Category: Retail


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By Shane Horn, AdMore Recruitment – Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

I’m a retailer, first and foremost. You only have to ask my wife how annoying I can be re-merchandising a store I have followed her into! I now just so happen to recruit people into the industry I love. Yes, it is tough going, but retail businesses are still looking for great people, that is something that hasn’t changed over the years!

What has changed however is the lay of the retail land. Omni-channel, Click and Collect and the newest buzzword ‘showrooming’ weren’t around 3 years ago, let alone 19 years ago when I started my retail career with Next! But what hasn’t changed is the key focus for all retailers great and small – the focus on the customer and service.

What prompted me to think about this was a pretty poor experience over the weekend where multi-channel retailing resulted in both a loss of sale (and a grumpy wife!)

We were looking to buy a shelving unit in a well known department store. We saw one we liked but were informed that the product was only available to buy online. Not a problem I thought, when I get home I will log in to their website and purchase, select my delivery date – happy days! However, the product wasn’t on the website. It was nowhere to be seen! No mention of it, and no idea if it was out of stock or just old season. So, how can it go so wrong?

Purchasing a product has never been easier. We can do it sitting on a train, over the phone, heck, we can even walk into a store and buy it on our lunch break!  Regardless of the method of purchase this experience falls down with bad service. How often have we heard a friend mention they have ordered a product for it to then mysteriously be sold out? Or received poor, ill informed product knowledge on the high street?

Consumers are an intelligent bunch. There is a lot of talk of the rise of the Mamil, (Middle Age Men In Lycra). Although not quite middle aged, I am one of a growing band of men happy to spend a fair bit of cash on my bike. Halfords have been very clear they are looking to take a large chunk of the market, and have recently launched a huge customer service program costing hundreds of millions on pounds. There is talk of recruiting specialists into each store that ‘know their stuff’ (although Jessops may testify this is not always a great commercial move). Anyone that has recently visited an independent bike retailer will tell you that making you feel like an idiot for not knowing your groupset from your chainset is as just as bad as the sales assistant knowing next to nothing! Consumers want choice, and great service, and the Mamil is tech savvy. They will spend hours reading through magazines, forums and reviews looking for the next product that will shave a few seconds off their PB, or save them a few grams. This, I think, is why the likes of Wiggle, Chain Reaction and Evans Cycles have got it right online. There is choice, they have knowledgeable staff, (you can hide behind an email and not look stupid!) and items are delivered on time or even to store in the case of Evans Cycles.

The Mamil is not just a new breed of male, ahem, ‘athlete’ but a new brand of consumer who wants to be treated well and maturely. It is too simple to expect the customer to come into a store without an expectation of service.

Mothercare have recently commissioned a survey to assess how consumers respond to a smile. Funnily enough they spend more – is this really surprising? It shouldn’t be! If staff need to be taught to smile, then frankly they are in the wrong industry.  It doesn’t matter how much you spend on websites, logistics or stores, if the consumer doesn’t get a warm fuzzy feeling then they will go elsewhere.  The choice is huge for the consumer, it’s competitive and with the help of social media, it is now transparent. If you don’t get it right, your customer will let you know about it!

Customer service is expensive. To have the right people  properly trained is not an easy task but the opportunity cost of not getting this right is huge (the old retail saying  – you’re only as good as your worst member of staff still rings true!).

Retail is, in its simplest form, straightforward. There are a large number of retailers getting it right, and those looking to change focus should be applauded. Getting people to part with their hard earned cash is tough, and as the consumer changes so does the world of retail. But, at its core, Service is key, and that hasn’t changed since I started my retail career all those years ago!

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By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

I recently wrote about the Top 10 transferable Retail skills (Click here). When I wrote that blog I found myself having to separate behaviours from skills and competencies. There is a strong appetite across many industries for Retailers not just for the skill-sets that they acquire but also for the behaviours that they exhibit. These behaviours, often under rated and generally taken for granted, are not unique to Retail but when combined with a typical Retailer’s skill-set they are very…very powerful.

  • Urgency & Pace

I suspect that this is the most under-rated behaviour of all. Retail has always been a fast paced industry, driven by consumer demand, trends & perishable product. Quite simply if you do not ‘get it right’ first time you will lose a sale to the competition. You snooze – you lose. With the onset of Social Media and Internet shopping the urgency of delivery has become even more important. Most retail jobs are highly task focussed and great retailers are able to prioritise, Urgent vs. Important, and deliver a result with pace. Having recruited for a number of organisations in other industries Line Managers often talk about the need for an injection of urgency and love the pace that retailers operate at.

