Recruiting Diverse Talent in the Food Industry: Strategies for Success

Just over 50 percent of food industry professionals are racially diverse, making the food industry the most diverse workforce in the nation. 

However, it has an unpleasant truth. 

That unpleasant truth is the massive representation gap in senior leadership positions. 

As a woman-owned executive search firm specializing in placing talent in the food and beverage industry, we pride ourselves on our track record of over half of Curtis Foods Recruiter’s placements are people of color and females.

This blog aims to share with you five strategies we have learned over 14 years in business to help food and consumer packaged goods leaders hire diverse talent. 

Remove Unconscious Bias 

Before actively recruiting for executive diverse talent, it’s extremely important to understand unconscious bias.  

What is Unconscious Bias?  

Research has uncovered that as humans, we use different sections of our brains to process interactions with people who are similar to us compared with people who are different. Upon first glance of someone different, we have an unconscious tendency to judge them based on stereotypes, appearance, skills and ultimately, whether they should be hired or interviewed.

It’s important to note that experiencing unconscious bias doesn’t make you a bad person. Even the best-intended individuals go through unconscious biases on a regular basis all without ever knowing it.  

How to Reduce it 

Tackling this invisible barrier is not something that occurs overnight, it takes time, practice, and the right tools. The first step to reducing unconscious bias is to recognize when it happens. We strongly recommend reading any or all of these 11 Must-Read Books on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to help. 

In addition, there are several strategies you can deploy now to limit unconscious bias in your recruiting efforts. 

Ensure Your Job Descriptions are not Deterring People from Different Groups from Applying

Determine what aspects of the role are required and what aspects others can bring to the role. Is a bachelor’s degree truly required to be successful in this role? Could prior experiences determine this person’s ability to be successful in the job? Be clear in the job posting which requirements are critical and which are a plus – women are often deterred from applying for a role if they don’t meet all requirements in the job posting.  

Be Strategic with Your Interviewing 

When interviewing, ensure that there are rubrics established for the interviewers to evaluate the candidates against the requirements of the role. Be able to quantify intangibles that come out of the meeting so they can be measured equitably. 

Cultural Competence  

Be aware that some traits may be valued more than others, and some may be misinterpreted (such as eye contact, expressiveness, and close communication for example). Be prepared to ask more questions if the hiring manager doesn’t want to move forward with a candidate to determine exactly what their hesitations may be.

Leverage Sourcing Tools  

Harness the power of an artificial intelligence sourcing tool to intelligently remove unconscious bias so your team can have a bias-free candidate pool. 

Aim for Half of Your Candidates to be Diverse  

The golden rule of recruiting is to simply hire the best possible candidate regardless of race, orientation, gender, and ethnicity.  

The biggest obstacle to achieving this is often when diversity is not represented in the candidate pool. To prevent this, we found that having a goal of at least 50 percent of candidates being from diverse backgrounds is critical to ensure you’re getting the best possible candidate. In our experience, more than half of the time the final candidate happens to be diverse and the best cultural contribution. 

Get Creative with Your Recruiting  

Searching for qualified, leadership-level diverse talent may seem extremely difficult at first, but in reality, it just takes a little creativity and strategy. Here are a few tips collected from our team to help you find your next qualified diverse candidate.  

Network with Diversity Groups 

Join diversity and inclusion LinkedIn groups, attend conferences that attract diverse crowds or cover diverse subjects, and start having meaningful conversations across various networking channels. Here are a few groups we recommend staying in contact with: 

If you’re not having any luck, explore unconventional routes like Reddit, volunteer work, and even community events. 

Ask 

Perhaps the best way to find, engage, and ultimately attract high-level diverse talent is to ask them first-hand where they spend their time. Interview diverse employees, families, and friends to see where they go online and how you could better reach them. Odds are good they would be more than happy to help you on your mission to hire more diverse people. In addition, referrals from diverse hires or employees tend to be more diverse.

