I am well aware that I chose to build a business that relies heavily on recruiting fantastic people in a fluctuating industry. Retail and hospitality has always been a unique arena in this regard and I was warned against it in the early years. For high street retail businesses, it is widely accepted that employees come and go more than in other industries – whether for the purpose of a stopgap or for students searching for ways to earn some extra cash during their studies. Those who chose to make a career in retail often climb the ladder quickly with the goal to be promoted ‘off the shop floor’ within just a few years.
We’ve always embraced this as reality and tried to make the most of the team members we have whilst they are with us, not treating those who have other commitments, or ambitions any differently than our longer-standing team. It has served us well over the years and our reputation has meant that our retention is good and recruitment has never been an issue.
However, the current pressure on recruitment is the worst I can ever remember it being and it would seem even great businesses, who treat their employees well are not immune.
Job vacancies are on the rise
Recent ONS data shows that the number of job vacancies reached a new record of 1,300,000 in the period between March to May 2022. The implications of this on recruitment are significant, as 85% of UK businesses admit to feeling the impact of the Great Resignation. As well as this, 31% state they have experienced issues with retaining staff and a similar 32% struggling to hire new employees. With such a seismic issue at hand,
What can businesses do to change this narrative? What are the leading factors at play?
The main factor, I believe, is that the world of work has evolved dramatically over the past two years. Where salaries were once considered one of the defining qualities of a ‘good’ job, other factors are now at play and have taken priority. Illustrating this is how 88% of workers say they would consider a lower salary if flexible hours were provided. Largely shaped by the pandemic, it is clear the priorities of employees have shifted: features such as flexible working are no longer considered additional perks, but fundamental necessities.
Employers must therefore be acutely aware of what potential employees are seeking if they want to attract top talent. Jobseekers are entering what can now be considered a ‘buyers’ market’ in which the power has shifted in their favour, and so businesses must adapt to accommodate staff in a plethora of ways that were previously dismissed as important. If businesses are slow to do this, how can they expect to attract and retain the necessary staff?
From a retail perspective, headcount is currently one of the most pressing recruitment issues. Back in March 2021, it was reported that more than 17,500 chain store outlets disappeared across Britain during the pandemic, which left thousands of employees out of a job. But this issue has persisted in the sector, as a mass exodus of retail employees who left their jobs due to the pandemic do not intend on returning, highlighting the lasting imprint that has been left on staff recruitment. A business’s employees are crucial across its entire value chain – from the everyday running of the company to its ability to grow and develop – so this presents a problem for all, especially startups on the verge of entering their growth phase. At Bird & Blend, our staff tell our story, which is proof of how businesses can be successful by putting people first. And that means on both sides of the counter: consumers and my team.
In response to the obstacles with staff recruitment, businesses – especially retailers – are reconsidering not just how they recruit staff, but also how they engage with them. From the inception of Bird & Blend, we’ve openly acknowledged that staff will not stick around forever – and it’s important to communicate why that’s okay. Whether it’s providing apprenticeship opportunities or helping young people into the world of work; every new employee adds value to the business, regardless of whether they spend 6 months or 10 years with us. This mutual employee-employer understanding is important to communicate in the recruitment process, fulfilling the duty of empowerment.
Businesses that pertain to a hybrid model of physical and digital retail also have additional factors to consider when it comes to their recruitment process. Maintaining synergy between these two arms of a business leads to more intricate considerations when it comes to employment. Making a desk-based, or creative team feel empowered and fulfilled is going to have different benchmarks to the needs and desires of a retail workforce. The long and short of it is that there isn’t a ‘magic’ one-stop-shop solution and employers need to really get under the skin of what is important to their team – both existing and potential future recruits too.
Although retailers are struggling to hire staff, the implications are not all doom and gloom. If businesses are doing more to attract the right talent with the correct company culture, initiatives and moral standards, it will only be beneficial for these businesses long term if staff feel their needs are sufficiently considered from the outset. And with a wider pool of jobs to choose from, retailers can be confident that staff are choosing them for reasons that sufficiently align with their own business plans and values, which will pay back over the coming years.
About the author: Krisi Smith is co-founder of Bird & Blend.