  • Customer & Service Orientation

We have all had poor experiences in a shop before but on the whole the service offered, in my opinion, is far higher than in other industries. The reason why I believe this is of particular importance is that the provision of service is generally one of many tasks that frontline and back office support retailers have to provide. Remaining focussed on the customer when you have a refit taking place, maintenance issues, conference calls from head office, an audit, stock deliveries and a multitude of other tasks in your in-tray is both an art and a science. This isn’t just applicable at store level either, the demands being placed upon Directors and CEOs has reached stratospheric levels with an increasing uptake of Social Media. I have spoken to numerous Directors recently who are increasingly dealing directly with customer issues, in real time over Twitter…24/7. Now that is…

  • Commitment

I am not sure there are many 9-5 jobs left these days but in Retail that simply doesn’t exist. There are 0hr contracts, ever evolving shift patterns and an unceasing workload. The level of commitment will vary from shop to shop and business to business but I can only comment on my own experience from HMV. I can remember many late nights preparing stores for opening, refits, layout changes and I always found my respective teams (on relatively modest salaries) to be utterly committed. In Retail you just cannot achieve your core goals without dedication and commitment. It’s a hackneyed phrase but tasks are often split between JDIs (just do it – or JFDI as it was in HMV’s culture!) and nice to haves. Retailers accept this and just get on with it.

  • Compliance & Standards

Retail is Detail. I used to hate that phrase but the truth is it is spot on. Retail is about routines and processes. If you are unable to drive continuously high standards your business will fall apart very quickly. Retailers will have this ingrained in to their behaviours from the first day they start their job. Often the tasks are repetitive and boring but they do underpin the fun stuff. Delivering this compliance while balancing customer needs is not simple. I still find myself inadvertently tidying CD sections in my local HMV store and tutting at dirty or cluttered windows. Retailers will take this behaviour with them in to every role they undertake.

  • Competitive

Clearly this is a behaviour that needs to be moderated in the right way, however, there are few industries that are quite as competitive. Just look at the number of high profile administrations in recent months, let alone years. Retailers are used to competing and thrive on the challenge. Every single minute of every single day they are competing not just externally but often internally. Retailers are battered with KPIs and scorecards and there is nothing worse than being bottom of the table…actually scratch that, second isn’t much better! This competitiveness is often a result high levels of…

  • Drive & Passion

The beauty of the Retail Industry is that anyone can enter and anyone can do well. Of course degrees and other technical qualifications will help but if you have high levels of drive and you are passionate about what you do, you WILL be successful.

  • Resilience

I am not sure I need to explain this one given the rollercoaster most retailers have been on over the last few years. To be fair even in the good times it isn’t easy. There is rarely any respite, no rest period and little time for reflection. Retailers get two days off a year. When your average person is enjoying their May Day Bank holiday, Store managers and their teams are working harder then ever. It isn’t any easier further up the ladder either. Preparing for a 7am Monday morning board meeting, trying to shore up some shocking like for likes, late in to a Sunday night certainly requires some resilience – and not just for the individual but for their families too.

  • Results Orientation

I mentioned KPIs earlier. These days pretty much everything that a retailer does is measured in some way. The larger chains have engaged in some very detailed time and motion studies to increase productivity and that only serves to ratchet up the focus on results. Retailers live and die by their numbers. Even customer service scores and employee surveys are often boiled down to a single number. Are you above average? Did you top the region, the company or the industry? As with previous points, where Retailers really impress is their ability to combine an orientation towards ‘getting a result’ with doing it the ‘right way’ – through their people and with customer at the heart of their decision.

  • Receptive to and engaged with change

I think it is fair to say that this doesn’t apply to all Retailers and that the industry has had change thrust upon it to some extent with the advent of the internet and other external pressures. Having said that the industry has adapted and behaviourally Retailers have become accustomed to a state of flux within their respective markets. The most successful individuals and businesses are the ones that embrace change and where it is second nature.

  • Ownership & Accountability

With highly visible KPIs, strong processes and structure comes accountability. With accountability comes ownership! This swings both ways, when you are doing well you will receive the plaudits…when things are not going so well you will be held accountable. Retailers understand this relationship between success and failure and they own their results. You only have to listen to a politician on the radio to realise what a fantastic attribute this is!!!

As I mentioned earlier these behaviours are not unique to Retail but the combination is rare and it certainly explains why leaders from other industries are so keen to tap in to this Human Resource.

