For workers in a variety of industries, the Covid-19 pandemic has presented a great challenge, but at the same time an opportunity to sit back and reevaluate their lives and careers. Considering work-life balance, priorities and future goals, many have decided to quit their current job or leave their job entirely.
Known as ‘Great Resignation’ or ‘Great Retirement’, the phenomenon is having a serious impact on employers looking to recruit board members and top management. The churn of skilled workers is straining the labor market and making it more difficult for retail leaders to hire and retain talented and experienced employees. Previously, retailers could fill the position in a matter of weeks by simply contacting a headhunter. They now have to look further and be more creative. This means developing imaginative long-term plans for attracting and retaining great talent.
Tony Gregg, Chief Executive Officer of Anthony Gregg Partnership, a leading retail executive search firm, shares his thoughts on how retail employers can tailor their recruitment strategies to reach the most talented candidates in this challenging environment.
What is the current hiring process for top executives in the retail sector?
Across the global economy, it is clear that the labor shortage poses a significant challenge for businesses. This is especially true in sectors most impacted by the pandemic and in need of recovery most importantly. The retail sector is one of the industries hardest hit, and as a result employers are struggling to find candidates within limited timeframes.
Employers are being advised to change their hiring processes to stay on the forefront. Currently, many experienced workers are asking for a flexible working system as they get lost in their retirement pay and severance pay. Employees did not progress as expected because they missed face-to-face development opportunities. The result of all this is a tighter and more challenging labor market than ever before.
A responsive approach increases the time pressure to hire, and it can be difficult for retailers to quickly find the right skilled staff, especially in the digital and e-commerce sectors. E-commerce continues to dominate, a trend highlighted by a series of closures and the closure of large street conglomerate Debenhams, which has changed hiring requirements in the retail sector. Retailers now want board and C-suite candidates with digital and e-commerce skills, along with an understanding of social media and a younger Gen Z audience. The desirability of these skills and the recruitment challenges facing the sector make active hiring practices essential.
How should retailers adjust their hiring models to find the best top management?
Employers in the retail sector can use psychometric tests to identify individuals who will succeed in their company. This test highlights candidates who, for example, have leadership potential or are closely aligned with their business ethos. Psychometric tests streamline the hiring process, providing an additional measure that employers can use to determine the strongest candidates.
It is also important to set aside some time in your schedule for a thorough interview. Having a face-to-face conversation with potential new hires is essential because it not only helps them decide if they are a good fit, but it also demonstrates deeper personal engagement and helps them invest more in opportunities. When you take the time to truly understand the candidate and answer all their questions, they will know your interest and enthusiasm, and these positive impressions can give you an edge over the competitor you are talking to with them.
Before meeting or interviewing a candidate, it is important to establish what you want to know about the candidate and consider how best to achieve it. Sometimes the traditional interview format may not be the most effective. Sitting down, drinking coffee, and having informal conversations can be a great way to find the best talent. This can speed up the hiring process by providing clear insight into what the candidate wants to do.
Why is it important for retailers to adjust their current hiring models?
One of the major impacts of the pandemic is a marked shift in employee expectations and needs. Most people in the retail sector’s board and C-level roles have spent a lot of time working from home, which has given them many benefits, such as the ability to pick up their children from school. The change has changed people’s feelings about work-life balance.
In the past, when the labor market was under pressure, offering higher salaries could keep the best candidates away from their competitors. Now employees are demanding more than monetary incentives. Many talented candidates have found that remote work allows them to live in attractive rural areas outside of the city center and spend time previously spent commuting with their families while maintaining career advancement. To attract these candidates, retailers looking to recruit new CFOs, CIOs, and other board and board-level executives must demonstrate that they can offer hybrid and teleworking opportunities.
It’s not just telecommuting that employees increasingly want to see from their employers. Many workers, especially the younger generation, are eager to join companies with a social conscience, which undoubtedly motivates companies to change their policies. For example, many major retail sector employers, such as H&M and Apple, withdrew their Russian operations in a sign of solidarity after Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine. Another major priority for candidates is promotion opportunities. Employers that offer clear professional development paths are more likely to attract the best talent.
How can retailers reach the right candidates?
It’s a great time to rethink how you approach candidates.
Board and board-level retail executives in the post-pandemic era must be flexible and open. They need to be able to manage teams with their own work in a hybrid or remote work environment. This requires a flexible style of leadership, which allows you to communicate effectively online as well as face-to-face. Determining whether a candidate is the right leader for this new era is important.
As new business practices are incorporated, retailers cannot adhere to their old hiring strategies when looking for top management and board level candidates. Demonstrating your commitment to responsible business practices and setting clear sustainability goals can be key to winning a new generation of emerging retail leaders.
But no matter which strategy you adopt, planning for the future is essential. The retailers that think ahead when making their hiring plans are the retailers most likely to succeed in the post-coronavirus world.