Finding the perfect fit
For many retailers, working with an experienced recruiter can provide the solution to the current staff shortages quandary
25 March 2022 | 0
Staff shortages are an issue that we have repeatedly reported on within the pages of ShelfLife during the past couple of years, with many retailers telling us that they have found it difficult to find experienced staff, particularly for specialist roles such as butchers, bakers and fresh food staff.
Showing the extent of the issues retailers are facing, last month The Irish Times quoted Musgrave’s director of corporate affairs Edel Clancy, who said staff shortages were an issue “across the board” for retail, which had created the need to recruit from outside Ireland and the EU.
In fact, the Musgrave Group lobbied the government last month for changes to foreign visa rules to allow more workers into the country. The group met with Minister of State from the Department of Enterprise Damien English, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and MEP Mairead McGuinness and other politicians to seek changes to visa requirements that would make it easier to recruit from third countries, according to lobbying records.
Clancy said that while the group “exhausts all avenues to hire Irish workers and EU workers,” a shortage across the board, created the need to recruit from outside the EEA.
Working with a recruiter
The issue is not one that’s unique to retail, with ManpowerGroup reporting last year that 75% of businesses in Ireland are finding it difficult to track down the right candidates for jobs. However, the sector’s unique cocktail of conditions has left retailers particularly vulnerable.
With many retailers busier than ever, there are clear advantages of working with an experienced recruitment partner to find the best talent possible. As Excel Recruitment CEO Barry Whelan stated in a recent interview with ShelfLife’s Fionnuala Carolan: “There are no easy roles to fill. In our own business we have two recruiters working each role instead of one. This is due to the difficulty in filling the roles. The hardest roles to fill are the specialists such as butchers and bakers followed by entry level staff.”
Barry Whelan, who as our readers will know, is a regular columnist for ShelfLife, also wrote about the ‘Great Resignation’ phenomenon in our November 2021 issue. “The dog on the street knows that the Irish economy is in the grip of a ‘staff crisis’ with employees leaving their jobs in unprecedented numbers, changing employers, or taking time away from the workforce entirely,” he said. “Anyone can see the unprecedented demand for workers whether it is the amount of Job creation announcements or a simple walk down a main street, with signs in the windows of most hospitality outlets and retail stores. Many people have stepped away from difficult frontline jobs made even harder by the pandemic, while others are forgoing opportunities for money and status in exchange for greater flexibility or work life balance and many employees have simply left the workforce altogether, hence the phrase we have now started seeing, the ‘Great Resignation’.
According to journalist Kathryn Hymes writing in Wired magazine: “Taken on its surface, the Great Resignation foregrounds the language of job status, but misses a parallel, arguably bigger story: the radical realignment of values that is fuelling people to confront and remake their relationship to life at home, with their families, with their friends, and in their lives outside of labour.”
Speaking to retailers
ShelfLife journalist Julia O’Reilly also spoke to several retailers specifically about the difficulties they were experiencing in finding staff within a feature published in July 2021. One of those retailers was John Eivers, managing director of Spar Irishtown Service Station who said that while recruitment during the pandemic had been challenging, the past nine months had been particularly fierce. Although Eivers and his team advertised available positions, they found that those who were applying were often not sufficiently qualified for the work. “We have placed several ads since January of this year and the calibre of people that we’re looking for are not applying,” he said at the time.
Vincent Jennings, CEO of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association (CSNA), said that in his opinion, the challenges retailers are experiencing could be aggravated over the next few years as the cost of doing businesses grows. “The difficulty employers are experiencing will be compounded over the next five years by the additional costs that will be incurred in meeting new statutory and mandatory obligations,” he said. “Annual national minimum wage increases, a new living wage being rolled out, up to 10 days sick pay, and a matching employer/employee pension contribution will add very significantly to the cost of what is already the largest cost in our businesses.”
Fortunately, the CSO reported that the Covid-19 adjusted unemployment rate was 7% in February, down from a level of 7.8% January and down from a level of 27.0% a year ago. These figures are an estimate based on the Live Register and Covid-19 related claims. The main unemployment rate was 5.2% in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, unchanged from January but down from a level of 7.5% 12 months ago.
Jack Kennedy, economist at global job site Indeed, said the CSO data paints a positive picture of Ireland’s labour market.
“The rate of unemployment fell in February,” he said, “as the reduced pandemic restrictions helped to stimulate rehiring and returned the labour market to a positive path that the Central Bank of Ireland forecasts will bring the unemployment rate down to 4.6% by the end of 2024*.
“The CSO’s recent Q4 Labour Force Survey* shows that the economy added an amazing 229,000 jobs in 2021, a gain of over 10%, putting employment levels ahead of where they were pre-pandemic,” Kennedy added. “Ireland’s ability to recover rapidly from labour market shocks is notable given that the UK and eurozone economies have yet to see their labour markets recover to such a great extent.”