Campus Recruiting / Career Fairs 

Attend career fairs in diverse neighborhoods to better connect with the community. Explore campus recruiting programs as a source of talent to build a leadership pipeline for the future.  Even better, offer scholarships and internships to diverse communities as a way to signal your commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Partner with a Search Firm 

Some of the industry’s largest and most qualified diverse talent pools are generally located within the database of recruiting agencies and search firms. Many businesses looking to build up their diverse workforce often partner with search firms to find, vet, and hire diverse talent.  

Consider Relocation 

Another obstacle that plagues most hiring managers looking to bring on diverse executives is recruiting in areas with homogeneous demographics.  

We totally get it, there are definitely many areas throughout the nation with a low percentage of diverse citizens. To help combat this, we often encourage candidates to look outside their comfort zone and consider a new adventure in a new city. Additionally, with COVID-19, many jobs are now able to be remote, which greatly widens the search.  

Champion a Culture of Inclusion 

Diversity and inclusion are one of the top three priorities for nearly every business in 2020 but it’s so much more than just hitting D&I numbers and goals, it’s about building a culture with a foundation of inclusion. When senior leadership is motivated by constructing a culture that is focused on diversity of thought, that is when the door can be open to a more inclusive culture. After all, only 55 percent of global employees feel that their employers were making efforts to build a more inclusive culture.  

Leaders need to be a part of the conversation and take active steps to help the entire organization understand and leverage everyone’s differences. Here’s a few examples of tangible ways your business can build a foundation of inclusion that will attract top-tier diverse talent.  

  • Design a mentorship program that encourages and helps grow women and diverse employees within the organization. 
  • Establish a diversity and inclusion committee that makes sure everyone feels included in the conversation.  
  • Survey employees and ask how your company can better build out a diversity and inclusion foundation. Be prepared to enact changes to meet the employee’s needs. 
  • Clearly define the values of your organization and ensure leaders are accountable to upholding those values.     
  • Ensure that you are developing and advancing the career of diverse employees already at your organization. 
  • Review your interview process over the last year or two and determine where candidates in underrepresented groups have fallen out of the process. Determine where improvements to the process could be made.

We genuinely hope you found this blog helpful on your quest to hire more diversity in executive positions. It’s our sincere goal to help employ more diverse and qualified talent in the food industry. If you have any questions or need any help around hiring diverse talent, we’d love to connect! 

About Curtis Food Recruiters 

As a full-service executive search firm, Curtis Food Recruiters is in a unique position that allows us to independently evaluate food manufacturing and grocery retail companies’ hiring processes, from the perspective of both the talent acquisition team and the candidate. Contact us today and we’ll leverage our vast industry experience to ensure you not only attract—but keep—the best diverse talent on the market.

A Guide to In-Person Interviews During Covid-19

*This article is merely food for thought. Please follow your state and local guidelines.

We are all well aware of how greatly COVID-19 has impacted our day-to-day lives. While we strive for a return to normal, we know that our in-person interview process will require a “new normal.”

Companies are still hiring, and many roles cannot be filled without an on-site interview. Begin by determining the roles where an offer can be comfortably made through video interviews and which roles truly require an on-site interview.

The following are a few suggestions for employers on how to conduct those interviews as safely as possible and keep your candidate and staff feeling comfortable with the process.   

Gone are the interviews full of handshakes, office tours, lunches, and dinners.

Unfortunately, that also takes away the opportunity to get to know candidates on a more relaxed level and vice versa. Reaching out to your candidates ahead of time and letting them know that the interview process has changed due to the current conditions may help to set expectations and ensure that your candidate understands you’re operating out of the utmost concern for safety.

Even though the “warm fuzzy” will not be there, communicating expectations ahead of time will help prevent the candidate from feeling an emotional distance with you and your company.

Steps to take prior to travel and the day of the interview

Before your candidate travels, know that they may have a level of anxiety regarding the unknown situation they are walking into, especially if they’re traveling from out of state. Try to calm that feeling by letting them know specifically how your company will be handling safety while they are interviewing.

