July 28 2022
Employer News

Winning the fight for talent

A checkout attendant processing a sale at a supermarket A checkout attendant processing a sale at a supermarket

There’s no shortage of commentary around the fight for talent and the challenges employers are facing in attracting and retaining staff.

The question is – what can you do about it?

To find out, Rest recently hosted a webinar with the Australian Retailers Association where we heard about the strategies Myer and 7-Eleven are using to win the fight for talent. 

The perfect storm

The ‘perfect storm’ was a phrase all of the panelists used to describe the current labour shortage. Commenting at an industry-wide level, Rest’s Southern Regional Manager, Jane Sheridan, points to the closure of international borders which stopped the flow of international students and travelers into Australia, a traditional source of retail workers for part-time and casual roles.

Chris Lee, Senior Talent Partner with 7-Eleven, agrees the lack of skilled migrants and international students has been a major contributor to the acute talent shortage in retail. Chris observes the level of competition for talent is so intense that it has shifted the dial from a situation where candidates had to prove why you should hire them, to a scenario where the employer has to prove what’s in it for the candidate. Companies who fail to respond to this shift in the way they attract and interview candidates won’t be competitive in the current employment market.

Now’s the time to grow your own

“Hire for attitude and develop the aptitude,” says Daniel Cavedon, Myer’s General Manager for People and Culture.

After more than a decade with Myer, Daniel has seen the escalating demand for people with IT and digital skills to support retailers with their online and ecommerce offerings. During the initial stages of digital transformation at Myer, skills were brought in from established markets overseas, but the COVID lockdowns meant recruitment efforts were restricted to the domestic market.

One way of dealing with this challenge is to hire for the right attitude first, then develop skills in high-demand areas like digital. Daniel looks for people who are customer focused first and foremost, who understand product, and then builds on this foundation through their learning and development.

At 7-Eleven, the focus is on empowering staff with the tools and support they need to take ownership of their career progression. Chris says that’s one of the reasons why 7-Eleven recently moved to an agile working model in Australia, which removes levels of hierarchy and gives employees the opportunity, and accountability, to deliver solutions to customers at speed and develop their careers.

Quick decisions to fill those positions

“The days of being spoilt for choice with ten suitable candidates for a role are long gone,” says Chris. Strong candidates are receiving job offers from multiple employers at the same time. If you sit on decisions you’re going to miss out.

So, speed is important, but so is some creative thinking when it comes to how you attract talent. Both Chris and Daniel agree the usual channels like job boards should form part of the recruitment mix, but these platforms are saturated with jobs at the moment, so you need to think outside the box as well.

7-Eleven attends career and job fairs to find talent, while Myer is implementing ‘Refer-a-Friend’ initiatives and posters in stores where customers can scan a QR code for their latest jobs.

One chance at a first impression

After spending time and money to recruit new talent, the importance of retention comes into play. Jane makes the point that a great onboarding experience is the first step in retention because it can validate a new starter’s decision to join a company. Rest works closely with employers to help make the super component of onboarding as seamless as possible and has created an onboarding web page to assist.

Understanding what new starters want to learn during onboarding, and how they want to be communicated with, is the foundation for that engaging ‘first impression’. Rest interviewed a group of 30 new members, primarily in the 18-20-year-old age bracket, to learn more about their experiences and expectations during onboarding. As Jane points out, the results show many younger workers are interested in learning about basic budgeting skills and tips for money management, with a preference for simple communication in video formats.

You can read about the results of Rest’s interviews findings here.

Beware of the double-edged sword

Attracting new staff is only half the battle in an environment frequently referred to as “The Great Resignation.” It’s also crucial to fund retention programs because companies with a revolving door will never win the fight for talent.

Chris observes that at 7-Eleven they empower talented employees the opportunity to progress their careers, which is embedded in the agile approach to working. 7-Eleven’s learning and development functions have more than doubled their headcount over the last 18 months and there’s a team of agile coaches across the enterprise for additional support.

All too often, retail is pigeonholed as part-time or casual employment, but retail can offer progression and rewarding careers. That’s why a central pillar of Myer’s retention strategy is letting people know career pathways are available to them. Daniel is a big believer in providing continuous feedback to top talent so they know their efforts are being recognised, that Myer is invested in their career and will support their learning and development.

Employers who focus on the attraction of new talent at the expense of their existing staff do so at their peril. To win the fight for talent, attraction and retention strategies need to be aligned and receive comparable focus and funding.