What the numbers tell you about your future career in retail

Retail: my tale of faith, love and survival

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By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

The retail sector has continued to take a battering over the last twelve months, not least with a number of high profile company administrations. This has resulted in a large influx of candidates coming on to what was an already an overcrowded and highly competitive market. It can be a heart-breaking situation for many candidates who have developed an excellent skillset and still have the passion and drive to grow their career. However, if you are flexible and open to new ideas there are a wealth of opportunities out there. Retailers tend to pick up a broad and highly transferable skill-set. Indeed, there are few other industries that could better prepare you to move to a different sector. If you are keen to consider options outside of traditional retail, the first step to understanding what you could do next is first identifying what your transferable skills are:

  • Leadership & People Management

Clearly this is a broad and complex subject but in my experience, the two core skills that are often in demand are; the ability to motivate direct reports, indirect reports and other stakeholders and; the ability to manage performance in a formal and structured manner. Retailers generally learn how to do this both on the job and in the classroom – an option not always available in many companies. This skill is perhaps in itself the single most important as it really does allow retailers to move in to virtually any industry where people management is the key requirement.

  • Profit & Loss Management

Most retailers offer varying levels of accountability however broadly speaking, most have a strong understanding of the key lines in a P&L and what pulleys and levers they can operate to drive a result.

  • Business & Project Management.

Again, this can cover a multitude of things but in this case I believe that retailers have an excellent ability to manage a broad range of objectives. The skills employed will be time management, priority identification and ensuring task completion.

  • Strategy and tactical development.

The degree of exposure and therefore capability will depend on the level that you have reached but retailers learn from very early in their career, at the very least, how to develop a tactical plan on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis.

  • Sales & Business Development

Not every retailer is given the opportunity to ‘sell’ or indeed develop their business on a wider context, however those that do are able to develop a highly transferable skill. This, coupled with people management ability is in high demand currently as many companies are looking for an additional edge in a stagnant economy.

  • Coaching

Arguably this could sit under general people management. However, retailers will often develop this skill in matrix management structures whereby they are coaching individuals that are not direct reports.

  • Customer focus.

There are very few industries where managers are exposed to customers directly in such volume and regularity. Retailers have to react to market changes at pace and with a high degree of accuracy. Balancing customer focus with profit is not always straightforward.

  • Operations Management.

Depending on your retail background the experience you have here will vary. By operations management I am referring to the management of the supply chain and the store operation. Food & ‘big box’ retailers tend to have the most advanced skill-set in this regard. Understanding the cause & effect of moving units from one place to another may sound simple but in high volume environments it can be incredibly complex.

  • Relationship management.

Retail Managers up to Director level will generally develop the ability to manage multiple relationships often with stakeholders with varying agendas. The ability to balance the needs of multiple stakeholders is often overlooked but is in high demand in numerous industries and job families.

  • Change Management.

Given the scale of change that the Retail Industry has faced and continues to face, the ability to manage change has become essential for most senior retailers. Change management is often a combination of the aforementioned skills with a set of behaviours that allows for a successful delivery.

I have generally found that it is a combination of these skills that most attracts employers to ‘fish from the Retail pool.’ I would love to hear from people that have changed industry and what enabled them to make a successful transition.

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Previous blogs:

How to avoid joining the wrong business

What the numbers tell you about your future career in Retail

Retail: my tale of faith, love and survival

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By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

 

For those of you who are as yet unaware of glassdoor.com, it is a US based site whose aim is to create a community providing a source of information about prospective employers, job roles and salaries based on anonymous reviews from employees. They have recently launched their UK site, glassdoor.co.uk .

The format of each review comprises Pros and Cons and Advice to Senior Management along with star ratings given for the following criteria: Compensations & Benefits, Culture & Values, Career Opportunities, Senior Leadership, Work/Life Balance and CEO Rating.

It is a simple format and undoubtedly can prove a useful resource when researching companies or preparing for interviews.

Under each company profile, it includes a Recent News section which is useful for ensuring you are up to date with latest Press Releases, results or general news.

Understandably, the large, global businesses have the most reviews (often in their thousands) with some sectors being more broadly represented than others, particularly the Management Consultancies, Technology companies and Financial Services. I would guess therefore that reviews on these businesses are a pretty accurate reflection of working life within those companies.

Within Retail, the major UK brands are represented although many have a limited numbers of reviews – I’m sure this will change as more people in the UK become aware of its existence. Until there is a significant body of material on each company, I think it will be a while before it provides enough insight to accurately reflect what it is like to work for a particular company.

In their Community Guidelines, glassdoor are clear that participants should write balanced reviews without reverting to bitter or overly personal accounts of their own experience. Reviewers must be current or former employees of that business within the past 3 years and so there is reason to assume that the integrity of the reviews is good.

As always with reviews, you must take each contribution in context and look at the overall theme which emerges from a number of reviews. Other factors to bear in mind are the level of the person reviewing (junior candidates will have a different perspective than senior managers although their opinion is no less insightful or valid). Equally with the Interview section, where people provide sample interview questions and insight into their application process, it is wise to be cautious. Interview processes can change and your preparation still needs to be thorough enough to deal with any unforeseen eventualities.

