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What’s Next for Talent Acquisition in Retail Operations?

Why is forward-thinking talent acquisition crucial for success in retail operations? And how is talent acquisition evolving to meet the needs of the changing retail landscape? In this ZD Guide, we explore the emerging trends in talent acquisition for retail ops.

Why is forward-thinking talent acquisition crucial for success in retail operations?

We’ll give you extra marks if you spot the flaw in the above question: talent acquisition is always forward-thinking. That’s the whole point.
Retail hiring is about the here and now. Talent acquisition is about creating a pipeline of people who can help reduce your reliance on here-and-now recruitment by looking ahead, anticipating what (and who) you’ll need, and then putting in place the measures that will keep that pipeline flowing.
Why is talent acquisition so important for retail operations? Because talent is essential to business success, but it’s also hard to find and there’s no guarantee that the right talent will be available when you want to hire. By putting in place a talent acquisition pipeline, you can ensure it always is.

How is retail talent acquisition evolving?

We could talk about how the candidate experience is more important than it ever was. That may be true, but we could have written that sentence any year in the past decade and it would have been true then too. We could talk about the importance of employee retention, but again, it’s hard to think of a time when employers didn’t want to keep hold of their best talent. So what changes are we seeing that are genuinely new?

A little less hybrid conversation, a little more action: A year ago, the employer who went out on a limb and said it expected more of its people to be physically in work would probably have found itself a) struggling to recruit, b) at the centre of a Twitter-storm or c) both of the above.
Now that’s all changed, and not just because Twitter became X.
It’s still the case that candidates want to work in a hybrid way. We don’t expect that’s about to change anytime soon. But employers, emboldened by reports that remote work may not be as productive as first thought (here’s one example; there are loads more), are feeling more confident in their ability to clip hybrid’s wings. Of course, retail hiring always requires lots of people to be on the shop floor. But even in head office and non-customer-facing roles, the future of talent acquisition is likely to be a little less hybrid than we might once have thought.
One immediate impact of that is that geography is likely to play a larger role in recruitment decisions than it has of late.

D&I: No, diverse and inclusive hiring is hardly new. What’s changing is that most organisations have now addressed the ‘low hanging fruit’. They’ve made their hiring practices more inclusive. They’ve reported on their gender and ethnicity pay gaps. They have strategies for hiring more leaders from traditionally under-represented groups. And yet the data, while showing improvement, often doesn’t show big improvement.
So we’re now in a world where the future of diverse, inclusive talent acquisition requires companies to reengineer recruitment practices and redefine cultures to eradicate bias that still influences hiring choices. It’s about creating an employer brand that tells people of every gender, ethnicity, sexuality and ability that this is a place they are not simply ‘welcome’ but actively sought after (see below) for the benefits and capabilities they can bring.

AI: We’d need a post of its own (or possibly a series of them) to detail all the ways AI is changing retail hiring, but essentially its impact is being felt in two ways: first there’s the growth in using AI to source, sort and rank candidates1*.
The other way AI is influencing recruitment in retail is the growing requirement for candidates to have AI skills. This is most obviously a factor in retail warehousing, where AI, machine learning and robotics are big parts of driving supply chain efficiency. But we can expect the requirement for AI know-how to expand across the retail ops field as more elements of more jobs use AI as a tool.

What strategies are retail businesses adopting to enhance their talent acquisition in operations?

Build the employer brand: According to LinkedIn, 75% of candidates consider an employer’s brand before they even consider applying for a job. Building an employer brand (that is, defining the qualities that make you you and building your reputation as an employer on those) isn’t easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. If the brand is a departure from what went before, you’ll need to overcome legacy perceptions too.

So if you haven’t done so already, it’s important to start now.

Harness data to uncover talent you already have: There are lots of ways data can support your talent acquisition. One of the simplest and most effective though, is understanding the skills and ambitions of the people already with you. It’s the foundation stone on which you build internal mobility (see below) which can help you retain more of the talent you already have.

Reduce dropouts: A personal favourite of ours. Recruitment in retail can often be bedevilled by longwinded recruitment processes. It’s hardly surprising so many great candidates wander off, but the problem is exacerbated by recruitment companies that operate on a ‘bums on seats’ basis. If you’ve been recommended to an employer because you’ll help fill a recruiter’s quota, there’s little incentive for you to stay the course when a better offer comes up.

In contrast, when retailers or their recruiters build deeper stronger relationships with candidates, those candidates are more likely to stay on board. They’re more likely to raise issues with you (which you can then resolve) rather than letting them fester. And they’re more likely to want to work with you, which reduces the appeal of any competitor’s offer.

Develop, promote and increase internal mobility: We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve read retail recruitment reports that show that, yes, money talks, but the opportunity to progress or (at the very least) develop is also vitally important to workers. This report from a couple of years back found that more than two in five workers planned on asking for a change in role over the following 12 months.

In many ways, this is reassuring for employers. Traditionally, one of the biggest challenges for recruitment in retail was employee churn. Evidence suggests that finding ways to improve internal mobility for employees can help fend off feelings of stagnation and improve retention.

Retail hiring with Zachary Daniels

In a nutshell, the future of talent acquisition is about doing more of the things that make people want to work with you, stay with you and build their career with you. For help in developing your talent acquisition strategy, talk to us.

1* Cards on the table, we’re looking at a new AI tool every week and none yet feel like a natural fit for a retail recruiter with a reputation built on pairing very human traits like values. Still, we keep looking because if AI isn’t quite there (for our purposes) yet, it probably will be at some point.

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