  1. Closely monitor for symptoms

Candidates should be asked to monitor their health and surroundings and self-assess prior to travel as well as the day of the interview for symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, etc.). If they are experiencing symptoms, have been directed to self-quarantine, or have been in close contact with anyone in the past 14 days that tested positive for COVID-19, they should notify the interview team and the interview should be rescheduled.

  1. Provide a detailed agenda

Let your candidate know ahead of time who they will be meeting with (include titles) and for how long. Give them details around how breaks will be taken and what facilities will be available to them. Also be sure to provide information on the interview space and your distancing protocols.

  1. Prepare resumes and other items

Make sure to email your interview team a copy of the candidates’ resume that they can print out on their own, in order to help avoid spreading germs. In addition, notify the candidate to bring their own resume, mask, water, and snack if appropriate.

Walk them through the process so they know what to expect

Here are some examples of how you can handle safety during the interview:

  • When your candidate arrives at the facility, let them know that you will greet them without using handshakes.
  • Ask the candidate to wash their hands prior to the meeting.
  • Ensure that everyone the candidate interacts with is wearing a mask and be ready to provide the candidate with a mask if they do not have one.
  • If you need to use an elevator or stairwell, let them know this ahead of time and instruct them that they will be using the elevator alone, or plan on single spacing when using the stairs.
  • For groups, try to meet in a larger or more open conference area.
  • Prior to the interviews, set up tables in a circle, horseshoe, or other format to ensure that people are spaced appropriately apart, yet are still able to see and hear each other clearly.
  • Try to limit the number of people in the group interview to only those that are essential. Consider breaking into two or more interview groups if needed.
  • Have doors propped open when possible.
  • Make disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer readily available to everyone before and after the interviews.
  • Ensure that surfaces throughout the facility are being cleaned and disinfected at regular intervals. Schedule breaks after each interview to sanitize all surfaces in the interview room, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, etc.
  • Ask everyone to wear masks until they are seated at a comfortable distance from others in the interview room.
  • During plant or retail store visits, keep all talking to a minimum and reserve questions until afterward.
  • Provide a virtual tour of the facility wherever possible. Include detailed photos and consider incorporating a virtual guide to give it more of a personal touch.

Don’t forget to follow up with the candidate

Request that the candidate keep you informed if anything changes in their health up to 14 days after your interview.

In addition, consider having each of the interview team members send a personal email to the candidate, especially if it’s someone you decide you want to hire. This will provide a more personal touch and an opportunity to build those individual relationships. If you really want to impress your candidate, consider sending a note or even some company gear to their home.

Final thoughts

We wish you much luck as you navigate these challenging times. Planning ahead and considering all the details of the interview day will provide a level of comfort for the candidate, help your interview team, and ensure a successful interview process while helping keep everyone safe.

Happy hiring!

For more ideas on hiring strategies during these uncertain times, be sure to read Adjusting Your Hiring Process Amidst COVID-19 and Improving Your Hiring Process: How to Keep Candidates from Walking Away.

As a full-service executive search firm, Curtis Food Recruiters is in a unique position that allows us to independently evaluate food manufacturing and grocery retail companies’ hiring processes, from the perspective of both the talent acquisition team and the candidate. Contact us today and we’ll leverage our vast industry experience to ensure you not only attract—but keep—the best talent on the market.

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Gratitude, Giving & Growth

During these chaotic times, it is more important than ever to make sure we are walking through the world with a grateful heart. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t feel disappointed or grieve the loss of our old routines or cancelled events, quite the contrary is true. By developing an appreciation for even the most difficult days, we appreciate the joyous ones that much more.   

We have found great insight in Annie Meehan’s webinar “The Joy of Missing Out” which focuses on three core principles: Gratitude, Giving & Growth.   

