Retailers reveal their holiday hiring plans; Senators get new dress code

In this week's HR news round-up: Major retailers reveal their holiday hiring numbers; Senators get a new dress code and tipped minimum wages come under scrutiny:

Article main image
Sep 21, 2023

Retail giants reveal their holiday hiring plans

Bumper hiring is still happening in some sectors, in a show of confidence about the retail landscape. This week Target has said it plans to hire as many as 10,000 people over the upcoming holiday season – which will come as a welcome sign that the sector may not be in quite such a bad state as some commentators have predicted. Some analysts had suggested sales growth during the crucial holiday period could be just half of what it was last year, due to higher prices denting consumer spending and worries of a recession. Target’s holiday-season hiring plans for 2023 are the same as what it has been for the last two years. However, this is mixed hiring news too. Also this week, Macy’s said it would hire 38,000 staff for the holiday period – down on the 41,000 it took last year, and significantly down on the 76,000 workers hired in 2021. But, by comparison Amazon said it would be hiring 250,000 workers over the holidays, and is also investing $1.3 billion this year toward pay increases. Last week, a report from career consultancy firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, found that weaker spending coupled with increased labor costs would result in US retailers hiring the lowest number of seasonal workers this year since 2008.

Senators get dress code update

The casualization of the workplace has now reached the highest offices of the land, with news this week that Senators will no longer be required to follow a strict dress code while voting on bills or debating in the senate gallery. According to the BBC, Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, has directed the sergeant at arms to stop enforcing a requirement that lawmakers wear “business attire.” He added: “Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor.” According to CBS News though, the relaxed dress code only applies to lawmakers’ wardrobes. It reports that other staff members must continue to wear office-appropriate clothes and shoes in the historic chamber. Republicans, however, have criticised the dress code change on X, formerly known as Twitter. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene said the current “dress code is one of society’s standards that set etiquette and respect for our institutions,” and those that don’t meet this are “lowering the bar.”

Two-fifths of workers say they’re most productive outside 9-5

Very nearly half (41%) of employees claim they are most productive outside of traditional 9-5 working hours, according to a poll by Fiverr International. Its research, which surveyed 9,000+ workers globally, including more than 2,000 from the US, found working non-standard hours still enabled them to be productive. Most (40%) said they preferred working from home, but 76% said current in-office working requirements prevented them from working to their most optimal arrangement. Overall, US workers surveyed estimated they were productive for an average of 31 hours per week, and the overwhelming majority (76%) felt they could do their five days’ work in four. Almost a third (32%) of workers surveyed said they prefer to work from home or to choose where they work each day. Baby Boomer workers surveyed were most likely to prefer flexible or remote work, with 40% citing their optimal work environment as either remotely at home or being able to choose different places depending on the day. Meanwhile, Millennial and Gen X respondents were less likely to say the same (29% and 32% respectively).

Maryland lawmakers to outlaw tipped minimum wages

For many consumers, tipping to make up an employee’s minimum wage is something they feel increasingly uncomfortable about, and lawmakers in Maryland are in agreement. Montgomery County Council member, Will Jawando, has introduced legislation that will phase out the county’s tipped minimum wage by 2028. Currently, tipped workers earn $4 per hour, with the expectation that customer tips will increase their total earnings to at least the county’s minimum wage (which ranges from $14.50 to $16.70), a process referred to as tip credit. If tips fall short, the employer has to pay the difference to ensure workers earn the minimum wage. But Jawando said: “Every worker, irrespective of their background [or] ability, deserves the dignity of making a living wage, a fair wage.” Under Jawando’s bill, tipped workers would start to see raises in their base pay next summer, with an increase to $6 per hour in July 2024, and then $2 an hour more each year until their base wages equal the minimum wage.

Everyone agrees it possible to thrive at work – the trouble is, most aren’t

Virtually all employees (97%) say it’s possible to be happy and to thrive at work most of the time. The problem is, just 29% of staff consider themselves to be thriving in the workplace. This is the finding of a major piece of research by Indeed, which commissioned Forrester to poll more than 4,000 US employees. It further found that 98% of respondents said it’s possible to feel a clear sense of purpose at work, but nearly half of workers said their expectations of what work will provide them have risen, and employers aren’t keeping up with this. The data found that wellbeing and satisfaction at work was highest amongst older workers, men and those with higher education and levels of income. The research additionally found that where workers are happy, they are also nearly twice as likely to prioritize work effectively, solve problems creatively and put a lot of time and energy into tasks.

…as new data finds employee engagement has plateaued

Financial pressures, fear of being laid off, and general economic uncertainty means employee engagement is likely to have plateaued, and certainly won’t be improving any time soon, according to the results of the 2023 Alight International Workforce and Wellbeing Mindset Study. It finds employee wellbeing has remained stagnant over the past year, with only half (51%) of the workforce reporting positive feelings across their mental, physical and financial wellbeing in 2023, compared to 53% of employees in 2022. The study shows three-quarters of U.S. employees report they are experiencing moderate to high stress levels, rising to 80% among Gen Z and Millennial workers. Personal finances (56%), job challenges (52%) and physical health (32%) rank as the top three sources of stress, while 29% of employees say their mental health has declined due to the current economic environment. Nearly a third (31%) of workers report feeling financial stress and often have no money left over at the end of the month. This is despite them taking actions such as reducing their spending, which more than two-thirds (67%) have done.

‘Quiet cutting’ “makes no sense, and is costly”

Quiet cutting – the practice of reassigning workers to roles that don’t align with their career goals to achieve workforce reduction – might appear to save paying costly severance packages, but it’ll do more harm than good, reports ComputerWorld. “Quiet cutting is nothing more than organizational reorientation, often at the expense of the workforce,” said Zachary Chertok, research manager for IDC’s Employee Experience practice. Adds Karel van Der Mandele, senior vice president of Right Management’s North American operation: “The long-range costs of such a cynical practice are tremendous. You’re basically ruining your employer brand.” The report adds that if organizations reassign staff into dead-end roles or positions for which they’re not qualified, it could result in legal issues, while employees who remain in their roles are more likely to voluntarily exit, too.