5 Creative Ways to Find and Keep Grocery Retail Staff
June 26, 2023
Attracting and retaining labor remains an ongoing challenge for grocery retailers. An analysis by FMI, the Food Industry Association noted that data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows employees under 34 years of age are changing jobs frequently, and “the Great Resignation” and “quiet quitting” are still impacting the labor market.
High turnover and a large volume of open positions can lead to burnout and a reduction in skill level across the department or organization. It can also foster an environment where mistakes happen. The quality and safety of products we consume – especially fresh foods – has become increasingly important, and having trained staff in place who are familiar with your organization’s systems and processes is critical to meeting consumer expectations and protecting your reputation.
Retailers have already started paying higher wages and increasing benefits for their employees to attract talent, but what can be done beyond this? Here are 5 creative strategies to recruit and retain staff in your retail stores and distribution centers:
1. Increase Engagement During the Application Process
The process of attracting new talent starts with an application. Some retailers are getting creative with this aspect of recruitment. SpartanNash has invested in technology that enables applications via text message and its team has worked to increase their engagement with prospective candidates. These initiatives more than doubled the rate of applications. The Giant Company similarly streamlined its application process, striving to make it as simple as possible.
SpartanNash also implemented “experiential job fairs” where candidates are invited to participate in activities that simulate the retail and warehouse work experiences. The retailer is providing “preview videos” that show candidates what to expect from the job.
2. Provide Meaningful Educational Opportunities
Progressive Grocer noted that grocery retailers are shifting their mindsets to focus on training and retention, and career development is a key component of this. Southeastern Grocers and The Giant Co. were both cited as examples of retail brands offering their employees training opportunities. Southeastern Grocers offers its corporate leadership development platform and Retail Leaders program, while The Giant Co. provides its Giant University platform that has helped employees earn internal promotions. FMI also suggests offering tuition support or reimbursement for outside education to help retain talent.
3. Offer Flexible Scheduling
Employees are increasingly looking for flexibility in their job schedule. This might include allowing staff to choose their own hours and days (within reasonable limits), providing adequate time off including sick days, and even allowing employees to take a leave of absence to attend to personal or family matters. A recent Progressive Grocer article affirmed that grocery retail employees want flexibility, citing a recent FMI survey of food industry executives.
Metcalfe’s and Barons Market are two examples of regional retailers effectively using this strategy. Metcalfe’s allowed an employee to take a 30-day leave of absence to attend to family issues, while Barons started offering a reduced 40-hour work week to accommodate the needs of employees with children or those who are seeking greater work-life balance.
4. Foster a Sense of Community and Service
People are naturally drawn to a positive mission, and fostering this sense of mission and service can be excellent for employee morale. In fact, Metcalfe’s cited its commitment to local and being 100% green-powered as one of the top reasons employees became interested in working there.
SpartanNash has focused on making executive leaders more visible through “field town hall visits” and has also launched a virtual town hall series. Additionally, the retailer has partnered with local universities on an internship program that converts over 60% of participants to part-time or full-time employment.
5. Empower Staff with the Right Tools
It’s becoming increasingly important to alleviate repetitive, manual tasks so employees can do their jobs more efficiently. Whether freeing up your in-store employees to interact with customers or helping your DC staff inspect produce more effectively, the right tools can help strengthen employee retention by empowering staff to make a difference in their roles.
iFoodDS provides a food quality inspection app called Quality Insights that empowers your DC inspectors, category managers, and buyers to improve sourcing with objective data rather than subjective decision-making. Easily add and edit quality specs, send automatic notifications to suppliers, flag products that need more attention from inspectors, and use buyer dashboards and supplier scorecards to benchmark performance.
Keeping Ahead of Grocery Retail Staffing
The labor market is likely to remain competitive for the near future. Retailers will need to get increasingly creative to attract new talent, minimize turnover, and maintain their profit margins. Get ahead of the competition and find what works for your organization with the 5 strategies mentioned above.