RETAIL RECRUITMENT STRATEGY
The Ultimate Guide
The changing retail landscape has urged retailers to search for a new retail recruitment strategy to be able to compete and attract the best talent.
In this guide we will cover :
- Retail Recruitment Challenges
- Winning Retail Recruitment Strategy
- Case Study
A NEW LANDSCAPE
Work and employment has dramatically changed over the last 2 years, and the ones most affected by the changes are retail companies.
However; we believe that this change can be for the benefit of the industry, so that it can finally address all the issues it had when it comes to talent management and development.
Retailers need to start thinking "talent" not "workers", and give them "careers" not "jobs"
In this article, we are going to demonstrate through a case study, the challenges we faced while recruiting retail talent for a new brand, and how we addressed those challenges.
RETAIL RECRUITMENT CHALLENGES
Defining the right retail recruitment strategy requires first assessing the new retail landscape and the new challenges that have emerged over the last few years.
1. JOB NATURE CHALLENGES
It used to be that when you think about a retail vs. regular job, the comparison in candidates’ minds was ” store-based role with shifts vs. office-based job with regular hours”.
This has completely changed most recently, with the new dynamic of working from home for many office jobs. It has become even challenging for office employers themselves to bring back workers to the office; which has contributed to the phenomenon of Great Resignation in 2021.
This has made hiring for retail jobs even more challenging.
When we’ve analyzed google searches for retail-related jobs in the U.S., we were surprised by how low the search volumes are, compared to the huge numbers of available vacancies.
For example, a generic term such as “retail jobs” has the highest search volume at 31K in the U.S., with only 800 searches for retail jobs in NYC.
On the other hand, a quick search for retail jobs on indeed returned a million job posts in the U.S., with 400K posts in New York.
2. MARKET CHALLENGES
With the decreased number of people willing to work in stores, and the increased number of people quitting overall, the competition has grown between retailers on finding and locking in retail talents.
I’ve personally seen a lot of candidates, especially in the store manager role having multiple offers, and comparing between them based on salary and benefits.
The reason the comparison comes down to financial rewards only, is that most retail companies have not done much on other aspects that can attract employees, such as building an employer brand that focuses on culture, values and career growth.
The new retail landscape and the integration of online and offline retail channels requires a new set of skills.
Managers of the new stores need to be more tech savvy and now have to deal with order fulfillment and logistics, in addition to normal store operations.
In many cases, they act like a retail manager and ecommerce manager, 2 in 1.
In the past, you had a customer entering the store, choosing the product and paying at the cash desk.
Now you have customers ordering online and receiving in the store, and those orders need to be received, tracked and handed over by store employees. If not collected by customers, the store has to actively contact the customer and follow up. This is a totally new function inside the retail store, and requires a more advanced set of skills from the managers.
Let’s face it: For a lot of people, a retail job is just a stepping stone, a kickstart for a career or a temporary job between other jobs… and that’s completely fine!
In fact, we believe this is one of the reasons the retail industry is so important to the economy and to everyone.
Having said that, we have to admit that this puts a lot of pressure on companies and hiring teams, who have to keep replacing the leaving talents and start the search process all over again.
All this leads us to the belief that retailers need a new retail recruitment strategy and a totally different approach on retail talent management.
A WINNING RETAIL RECRUITMENT STRATEGY
We’ve recently worked on the launching of a new retail brand in Dubai, and part of the project involved mass retail hiring for the opening teams of multiple stores at once.
The journey was full of challenges, including the ones we mentioned above, and add to that the fact that it was a young ecommerce brand venturing into brick & mortar retailing, so the employer brand wasn’t existent in the first place.
Here we are going to discuss the components of a winning retail recruitment strategy, in light of this case study and what we have learned during this process.
1. DEFINE THE ROLES & THE NEEDED COMPETENCIES
We know that the roles are already defined in some document and that those definitions get copied and pasted in job description fields on job ads.
But what we are talking about here is defining the core competencies that are essential for the role (the non-negotiables), and highlighting them at every step throughout the recruitment journey.
For example, a lot of companies don’t assess the leadership skills and talent development focus of candidates for the store manager roles, and only focus on the years of experience doing the same job or the previous employers this candidate has worked for.
From our experience, the leadership skills of the store manager contribute very highly to the store’s success.
In fact, we even claim that it contributes to the total business success, because good leaders develop and nurture other leaders, who then grow to become the next managers for other stores,.. and so on.
Good leaders at each store location also contribute to high retention, which is a major challenge in retail, as we discussed.
So I made sure to stress on those qualities while recruiting the store managers, and anyone who didn’t pass the leadership and talent development tests was not selected.
It’s tricky, because you will get candidates with a lot of achievements and big brands on their CVs, which makes it hard to reject them.
However; having been a store employee myself, I know that a store manager who is not invested in his team’s development would not be a good leader for the team.
Another example was when we were recruiting for the role of Optometrist.
From the outside, it sounds like a technical, clinical role, but actually the main focus while hiring this talent was to get the person who has the clinical qualifications, but shows the right skills for this retail role.
The right skills here were selling skills and being approachable by customers.
I made sure to highlight this as well.
This one was also very tricky, because we got a lot of candidates who looked good on paper, but when I talk to them I get the feeling that they’d rather be in a clinic or hospital than in a retail store standing on the floor most of the time.
So in this case, the clinical qualifications themselves don’t matter, as much as the enthusiasm for the role and its nature.
Same applies for hiring retail pharmacists.
2. TELL YOUR CANDIDATES WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR
I learned this from Google and other tech companies. They always guide candidates on what they want to see on their CVs, and what to expect in the interview.
