Now hiring? If you’re like most businesses in our industry, you are, and it’s no easy task. There are more jobs than there are workers, right? That’s the simplest way to define the current labor shortage, and it’s one of the most discussed and most frustrating topics of 2021. The doors of growth are wide open, many are struggling to keep pace with shopper demand, and the pool of candidates to grow our teams seems empty. So, now what?
This is far from the first labor shortage we’ve faced. The American economy has seen similar challenges occur throughout our history, and for multiple reasons. Periodically, large portions of a generation retire, and a skills gap develops until the next generation or two catch up. Population shifts, migration into and out of urban areas happen, and a wide array of other factors have all caused a squeeze on businesses both large and small as they seek new team members. Today, it’s a job seeker’s market. They have more options than ever, and talented people have many open doors.
In my conversations with retailers ranging in size from modest, one store operations on Main Street to large, regional powerhouses, the topic of finding and retaining talent on their teams has been just as varied as the size of these businesses. Some are struggling; short staffed, forced to cut hours and service offerings, and even losing long-term team members who have understandably reached the dreaded burnout phase that inevitably follows such situations. However, others are thriving, growing, and can select the right person for open positions from several quality candidates.
Why the difference? I began to wonder that more and more over the late summer and fall, and there were so many potential reasons. Did geography play a role? Was it tied to the size of the business? Great leadership? Did some simply offer better pay and benefits? What role was company culture playing? A series of conversations gave credence that all those factors and a laundry list of others had some tangible impact on the results, but it quickly became clear that there was one common thread among virtually every business that was succeeding in the search for new talent and a similar common thread among those who weren’t. It all came down to how, and more accurately if they were positioning their company as a place to work.
It sounds simple, but I assure you it’s anything but. Most retailers in our industry have spent decades of passion, effort and resources carefully building their shopper brand – the marketing they execute to enter the conscience of potential customers as a great place to shop. However, the vast majority, regardless of size, have put little to no effort into telling the story of why their business is a great place to work for potential team members. In preparation for a session at PrimeTime back in August, my team visited 200 randomly selected appliance dealer websites, looking for one thing – a career page that told a story. That gave potential job candidates a feel for why they might want to join that team. Sadly, only 17% of those websites had a career page. For the other 83%, they’re a mystery to the job seeker, and just like shoppers, these folks tend to move directly past mysteries.
Now, solving the people problem is far more complex than just adding a career page to your website. However, we have to start somewhere, right? And the process of building a great career center for your business forces you to address some key steps. I suggest starting with a question for yourself and your team: What makes your business a great place to work?
If you’re willing to honestly address that question, you’re likely to learn a great deal and walk away with a clear action list. Addressing that list will help you begin the building of your employer brand and could prove to be your greatest asset in not just finding bodies to fill spots on the team, but the right people for the right positions at the right time.
This article was first published in the November 2021 issue of Retail Observer.
Mike Whitaker is