  1. Gratitude – what are you grateful for today? Did you have the privilege of waking up to a loved one or job that you’re passionate about? Did you admire a beautiful sunset or enjoy dinner with your family? This helps you shift your mindset to notice even the little things that are worth celebrating every day.  
  1. Giving – what did you give away today? A compliment? Advice? A kind note? This takes gratitude a step further into true generosity – from self-focused to selfless. Make it a point to do even just small acts of kindness every day. This will not only deepen your relationships, but it will create a more meaningful life. 
  1. Growth – what did you learn or how did you grow today? Did you attend a seminar? Did you watch a TED talk? Did you invite a new neighbor for a virtual coffee date? This takes generosity to the next step – Having a full life is not just about who you are today, it’s also about developing who you want to become. Expanding your universe intellectually, socially, or professionally brings gratitude full circle, allowing you to recognize appreciation for your circumstances that you may not have otherwise.   

We hope you all are surviving this chaos with as much gratitude, generosity & growth as possible!  

If you want to learn more visit https://www.anniemeehan.com

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Thank you notes

Thank youWhen I receive a  thank you note, whether it is in the mail or electronic it truly one of my favorite things. Not so long ago almost anyone knew how to write a thank you note, so how did we lose this skill?  When I ask my kids about this they respond with ” well I said thank you, isn’t that enough?” Somewhere between rushing to sporting events, concerts and life in general,  I have failed them.  Admitting it is the first step right? My girls are applying for their first jobs this summer and I have created a guideline for them to follow for thank you notes after their interviews, it doesn’t matter if it is your first job at a fast food restaurant or if you are interviewing for a Vice President role the rules are the same.

Following an interview, promptly write the interviewer a letter expressing appreciation and thanks for the interview.  The purpose of this letter is to:

  1. Show appreciation for their interest in you and thank them for taking the time to meet with you.
  2. Let them know that you are interested in the position.
  3. Remind the employer about your qualifications for the position. If you thought of something you forgot to mention in the interview, mention it in the thank-you note.
  4. Show that you have good manners and are thoughtful.
  5. Follow up with any information the employer may have asked you to provide after the interview.

Hand written or electronic?

  1. Thank-you letters can be typed, handwritten or e-mailed.
  2. A well crafted email is perfect for following up on a conversation. Be mindful to send different emails to anyone you send them to.
  3. Handwritten are more personal, and would be appropriate for a hiring manager after you have been offered a position.
  4. E-mail is appropriate, when that has been how you have had contact with the person you want to thank, or if you want to get it to them expeditiously.

You don’t have to write a novel, just three sentences,  a greeting, and a close, are all you need to get this job done. It will get you noticed and I’m sure they will appreciate you taking your time to thank them and if anything you have spread a little kindness into the world!

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Phone Etiquette

PhoneImagine how nervous you are doing one phone interview, as Food Recruiters we can do as many as 5 to 10 phone interviews in one day. Phone interview etiquette is just as important as in-person job interview etiquette when it comes to getting hired. It tells the interviewer a lot if you take the time to give them your full attention and are engaged during the call.  If you’re selected for a phone interview, prepare just as carefully as you would for a  traditional interview.  Research, confirm the date and time, have questions ready for the interviewer and prepare to make a great impression.  Here are additional suggestions for preparation:

Prepare for your day – This might sound strange, but your appearance  matters on the phone almost as much as it does during a face-to-face interview. You will have more confidence dressed in business casual than you will in your pajamas.  A  memorable piece of advice I once received was that “people can hear a smile”. Focus on the interviewer, smile, and think positive. You’ll make a better impression.

Use a land line – Cell phones are wonderful, but not always reliable.   A  dropped call, cellular static  or getting disconnected can ruin an otherwise great interview.

Get rid of the distractions – Interview in a private, quiet space. That means having someone watch your children and kick the dog, the cat, and the rest of the household members out of your interview space. Please, no driving while interviewing. Pull over or schedule another time where you can give the interviewer your full attention.

Be aware of what you are doing Swinging in your chair, pacing the floor or fidgeting can all be heard over the telephone. Tapping on a pencil, clicking a pen and other nervous habits are distracting and come across as lacking self-confidence.  Practice good body language and it will positively affect the tone of your voice. When you feel good you look and sound good. Remember to smile!