We are all becoming increasingly reliant on reviews whether that is before booking a holiday or buying something and they can be an incredibly powerful tool. Recently, before leaving on holiday, I accidentally stumbled upon some Tripadvisor reviews on my destination. They were so bad that I was tempted to cancel, however I kept an open mind and sure enough, I had a lovely time albeit with my eyes wide open and expecting the worst! With something as important as your career, the more research you can do the better, and as long as you keep an open mind, glassdoor.co.uk should prove to be a useful addition to your ‘career toolbox’.

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How to avoid joining the wrong business

8 great smartphone apps to support candidates in their job search

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By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

In a market where organisations are increasing their proportion of direct hires, do you still need to be talking to recruiters and what are they actually doing for you?  Are they really adding any value and what are they doing that you couldn’t do yourself? Indeed with LinkedIn it is now easier than ever before to be found by organisations looking to hire. So are recruiters really adding any value? The answer to that question will definitely depend on who you are talking to. Sadly the industry is lightly regulated and with no formal qualifications it is very easy for poorly trained individuals to operate without much scrutiny or redress. As we are all aware, the market is still tight. With strong competition for most roles it is likely that you will need to engage the services of recruiters in order to try and access the best opportunities in the market.

So what should a good recruiter be doing for you?

Career Advice

A specialist recruiter should be able to give expert career advice and both challenge and assist you in your career goals and objectives. They should be highly knowledgeable in your field and very well connected.  Your recruiter should be a career partner and not just an agent that will place you in a role.

Recruiters can and should provide impartial career advice. When paid commission you need to appreciate that some may have a short term attitude and advise what is best for them and not for you as the candidate. However, the best recruiters will take a look term approach, appreciate that people will remember great advice and certainly never forget bad advice. Although in the short term they may lose out on a fee, longer term if they do the right thing then you are much more likely to engage them when you are looking to recruit. So look out for the signs that they are thinking long term.

Recruiters can if they are willing provide advice across a range of areas including advice on CV’s and Interviewing. They typically do not change for these services but do it as a way of adding more value to the candidates. Again they are likely to only provide in depth advice to those individuals who they have built a relationship with.

Job Search

In addition to some of the added value areas, fundamentally you want your recruiter to give you access to the best jobs in the market. So, do plenty of research and ask plenty of questions; what roles are they recruiting? Who are their key clients? Are they recruiting the types of roles you are interested in? The competition out there is fierce and through building a strong relationship with key recruiters in your sector you can try and ensure you gain access to these roles. A good recruiter should always call you back. In the current market, recruiters are incredibly busy, there are large number of candidates on the market chasing relatively fewer roles, however if you agree up front how to communicate and how frequently then you should be able to find a way that works for both parties.

 Process Management

A good recruiter should “coach” you through the recruitment process.  They should be using their in depth knowledge of the client and the individuals within it to guide and advise you on how to position yourself. They should be able to give you a strong insight into the culture and how you will fit.  The are also likely to get in depth feedback from the client after each stage so make sure they are sharing this information with you, so you can understand what you may need to do more or less of.  In fact a really good recruiter will always think long term. The better ones will coach you through a process even when they aren’t representing you but it is with a client they know. They will appreciate the long term benefits of doing this and the potential for the future.

 Offer Negotiation

Whilst there are a multitude of reasons for moving jobs, increasing your salary and benefits is often an important aspect.  Your recruiter should be instrumental in negotiating the right salary for you.  They should know the client well and will have a real feel for what the client may be willing to pay for someone with your skill set.  But make sure they are clear about your parameters because as much as you want to receive the best offer you also don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you are jeopardising a potential offer because the recruiter is demanding an unachievable  salary on your behalf. Also make sure you understand the full package. The benefits on offer may vary considerably from your current role and other roles you are considering and it is wise to look at the package as a whole. This will both influence your thoughts around basic salary but also may give you some leverage. Make sure you have this information early in the process. Like any negotiation the Recruiter will be aiming to find middle ground that is acceptable to both you and the client. It is ok to push but get a feel for where those boundaries lie.

Post Placement

A good recruiter won’t just place you and collect their fee, they will support you through your notice period and then though your induction into the business. They should provide you with an insight into the key players in the business you are joining, the culture and advice on how to integrate into the business. They should keep in touch and ensure that your induction runs smoothly, feeding back to the client where appropriate.

Conclusion 

Identifying and then building a relationship with the right recruiters will be critical if you are determined to make the best career move possible.

So how can you ensure your recruiter is doing all these things for you? Firstly please choose wisely. It is best to get recommendations and check their credentials.

