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ZD GUIDES: Retail Recruitment Success

Achieving Excellence in Retail Recruitment

How can retail businesses achieve recruitment success? What are the challenges to that success? And why does effective recruitment matter so much anyway? Here’s the ZD Guide.

Why is effective recruitment crucial for retail success?

Ok, so there’s an obvious starter answer to this question, which is that a business needs people to deliver its services and sell its products, and recruitment is how you find them. But that only answers why a business needs recruitment. It doesn’t cover why it needs effective recruitment.
If we focus on the ‘effective’ part, recruitment plays a far more wide-ranging role in retail success. Here’s how:

People or talent? You could approach hiring for retail as just a numbers game. Yet our recruitment success has been built not on ‘filling posts’ (that is, simply putting bums on seats, no matter how well matched those bums are to the seats they’ll be sitting in), but on finding talent that’s the ideal fit for the brand. That matters for a range of reasons, the most important of which is…

Churn: Recruitment costs time, effort and money. No organisation wants to do it more than is strictly necessary, but churn is exactly what happens when you recruit simply to fill spaces. Effective recruitment ensures that the right people occupy the right posts, which makes them more likely to stay.

Speed: Successful retail hiring combines the quality of the talent sourced with the speed of sourcing it. Naturally, that matters most come peak season, when the faster you can secure the top talent, the less chance there is of it being poached by other recruiters/retailers.

Brand reinforcement: The more often you hire the right brand fit, the more your organisation becomes filled by people who all buy in to what you’re trying to achieve. 

Driving change: New blood is the stuff that keeps a business fresh. Effective recruitment ensures it’s the right new blood – people who’ll fit the organisation and offer the skills you need while also bringing their own ideas, perspectives and experiences. 

What are the challenges and solutions in retail recruitment?

Effective recruitment may be vital to any organisation, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Getting it right means overcoming recruitment challenges that include the following:

Reducing staff turnover: Here’s a sobering stat: on average, one in every two people employed in retail in the UK this year will leave. At 57%1 , retail staff turnover is almost 4x that of the average industry staff turnover rate. It would be naïve of us to suggest that recruitment can solve that problem on its own. But by focusing on quality placements, brand fit and ensuring clients and candidates are happy and well matched, it can at least address part of the problem.

Addressing talent scarcity: Here’s another stat to make your eyes water: 99% of retail business leaders are concerned about talent shortages2

It’s one thing to talk about the benefits of sourcing the right talent to help reduce staff turnover. But what happens when that talent is nowhere to be found? Here, successful retail hiring is all about going further, digging deeper and looking wider.

One of the issues with traditional retail recruitment strategies is that they can sometimes leave the recruiter targeting the same areas that everyone else is targeting. It’s no wonder retailers find a talent shortage when they (or their recruitment companies) are all using the same job boards.

Really good talent tends not to spend much time looking for a new job. So if you want to find it, you need to speak to someone who can go straight to source.

That’s the value of a specialist retail recruiter because, over years, they build networks of talent they’ve previously placed or worked with. These are people that aren’t looking or a job. But they would be willing to have a chat if the right opportunity arose.  

Creating the right environment: If your retail recruitment strategies are purely focused on how you recruit, there’s an important first step you’re missing, because recruitment success is about more than recruitment. It’s about creating the environment where top talent wants to work. We explore this more below.

Increasing diverse recruitment: We know that diversity increases the likelihood of positive corporate performance3. Yet, partly because of general talent scarcity and partly because it’s easy for organisations to fall into the ‘doing what we’ve always done’ approach to recruitment, companies often fail to harness the full benefits of diversity and inclusion.

Hiring better managers: It’s often said that employees don’t leave jobs; they leave managers. Depending on which stats you read, either 50% or 75% (!) of employees leave their jobs to get away from poor managers.

With turnover so high in the retail sector, hiring managers with the skills to do the job is a major recruitment challenge. And supporting retail workforce management once in post is a major developmental challenge.


What are the top strategies for successful retail recruitment?

What retail recruitment strategies can you put in place to address the above challenges?

  1. Define your ideal hires

    What are the defining characteristics of the people you want to be part of your organisation? By profiling the typical member of your team, you build a better understanding of who you want and why, which makes it easier to compare with the applications you receive.

  2. Focus recruitment

    Things have improved, but we still see job descriptions containing dozens of bullet points of must-haves and nice-to-haves that often have limited bearing on the job; they’re just carried across from previous ads. The effect of that is to limit the field, reducing the potential for recruitment success.
    We would always encourage retailers to revisit their skills and experience requirements, and focus on the key traits that will a) match the profile you’ve identified, b) make a candidate a success in the role; and c) make them an ideal fit for the business

  3. Create the environment to foster talent retention

    As we saw above, attracting and keeping hold of talent isn’t easy. But you can make that much easier by ensuring you deliver more of what top talent wants. That isn’t just a matter of salary and perks (although inevitably that’s part of it). It’s about ensuring there are clear pathways for development and progression. About articulating (and delivering on) your values and commitments. About creating a   business that people want to be part of.

  4. Apply hiring best practices

    As we explored above, successful retail hiring means applying all the tools at your disposal to find diverse talent. That means, for example, leveraging recruiter databases to identify passive talent, blind hiring to avoid bias, and using neutral language in your job ads to encourage the broadest possible application pool.

  5. Reenergise your employee referral scheme

    It may not bring you the volume of talent you need, but it’s a potentially valuable and relatively low-cost way of bolstering your team with quality candidates. Make sure the incentive is sufficiently eye-opening for your existing staff to sit up and take notice and give it the PR clout it needs to make an impact. 

  6. Focus on retail workforce management

    Ensure your management support and development programme equips your managers with the skills not just to drive performance, but to manage, support and develop their teams, so that they can help fuel talent retention.

Let us handle your hiring for retail 

We can help solve your recruitment challenges. And we can play a major role in helping you create retail recruitment strategies that deliver real, long-lasting results. Discover how.

Talk to us now.

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