While unemployment has dropped though, there is still huge demand for staff within the grocery sector. The good news, according to Excel Recruitment’s director of Grocery Recruitment, great people are still out there – providing you know where to look. Here, she outlines how a professional recruiter such as Excel can use its expertise to find the candidate who is the right fit for you and your business.
Q&A with… Nikki Murran, director of Grocery Retail, Excel Recruitment
|HQ:||The Capel Building, Mary’s Abbey, Dublin 7|
|Key people:||Nikki Murran, director of Grocery Retail|
|Key clients:||Musgrave, Dunnes, Marks & Spencer, Applegreen, Aldi, Lidl, Spar|
Phone: 01–8148 747
Q: In today’s competitive marketplace, retailers are finding it difficult to secure experienced staff. What would you say are the main factors behind this and how significant is this issue currently within Ireland’s grocery industry?
A: There is any number of factors contributing to the staffing crisis, but I feel the most obvious issues are as follows:
Supply has decreased: We started the pandemic from a place of near perfect unemployment but the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) allowed candidates to opt out of the workforce for an extended period of time. This caused a proportion of the retail sector to return home to other European countries during the pandemic and the last two years has seen a number of candidates leave the retail industry to pursue roles in other sectors.
Demand has increased: 2020 saw an additional €2 billion in grocery sales and still, to date, we are seeing an additional €200 per household per quarter being spent in the grocery sector. The DIY retail trade has also seen a substantial increase in many stores with no slowdown in sight and reports of pent-up demand still in play from 2020/21.
Q: How can your knowledge and experience within the FMCG industry help retailers to circumvent the current recruitment challenges?
A: Excel Recruitment has been recruiting for and supporting the Irish retail sector for the past 20 years. When it comes to retail recruitment, no other company has more experience in the Irish market. We are a team of retailers, recruiting for retailers.
With over 85% of our business coming from repeat customers, we know we’re providing an excellent service. We take the time to understand the needs of each store by thoroughly screening the candidates from our extensive database and our team also provides honest feedback to clients and candidates throughout the recruiting process to ensure the perfect match for the role.
Q: What advice would you give retailers to ensure their employment packages stand out from competitors and can attract the best talent available?
A: Some of the key factors to take into account are as follows:
Tailor each package depending on the role / candidate
This is where we’ve seen the best successes in the market. It’s important to understand what each potential candidate is looking for in their next career move. Time and again, clients are tempted to offer more money to candidates. However, by understanding a candidate’s motivations – you may find that additional annual leave, healthcare discounts or reduced hours are more likely to secure your preferred hire.
Think outside the box
Small benefits like discounts on local gyms, canteen discounts, extra days of annual leave for birthdays, free tea, coffee and newspapers go a lot further than you may think! These small inexpensive perks are a great way to attract candidates. Be sure to list all your perks – no matter how small and include them with every job that you are looking to hire for.
With basic salaries going up, this can be an ideal option by putting in place bonuses linked to a store’s profitability. You can offer outstanding on-target earnings without impacting your store’s wage budget.
Q: From the job candidate’s perspective, how will you help them to prepare for their best interview performance?
A: We tailor our candidate preparation depending on each individual, and the role that they are going for. By getting to know each candidate and by understanding their past experience/future ambitions, we’re positioning ourselves to support the candidate through each step of the hiring process. This can be anything from helping them to phrase answers, giving them the company background, suggesting the best stores for them to visit beforehand or teaching them how to conduct a virtual interview. And sometimes, we’re just simply a sounding board for a candidate to voice their concerns.
Q: It has become increasingly common for employers to hold multiple interviews. What specific advice would you give candidates when embarking on the second or third round of interviews?
A: I would recommend to clients to get all decision makers to sit in on the first interview so that you can conduct a thorough first round. This allows us to move at a faster pace in this overheated market and leaves no need for subsequent rounds.
However, if you are a candidate who is called back for additional rounds:
- Treat it like the first round! You may be meeting a new interviewer – and it is imperative you come across as well prepared, professional, interested and engaged as you did in the first round.
- Don’t worry about repeating information from the first round – often the previous interviewer is anxious for the new interviewer to hear what you had to say.
- Prepare and recap on your preparation for round one. Think about any questions you would like to have asked and prepare answers for any questions you felt you underperformed on during the previous rounds.
- They liked you in round one, so relax, be yourself and enjoy!
Q: As we tentatively emerge from the Covid-19 crisis, do you believe that staff shortages will significantly lessen in the next 12 months?
A: No, looking forward, I can’t see any factors in play that will dramatically increase supply or decrease demand so it’s hard to see how these shortages will cease in the near future. Having said that, I do believe there are still great people available in the retail industry, if you know where to look. It’s essential to have a strong recruitment partner now more than ever to recruit talent for your business, and we will continue to help our clients and candidates in whatever way we can.