Secondly to gain this level of advice, support and opportunity you need to invest time in building a relationship with the recruiter. This is easier said than done when working in a demanding and consuming role, so select a small number of well connected recruiters. For some additional advice on job hunting please read our recent blogs Looking for a job in 2013and How to avoid joining the wrong business.

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By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

Whenever I brief a candidate that there is an assessment centre in a recruitment process I tend to encounter a range of responses. I use the word ‘range’ pretty loosely as in truth the vast majority of candidates dread an ‘AC’ at worst and are ambivalent at best. Occasionally, when working with sales driven businesses you will encounter candidates that positively live for ‘out of the comfort zone’ experiences. Overall, I think my favourite response is from the AC veterans, the guys who have assessed other candidates, been assessed on multiple occasions and probably helped to write exercises previously. They know how it works, what they need to do and more importantly…how to impress. And yes…sssshhhhhh… some even enjoy the experience!

Here are some tips from AC veterans I have worked with:

  1. Prepare. Ask your recruiter for a copy of the competencies/qualities that are being assessed on the day. There is a good chance that the day will include an interview so you will have a great opportunity to really impress. If you are unable to clarify the competencies then ask for a job description or research the business. For further tips for an interview click here; Top tips for a competency based interview
  2. Get your mind-set right. Sales based candidates can skip to point three…this is not a competition. Most companies use assessment centres because they are looking for multiple candidates and/or because it gives a different insight in to candidate behaviour. If you enter an AC with the belief that you need ‘to win’ there is a good chance this will influence your behaviour in the inevitable group exercise and also social situations. It is better to think about being the best you can be. Also, avoid comparing your performance to your peers on the day. Most AC’s have a benchmark score for passing the day so if you beat everyone else but still do not benchmark you will fail.
  3. You are always being assessed. I have attended numerous ACs where candidates have hit the benchmark score, but in the ‘wash-up’ an assessor has recounted a conversation or observation that has created a negative impression. Avoid taking a cigarette break if you can. If you do take a break be aware any conversation you have is still being assessed. Similarly, if lunch is included be sure to maintain good manners and dare I say it sensible food choices. If an overnight stay is involved – stay clear of the alcohol! Finally, be aware of your body language, do not lean, slouch or invade people’s space. Think about your facial expressions when part of any group conversations or exercises – be positive and smile…a lot!
  4. Network. At the start of the day you should make a note of all the assessors, ideally name and job function. Over the course of the day you should spend time with each individual. It is crucial that you prepare a bank of insightful questions prior to the day. They might be geared towards an HR or Operations Director or other relevant function. Assessors will tend to remember the people that have asked intelligent questions and truly engaged them. It is also worth spending time getting to know the other candidates; there are networking opportunities for the future.
  5. Plan each task. In the heat of the moment it is easy to just launch in to a task. However, it is crucial that you take the time to read all relevant instructions. I assessed an AC last year where 5 individuals in a Group task all failed to read one crucial piece of information which led to them all failing the task. You should plan your time and allow for unexpected changes to the structure of the exercise (normally about ten minutes before you are due to finish!). All exercises are generally designed to put you under pressure to complete within a tight time-frame. Do not panic and importantly, ensure you complete the exercise. Finally, if you are offered various materials you would be wise to use them. An obvious one would be the provision of a flipchart for a presentation. Use it!
  6. Nail the Group exercise. Most candidates hate Group Exercises, often describing them as fake or ‘not a reflection of real life.’ While this may be true they are also remarkably affective at putting candidates under pressure which results in a multitude of interesting behaviours that you would not see in an interview or other exercise. There are a few things you can do to ensure you are perceived positively. Most importantly do not ‘over dominate’ the exercise. Avoid (contrary to popular belief) being the person that writes notes or prepares the flipchart presentation, you will quickly end up being side-lined from the conversation. Use your peers name when addressing them and invite the quieter participants to voice their opinion. Express your own ideas and ask for feedback. Ensure the group is on target to complete the task on time and if required steer the group to complete tasks as required. Finally, stand by the group’s ultimate decision/conclusion. Do not fall in to the trap of criticising other group members if faced with ‘apprentice’ style questions from the assessors.
  7. Do not let one bad exercise ruin your day. Confidence is crucial on an AC day and a single exercise will not usually determine your success or failure. If you perform badly on one exercise you must pick yourself back up and move forward.
  8. Take Psychometric exercises seriously. Psychometrics are being increasingly used in advance of AC days to either highlight areas to explore over the course of the day or to provide additional evidence of capability.
  9. Be positive. Over the course of the day you will have numerous conversations and will experience a range of emotions.  It is important that you remain positive and that you express this. Do not fall in to the trap of making any negative comments about the assessors, the AC, other delegates, current employer, ex-boss or your consultant. I have witnessed numerous candidates ‘de-selecting’ themselves through a flippant remark to the wrong person.

