roles at Amazon in 2020, nearly double the number from 2019.
Amazon rivals Target and Walmart dial up the perks
The announcements follow similar moves from some of Amazon’s biggest retail rivals, as well as other merchants. Merchants are especially beefing up perks as they look to increase staff before the holidays. 36% of retailers plan to hire more employees for their fulfillment centers this holiday season, according to early results from a Digital Commerce 360 survey of 64 retailers. Additionally, 30% plan to hire customer service staff.
But this year isn’t so easy. Labor shortages abound and merchants are having to increase pay to get the help they need to survive the crucial holiday season. 27% of merchants said they expect to have difficulty finding holiday help, with 25% saying they already are having trouble finding warehouse workers. To attract the talent they need, 16% say they will offer incentives to seasonal workers.
Walmart Inc. for example, in July said it would pay the costs of tuition and books for its hourly staffers. Target Corp. (No. 6) last month said it would offer free undergraduate degrees to more than 340,000 employees at its U.S. stores.
Amazon on Thursday also said it would launch three new skills training programs focused on teaching employees about information technology, cloud computing and user experience design. The company said it aims to provide educational funding and skills training to some 300,000 workers over the next four years, or about 30% of the company’s U.S. workforce.
Carrier United Parcel Service, meanwhile, said earlier this month that it aims to hire more than 100,000 essential seasonal workers from October through January 2022. In announcing the goal, UPS noted its track record of turning seasonal jobs into careers. Over the last three years, about one-third of employees hired by UPS for seasonal package handler jobs were later hired in a permanent position when the holidays were over, and about 138,000 current UPS employees—nearly a third of the company’s U.S. workforce—started in seasonal positions, UPS said in a statement.
That opportunity for a permanent job is important to many consumers. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of seasonal hires want their jobs to turn into a long-term position, according to a recent survey of 1,000 past, present and potential seasonal workers commissioned by UPS and conducted by True Global Intelligence.
Like Amazon, the carrier also noted its education assistance program, Earn and Learn, which offers eligible seasonal employees who are students up to $1,300 toward college expenses, in addition to their hourly pay, for three months of continuous employment. “We’re preparing for another safe, record peak holiday season. With COVID-19 continuing to impact Americans, our services are more important than ever,” said Nando Cesarone, president, U.S. Operations, in a statement. “We plan to hire more than 100,000 people for seasonal jobs, many of whom will have an offer in hand within 30 minutes of applying.”
The company is filling full- and part-time seasonal positions—primarily package handlers, drivers, driver helpers and personal vehicle drivers—by offering what it says are “competitive wages” across multiple shifts in hundreds of locations across the country.
Help wanted at Walmart
Also this month, Walmart (No. 2) said it aims to hire 20,000 permanent full- and part-time associates nationwide across its supply chain network of 250 facilities. While these will help with the surge associated with the holiday season, Walmart says the roles are permanent, not seasonal, hires. The retailer is hiring for a range of positions including order fillers, freight handlers, lift drivers, technicians and management positions.
Walmart also is investing in associate development and growth, including opening six new Walmart Academies training programs to support its supply chain business. Walmart Academies provides employees both classroom and distribution and fulfillment center floor training in specialized supply chain skills and soft skills like leadership, communications and change management. In its fiscal year 2021, Walmart says it trained approximately 5,900 associates via the academy through both in-person and virtual trainings.
Additionally, the chain’s Live Better U program covers full tuition and books for supply chain associates working toward bachelor’s degrees. The retailer also touts inexpensive medical coverage, starting at $30.50 per pay period—an amount it says is about one-third less than the average premium employees pay at other companies. It’s also offering field-based associates—including supply chain workers—a $150 cash bonus for receiving the COVID-19 vaccination. New associates vaccinated before October 4, or who were already vaccinated prior to their hire date, are eligible for the bonus.
1-800-Flowers.com Inc. (No. 67) also just announced a plan to increase its workforce ahead of the festive sales season. It plans to hire 10,000 seasonal associates, increasing its workforce 400% heading into the holidays.
Hiring is underway for seasonal positions across the U.S., including at the retailer’s brands Harry & David, PersonalizationMall.com, Cheryl’s Cookies, and The Popcorn Factory, to fill full- and part-time roles across areas such as production, gift assembly, distribution, operational support, and remote contact center positions.
Most seasonal roles are in Illinois, Ohio, and Oregon, including some work-from-home positions. Year-round positions are also available across the company and seasonal associates may be considered for permanent roles after the holidays, the merchant says.