Don’t interrupt – Listen carefully to the question and answer the question to the best of your ability. Be concise and to the point without rambling. Be careful not to interrupt the interviewer because you think you know what he or she is about to ask. It is alright to take a few seconds to think before responding, thoughtful answers are best.

Be prepared with questions for your interviewer – When the interviewer asks whether you have any questions for him or her, make sure that you do! Review your questions and have a few ready in advance.  It will show that you have done your research and are interested in the position.

Follow up – Ask for the interviewer’s email address, if you don’t already have it. Send out a thank you immediately, thanking the interviewer and showing your interest in the job. Let them know you are available to answer any other questions they may have.

It comes down to being your best self! Even if the job is not something you might be suited for keep in mind that you are always networking and making those connections so it is important to make a good impression!

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Creating a Safe Haven for Bees and Monarchs, Alexis Hoopman

bee on sunflowerAs I sit outside (on a gorgeous non-snowy day in MN) admiring my garden this summer I am reminded of all of the different articles I have read regarding  bee colony collapse disorder and the significantly dwindling numbers of monarch butterflies. Both play an important role in gardening and our agricultural system as a whole. Wondering what I could do to help with these situations, I did a little research and thought I would share some of the tips and simple steps that I discovered that we can all do to support these invaluable contributors to our gardens and farms.

Bees

Worker bees have been abandoning their queens, and their hives, in record numbers only to die and leave their hives empty. This is a big concern due to the fact that bee pollination adds $15 billion in increased crop value to our country’s agriculture each year. According to the USDA, “About one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination.” There are numerous theories that contribute this bee tragedy to everything from pesticides to global changes or even parasites, but an exact cause has yet to be determined. The good news is that we can help the bees.  Planting pollinator friendly plants is a great way to support the bee population. Marigolds, daisies and native plants will keep bees coming back to your yard and pollinating away. In addition, be very discriminating in the pesticides that you choose. The Honeybee Conservancy has a great step by step guide for creating a bee friendly habitat in your own yard. http://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/act-today-2/plant-a-bee-garden/.

Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterfly populations have also been on the decline in recent years, most likely due to logging in Mexico (where Monarchs like to winter), climate changes and GMO corn which hosts a bacterium that is toxic to butterflies. In addition, many of the herbicides utilized in modern farming kills off the milkweed plants in the fields, which Monarchs prefer to all other plants

 

When you’re in the process of putting together your bee garden, add a bunch of native milkweed plants and you will have a very happy Monarch population to observe as well. Butterflies lay their eggs on milkweeds and their caterpillars utilize the pods as their sole form of nutrition during  this stage of development.  The food and shelter that milkweed plants provide are critical to sustaining the Monarch species. It also happens that honey bees enjoy milkweeds as well, so this is a win-win for both insects

I encourage you to do your own research as you begin to strategize your yard for the summer. There are countless resources available on line, and of course, your local greenhouse or nursery will be happy to help point you in the right direction. It always feels good to help, and this type of help can impact more than just the beauty of your garden, but also the food on your plate .

 

 

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3 fears that trap midlife women in unhappy work -By Kathy Caprino

Virtually every week, I hear from scores of midlife professionals around the globe who long for something more, different or better in their jobs and careers, but can’t seem to get out of the gate to take action or decide the best directions to pursue.

At the heart of these questions is one key element: fear. But fear about career change disguises itself in myriad confusing ways that we don’t recognize as fear. The research I’ve conducted over the past 13 years reveals three top fears that keep midlife professionals locked in unhappy careers and in quiet (and not so quiet) desperation, sometimes for a lifetime.