I hope this helps and please share your tenth tip in the comments below or via our Blog page on LinkedIn:

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Click one of the links below for further blogs from AdMore:

Do Today’s candidates have a ‘hierarchy of needs?’

8 Great Smartphone apps to support candidates in their job search

How to avoid joining the wrong business

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By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

I have always been a big fan of Maslow (click here to learn more) and despite modern Psychological doctrine having exposed flaws in this theory of motivation I cannot help but feel that it has a great deal of relevance to how many candidates manage their job search today. I believe that the recession has fundamentally changed how many candidates view their future job selection and crucially what is most important. Having spoken to a number of colleagues within recruitment, and admittedly this evidence is purely anecdotal; we have seen a very real shift towards a ‘hierarchy of needs.’

Having spoken to many hundreds if not thousands of candidates over the course of the recession the first question that the majority of candidates will ask is; does it pay enough? Interestingly, prior to the recession the same question was probably being asked with a slightly different emphasis; how much can I earn? The key difference is that candidates are now focused on whether the salary will cover their costs rather than enabling them to invest. Arguably, it amounts to the same thing but it does indicate a rather different mind-set. I have found that salary has acted as a much smaller ‘barrier to entry’ than prior to the recession when candidates were more focused on achieving a significant uplift in package rather than merely covering their costs.

The second most important element is Job Security. Prior to 2008 the majority of candidates barely talked about security. Unsurprisingly, and against a backdrop of numerous business collapses this has become the second most important criteria.

The third element that most candidates will tend to want to judge is their cultural fit. One key consequence of the recession is that many people have taken jobs under duress (whether that is financial or emotional) that they might not otherwise have done so. Often, these individuals have been perfectly capable of doing the job but for whatever reason have not been a good cultural fit. In the early to mid part of the recession that led to further turnover and as a result, increased anxiety in the market.

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These first three elements, in blue in my pyramid, are I feel the most essential for candidates today. The next two elements tend to be asked by fewer candidates but interestingly they are perhaps the most important for future financial, intellectual and emotional prosperity.

The fourth element is a two way street! Will I be valued and will I value them (employer & colleagues)? Many candidates tend not to think about this prior to accepting an offer as the first three elements can often be all consuming in importance. However, this will often determine the longevity of the role. It has a particular relevance for Gen Y candidates whom often place this as a key requirement for future positions.

The final element, the famous ‘self-actualisation,’ in my pyramid is; will I grow?

Many candidates will ask what the opportunities for progression are but I think they are missing an opportunity here. In truth most companies will, during a hiring process, indicate there is room for progression without committing to anything specific. The more savvy candidates will ascertain what the company does to ‘grow’ their people. What is the performance review process, what support and development is there, do they even have an L&D team post recession, how much money are they prepared to spend on external education?

So what does this mean for recruiters? The way in which we attract candidates through technology and social media continues to evolve at a dramatic rate.  I believe that most candidates seek to satisfy the first three elements early in their job search with the further two elements being a focus further in to an interview process. Given the lack of confidence in the current jobs market it has become crucial that employers and their recruiters seek to address these basic needs early in any recruitment campaign. A failure to do so will only serve to reduce the pool of available talent!

NB: You will note that I haven’t placed any emphasis on whether candidates question their level of capability / competence to do the job. The reason behind this is that I believe most candidates have a much higher level of self-confidence in today’s market and to some extent rely upon the employer’s ability to select on capability.

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By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

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By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

William Morris, the designer, famously said “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”. It occurred to me over Christmas that we could apply the same sentiment to the changing face of British Retail. If a store isn’t fundamentally useful or temptingly beautiful then it simply won’t survive long term.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but what I mean by a ‘beautiful’ store is somewhere that offers an experience that you simply can’t get elsewhere, not least of all online. Somewhere that is exciting, where you can touch, feel and try the product, somewhere which is inspiring to look at and where you are made to feel special. Brands like Apple and Hollister and shopping centres like Westfield have created retail experiences and product so desirable that people are simply compelled to leave their homes to visit.

Useful is somewhat harder to define. To be really useful in retail terms, customers firstly need to have absolute clarity about what it is you sell and what makes you the specialist in that market. They must have confidence in your ability to deliver the product or service quickly and efficiently. You must deliver great service consistently. Lots of retailers may think they are specialists, however do their customers agree? To me, the perfect example of this is Timpsons. There is no ambiguity about what they do – they are true specialists and they offer a useful and good old-fashioned service along the way.

