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It’s time for retailers to evolve or perish (Part 2 of 2)

The talent acquisition challenge for 21st century retailers

Beth Miller

30th Jan 2018

The speed and agility required by retail talent acquisition professionals is more necessary now than it ever has been. Yet, they have not caught up, and this is directly affecting the bottom line while driving poor performance at stores. Recognizing this and quickly rectifying it is absolutely imperative if a retailer is to thrive.

(If you haven't yet seen the first part of my article, you can catch-up here before reading on)

Even the type of employee needed at retail companies has already begun to change.  The focus now for retailers must be on delivering a great experience with every single customer interaction. That may sound like a soft skill that investors may not want to fund, but look at why the Apple store continues to have the largest revenue per square foot of any retailer.  Each store consistently provides the opportunity for customers to spend time with the products and seek expert advice when they’re ready. Better customer experiences draw more customers into the stores more frequently, enabling upselling of additional products.  Think store within a store (Best Buy is doing a fantastic job with this) and the expansion of that.  

Brett McCoy, ex-Head of Resourcing at Lowes and now leading Alexander Mann Solutions’ Innovation and Brand practice offers the following advice to Retail TA leaders: 

“Retailers who are not willing to invest more in their front-line workers will die out. This has been said many times, but the time has come to shout it from the rooftops.  Again, this points to lack of investment in recruiting.  The days of $300 cost per hire retail need to end, or those that are under-funding recruitment will fail. Talent acquisition can drive a true business change for retailers if they are brave. This is a business problem not a recruitment challenge, but as leaders we can help to drive a seismic change.”


Driving the Evolution – Alexander Mann Solutions’ Candidate Experience Model

Everything that you read about Gwen’s experience is a reality for our clients.  Alexander Mann Solutions has developed a retail offering that provides just that kind of process, marrying robotic process automation (RPA) with chat-bots, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI)I to automate sourcing and candidate targeting.

For lasting effect, the root cause of the poor experience is being addressed.  The methods we use to attract candidates to our clients’ jobs has changed.  The means by which we assess them are faster and more effective, and deliver a much better candidate experience. Ensuring our recruiters reach out with a call or email at just the right moment ensures that the candidates feel cared for and heard. 

Despite advancements in technology, adoption has lagged behind. According to DHC hiring indicators, recently the average opening sat unfilled for 28.1 days, up from 19.3 days in 2001-2003. For hiring managers, important efforts are now being made to improve the speed at which we are finding their next employee—and also increase the quality of those new employees as well.  We have developed a unique ‘bots and bodies’ approach which blends the efficiency of automation with the high touch and emotional intelligence of a recruiter. All while 72% of CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills, per PwC. The clock is ticking.

Our solutions are highly scalable and allow our clients to focus on focus on running and evolving their businesses for the future by leveraging the latest technologies—just as we do for their talent acquisition function.

What are your next moves to stay relevant as a retail business?  Some things to consider:

  • Investment in recruiting must occur immediately. Attracting talent from an employer in a different sector means you must motivate those candidates to want to come to your organization. It’s virtually impossible for a retailer to recruit a top performer from a company like Facebook or Google without the right recruiting tools, messaging, employer branding, and leadership commitment to compensate them competitively.
  • Hire employees with a passion for emerging technologies like Virtual Reality. VR is poised to transform the way we purchase clothes. But will you find them by posting on a job board? Probably not, because they are too busy researching and playing with their favorite technology.  Instead, invest your advertising dollars where they spend time online.
  • Embrace technology in delivering the candidate experience. What if you had gamification on your careers page, or a chat bot to immediately answer questions about why your company is the right place for them?  Or a cognitive solution that identified them as a click-through that came from your ad on a tech blog and prioritized them for a recruiter?
  • Re-think assessment. Why would these highly in-demand candidates apply for your job that requires a 90-question assessment as their first or second step?  How many candidates are you losing because you are hiring for a laundry list of tasks, not real skills, aptitude or potential.  Remember, the skills you need today will not be the same ones you need in just a few years.
  • Recruiters must update their skill set to recruit for roles of the future.  It doesn’t matter how much experience you have hiring retail employees or web developers because the way you attract and recruit those employees has completely changed. 
  • Tech is table stakes. Utilizing AI, augmented reality, gamification, fully mobile-enabled Applicant Tracking Systems, talent communities, referral communities and real-time chat are table stakes at this point.
  • Invest in top talent. Regarding salary, matching the “Big Box” will be critical. There is already a shift in large retailers – and in fact across other sectors – for the savings from recent tax legislation to be re-invested in worker wages.  Recommended reading on the subject here:  https://hbr.org/2018/01/if-retailers-want-to-compete-with-amazon-they-should-use-their-tax-savings-to-raise-wages

In Closing:

It is entirely possible for any retailer to start this work now and still compete effectively. It will not be easy and will take bravery and a commitment to quality in acquiring talent.  The key to staying ahead of the competition is to put yourself in a customer’s shoes and to hire people who can do the same.  

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