Not everyone is good at writing their CV, and many people shy away from including the very same things that can make them stand out.
3. ADDRESS THE RIGHT AUDIENCE ON THE RIGHT CHANNELS
In the beginning, the talent acquisition team simply posted the jobs on our website, which was then automatically pushed to some popular generic job boards.
We got a lot of CVs… and this was a problem..
Because, out of my belief that automatic filtering and keyword targeting might get many good talents excluded, I made a commitment to read every CV myself.
But it taught me a good, painful (reading-1000-CV type of painful) lesson that our audience is not on job boards.
What made the matter worse, was that when we actually started interviewing those candidates face to face, some of them didn’t even know about the brand (remember: it’s a new brand) and “just clicked Apply on Indeed“
So it was clear to me that these were not the right channels, and I actually asked the TA team to stop pushing the job posts on those job boards and let’s focus on using our online assets (our website and Linkedin profiles) to attract people who are actually interested in us.
4. USE RECRUITMENT MARKETING
Recruitment marketing is part of the talent acquisition process, where inbound marketing techniques are used to build awareness around, and interest in the employer. This interest creates an audience that is then nurtured over time, so that when the right opportunity arises for them, they will apply and eventually get hired.
Recruitment marketing involves a lot of content marketing around topics that will lead to attracting the right types of candidates the company wants to hire.
In our case study, I thought about the persona I am trying to attract, and asked those questions:
- What type of person would fit my store manager role?
- When I was in their shoes, what type of content would have attracted me and got me engaged?
So I came to the conclusion, that I want to hire commercially focused, ambitious people, who will want to stick around and grow with the company, and have a fierce focus on talent development and on sharpening their leadership skills.
I knew that those types of talent would appreciate, and get attracted to, educational content, that will contribute to their development and success, as well as content about leadership.
So I started sharing such content on Linkedin.
I started engaging with people from outside my network, who started following me for the content, and by the time we got the second round of CVs they were of much better quality and the best ones came through Linkedin, which was the channel we have chosen to share the content and updates on.
5. HIGHLIGHT WHAT MATTERS
When you start drafting your content marketing strategy, make sure to focus on what really matters to your target candidate. A lot of people are driven by ambition and growth, others are driven by pay.. but, that’s not it.
When we analyzed the best retail companies to work for list, we noticed something very interesting: Pay was not the only reason employees liked working for those companies.
People & Culture were recurring reasons for people to rate those companies high.
We often see retailers highlight the salary and benefits as attracting factors, for hard-to-fill positions. It makes sense, as this is what you can include in a text-based job ad.
But we’ve also seen great examples of retail companies showing their people and culture through videos, like this one from Nike.
6. CONDUCT MALL OUTREACH & MYSTERY SHOPPING
One of the recruitment methods that are specific to retail, and is actually practiced widely at some brands, is mystery shopping.
We went to the biggest malls in town, because usually this is where the top talents at each brand are placed. Then, when we were approached by retail associates and given a great customer experience, we spoke to them to join our company or give us referrals.
This method was also useful in excluding some candidates, where we found their CVs very good but upon visiting their store we were treated very badly by them.
After all, what’s a better way of judging a candidate than seeing them actually doing the job?
Another useful thing that came out of these visits was identifying other brands that had a great floor experience and narrowing our head hunting focus on people from those brands through Linkedin and similar sites.
7. HOST AN OPEN DAY FOR RETAIL SALES ROLES
We have found that the most efficient way to mass-hire entry level retail sales associates was hosting an open day or hiring event.
I personally believe that at this career level, candidates will not have a CV that can tell their story or share their enthusiasm and energy, which is what’s needed for the role.
So the best way is to meet a large number of them face to face and just let them talk about themselves.
What we have done differently, though, was that we took the opportunity of this event to get people talking about the brand.
We organized a very nice set up, with catering and video screens showing media about the company, the team and the products.
Candidates walked away impressed by the hospitality and we knew that they would be sharing it with their friends, so we could be getting more referrals. This step was very important for a new brand like the one we were hiring for.
8. OFFER THEM CAREERS NOT JOBS
If you are serious about attracting ambitious, career-driven, self starters, then you better be ready with an actual career for them.
Those are the talents that will deliver for you, because they want to grow. But also those are going to be the most impatient ones when it comes to stagnation.
So part of your winning recruitment strategy is to actually formulate a growth plan and career tracks to your most important roles, such as store managers.
If you are a retailer that is known for growing all their regional (district) managers from within, you will be attracting the best store management talents, and the same applies to other roles.
Start sharing success growth stories from the organization and show potential talents that this is a place you can work at for life!
Starbucks has become so popular for developing talents, that it is now considered a talent factory for Corporate America.
It’s not uncommon to find an executive at Starbucks, who has started with the company at a young age and stayed with them for a progressive, engaging career.
We’ve recently also seen more & more brands applying this strategy, such as Taco Bell launching a Business School for prospective future leaders, and Walmart designing a special program for college grads, to fast-track them into store manager roles, a job that pays up to $210,000.
SO WHAT'S THE BEST RETAIL RECRUITMENT STRATEGY?
The best way to attract good retail talent is to start thinking about their careers and how you can offer them a career journey, and not just a job.
Then build a persona for this target audience and figure out what channels they are on and what content they consume, and meet them there with your employer branding and marketing. As you’ve seen from the most of the tactics shown in this post, it is mainly a marketing effort.
If you don’t, then the only way to compete is through high compensation, and in the current market situation this would be expensive.
Get in touch with us for content-driven talent activation solutions