Like many people, driven by lack of time and pure convenience, I did most of my Christmas shopping online. I was lucky, all my purchases arrived promptly, making the whole process very efficient, however I couldn’t help but feel a little sad at having missed the frisson of excitement from actually visiting a shop and looking at tangible product. However, without the ultimate ‘useful’ option of online shopping, I would really have struggled to get the job done. Not all online retailers get it right, however they are fundamentally ‘useful’ in that they save us time – so critical in today’s pressured world and this is why they are becoming so dominant, at the expense of some of their bricks and mortar competitors.

However, when we returned to the office in the new year, I compared notes with my colleagues about our positive retail experiences and the following stood out.

B&Q – not the obvious place for a delightful shopping experience – but it was just that. I was greeted on arrival by not one, but two employees, one of whom helpfully explained that I could sign up online to receive special offers. While browsing around their Christmas decorations, I received a jolly “Good Morning Madam!” from the Manager, leaving me to wonder whether I had, in the manner of Marty McFly, inadvertently been transported to the 1950’s! When I asked for assistance in finding a product, I was cheerfully escorted to the correct aisle and on my way to check out, I passed a group of children doing an early morning arts and crafts workshop, their Dads hovering nearby. It felt vibrant and inclusive, despite the fact that my purchase of lime-scale remover (?!) was in fact, completely mundane.
John Lewis – here I was genuinely inspired by the range of products, all displayed beautifully. The store was packed and everywhere I could see staff buzzing around, often in dialogue with a customer. This was the retail we know and love – a busy, exciting store with lovely brands, an ambiance which encourages browsing and if needed, helpful and knowledgable staff. Here I was genuinely tempted to part with more cash to supplement my online purchases.

And finally Kiddicare which my colleague described as “functionally brilliant”. It was easy to park with wide aisles (big enough to accommodate a double pram). The range was amazing with clear signage and pricing and the service was exceptional with staff being customer-focused rather than task-focused. They have a reasonably priced café and soft play area which resulted in significantly increased dwell time, despite having lively 20 month old twins in tow!

In my opinion, in years to come we will see one of two things in our high streets and shopping centres. Either businesses selling a useful product or service (and doing it with a genuine affection for the customer) or beautiful stores where you can spend time and where you are made to feel special. As ruthless as it seems, the market is ‘de-cluttering’ and I can’t see that there will be latitude for those retailers who fall within the middle ground.

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By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

Retail has been under the spotlight in recent months and there has been a lot of criticism levelled at the industry for being too slow to adapt to changes in technology and Social Media and the impact this has had on shopping behaviour. The focus has so far been on the customer – arguably this is where all the attention should be. However, what I find interesting is the lack of attention being paid to how Retailers can use Social media to engage their people. How many times do you hear about the ‘disinterested shop assistant’ when people complain about bricks and mortar shopping?

It is widely acknowledged that many organisations are using Facebook as a vehicle for driving graduate recruitment campaigns and LinkedIn often forms the backbone of a great deal of mid-senior management recruitment. What tends to be missing is how Retailers are using Social Media to engage with their own people. There is a general reluctance to officially endorse the use of Social media for fear of what can happen when employees have access to this platform (HMV have experienced this recently).

In the modern workplace the increase in the part time labour mix has led to more, not less staff, and more varied shift patterns. As a result, communicating with this work-force has grown more complicated than ever before. How does a Director communicate directly with his/her store teams? How does an Area Manager ensure the ‘message’ is landing with EVERY member of staff?

I am not a big user of Twitter, we recruiters have clogged up LinkedIn enough without doing the same to every other platform! However, what I do use if for is keeping abreast of news and developments as they happen. It would seem that Tesco have also realised that, if used responsibly, it has the capability to deliver a message to large numbers of people in a highly efficient manner. I have been following a few of their ‘Store Directors’ recently, a Store Director, for those that are unfamiliar, is the level above General Store Manager. Typically they will manage anywhere from 10-20 stores with eye watering turnovers. It is a big job with accountability for between 5,000 – 10,000 staff. Given these numbers it must be incredibly difficult to verbally thank your people and highlight best practice. The individuals I have been following, and I believe this is common practice in the business, are prolific in following up store visits and meetings with a tweet about what they have seen and experienced (It’s amazing what you can do with a fish counter on Valentines day!).

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The tweets range from a simple ‘well done’ to photos of great displays and more often than not, something personal. This public acknowledgement of a job well done must be incredibly satisfying and, while I don’t imagine every Tesco employee is using Twitter, I would hazard a guess that the tech savvy staff are sharing this in the stores. There are Store Director ‘Retweets’ of store staff, and vice versa, and conversations follow. It doesn’t feel like a broadcast, a criticism often levelled at corporate users. If Tesco, a business famed for its slick pre-agreed processes, is prepared to take its Social Media gloves off, why doesn’t the rest of Retail?

Of course there isn’t just the benefit of motivating your people through a very public thank-you; what this also creates is an opportunity for the front line staff to communicate upwards. Many retailers fail to tap in to the true value of their people because they are not engaged. I suspect that Tesco will reap huge dividends from the fact that store based staff can communicate an idea to their directors. Most employees are not motivated by cash, or indeed the fear of losing their job; what really engages and motivates an employee is having an influence on their working environment, being recognised and having the opportunity to bring their own ideas to the table.

In the future, I wonder if Social Media will be used by Retailers to generate strategy and tactics (CEOs are often mystified by the current pace of change) rather than just as a medium to market their products.

I would be interested to hear from other retailers that are using Social Media to talk to their people and how it has benefitted them. It would be great if you could share your ideas here.

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

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By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development. 

The most challenging, and by it’s very virtue interesting recruitment is often when you are resourcing for an employer whose brand does not quite match up with candidate perceptions. This can work two ways. A business may have a great employer brand but in truth be a difficult to place to work and develop a career. Conversely, there are many businesses that have a poor employer brand but are actually a great place to work. This mismatch often arises for two key reasons; firstly businesses change – a company may have had a high staff turnover previously but due to a change of CEO/HRD the underlying problems have been removed. The second reason is that many people confuse the customer brand with the employer brand. Yum! Brands (The parent company of KFC) are a great case in point. Potential employees think ‘fried chicken?’ but do not necessarily know the fantastic, employee- focused career opportunities they offer.

So, what can you do to educate candidates?

I was recently invited to a Retail networking event at Harrods. I’ll declare my hand early; I used to work in Harrods. It was an amazing experience and I can honestly say that it was the most theatrical and exciting place to ‘retail.’ However, it would seem that many candidates do not see Harrods as being an employer of choice. Following a period of change at Harrods (click here for more information) the Resourcing team have decided that now is the time to win hearts and minds.

The event was by invitation only (thanks to Linda Treen for the invitation!) and was aimed at attracting the top talent from retail that had thus far declined to attend a formal interview. It was typically Harrods – held in the Georgian restaurant where we were offered some beautifully crafted bacon rolls served with coffee and tea. The Retail Director, Paul Thomas, kicked off the day with introductions. This was perhaps the most powerful part of the day. There were 8 Harrods employees present; they came from Asda, Zara, Tesco and a collection of large and small retailers. Not the typical luxury backgrounds one might expect. They also had interesting career paths; it would seem that the path from Operations to the Support functions was well travelled. I guess that is the benefit of having the core of your business and its supporting Head office within a few miles of each other.

Following the introductions, a chap by the name of George Hammer talked about his own experience of setting up the Urban Retreat salon concession in Harrods. George is a classic entrepreneur and was quick to cut to the chase. Harrods is not an easy place to work quite simply because the standards and expectations are so high. As he put it, if you want to work somewhere spectacular you will have to take a risk. This is an interesting point, as this is absolutely about confidence. If you are confident in your ability then why would you not be successful? His most memorable quote being; “be exceptional, do not be average.” George is clearly an extremely successful entrepreneur, he was the founder of Aveda amongst many other concerns, however he seemed to connect with the audience and many of the candidates present were clearly impressed by his honesty and his passion for Harrods.

Paul Thomas went on to talk about his own career path (Asda – Saturday boy to Store Manager, Sainsburys, Harrods Food Hall) and then fielded some questions. Paul was candid about his own decision to join Harrods with the admission of a wobble during his notice period prior to joining – had he made the right decision?  He was keen to tackle the negative perceptions within the room. A few candidates opened up and to Paul’s credit he dealt with these in a way that encouraged others to raise their own concerns.  He talked about the operational roles being narrower, yet deeper, than normal. He discussed perceptions around a more mature workforce and the ‘stuffy’ stereotypes. He noted that in the four years since they have started measuring employee engagement, they have seen a marked improvement in scores. This willingness to meet these questions head on certainly engaged the audience.

I noted with interest the number of candidates that were keen to formally register their interest in Harrods following some further informal conversations. I suspect that the Resourcing team were slightly surprised to get such an immediate result. Jenny Parry, Head of Resourcing, told me that she was primarily hoping to get the message out there that Harrods is evolving.  Judging by the reaction from the candidates attending, I think they certainly achieved this. It would be interesting to know what other retailers are doing to actively manage their employer brand in what is proving to be a period of intense change in the retail industry, comments below please!

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By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

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