Here they are:

https://www.newonline.org/news-insights/blog/mid-career/3-fears-trap-midlife-women-unhappy-work

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Pointers when facing a layoff

RIF, Downsize, Restructure, Layoff: Words that can make you question the when, what, where and how’s of all aspects of your life. However, going through this does not have to be the end to your career as you know it. Three simple tips to keep in mind, and you’ll begin your new adventure before you know it!

resume paper with pen and black keyboard on wooden surface

1) Follow Your Gut Your gut instinct is most likely whispering to you that something may be going on. Things feel different, projects may have been cancelled, your workload has changed or the industry as a whole has suffered a setback. Chances are, your role could be changing as well. When you know that this could be an option, rather than waiting to see what comes, this is a great time to begin networking. Reach out to your old colleagues and supervisors, attend industry events, reach out to those great recruiters that you have become acquainted with over the years.

2) Write and Re-Write – If it has been one week or ten years since you revamped your resume, take time to tailor it to the opportunity that you desire next. One massive executive summary won’t do it; highlight the key accomplishments with each employer and take the time to match your skill set to the opportunity you are seeking.

3) Take a Breath If severance is part of you package, make sure that you have enough to cover your expenses until the next opportunity begins, BUT, if you can take a little time for yourself. There are very few times in life when you can take a moment to evaluate your next move. Allow yourself a little down time in between interviewing and networking, maybe even see a movie in the middle of the day or take a mid-week trip.

Keep calm, focus on your strengths and your next adventure will begin before you know it!

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Eight Questions To Consider Before Selecting An Executive Search Firm -Karen Greenbaum

POST WRITTEN BY

Karen Greenbaum

Karen Greenbaum is President and CEO of the global Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC).

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CEOs and C-suite executives often identify failure to attract and retain top talent as their No. 1 business issue. The key to success is having the right leaders leading in the right way. Aiding in this are executive talent search and assessment providers, who can profoundly impact businesses. As President and CEO of AESC, the global association that represents best practices in the executive search and leadership consulting profession, I am often asked about what to look for before signing an agreement with an executive search firm. How do CEOs, boards of directors and the broader C-suite know if they are dealing with a quality and ethical executive search firm?

Here I share with you what to look for before signing an agreement:

1. How deep is their access? Core to the value of executive search firms is their ability to interest and engage top candidates who are successful and satisfied in their current roles. Experienced executive search advisors will have access to the highest-performing leaders within an industry. These candidates are concerned about confidentiality, and trust is essential. They are not willing to risk a leak that could negatively impact their current role or the firm they lead. These candidates are typically more comfortable with an outside advisor who is not part of the hiring organization, providing the executive candidate a more comfortable relationship to explore a potential new opportunity on a discreet basis.

2. Will they ensure confidentiality? Trust is not only critical to the candidate, but it is also critical to the client organization. High-performing organizations cannot afford to risk either internal or external uncertainty about a CEO or highly influential executive’s standing or tenure within a company. Any perceived uncertainty can have a profound negative impact on the internal organizational culture and the external brand, and can reduce confidence among customers, shareholders and other stakeholders. An ethical search firm will ensure that a search will be held in the most confidential and discreet manner.

 

3. Will they be objective? Business leaders seek external counsel and strategic advice often because they are too close to the action themselves and seek other angles. A quality executive search consultant will bring depth and breadth of experience — beyond one firm, one industry, one market and even one position. This experience can be invaluable in terms of providing objectivity and bringing strategic expertise about the marketplace to the table. They understand talent availability, trends in terms of new requirements of functional leaders, the qualities required when transformation is essential and so much more. The right firm will help clients envision new possibilities and uncover pain points, with empathy and from the perspective of experience.

4. Can they help you attract the best? With a quest for innovation, there is an increased demand to attract a diverse slate of top executive candidates who can deliver fresh perspectives to the hiring organization. Quality executive search firms understand this priority and have focused on expanding their own networks beyond the “usual suspects” to identify top talent. Quality advisors will be able to have direct and sometimes difficult conversations with their clients about their own employer brand and desirability as a destination for leaders. Today, high-potential, high-demand talent have many options and are highly selective. They want to be sure they are making a move to an organization where there is a strong culture fit and where they are most likely to succeed.

5. Do they have the expertise? A quality executive search consultant will have an experience-backed understanding of the market, the industry and the evolution of key functional leadership roles. These trends are critical in the search for not only the leaders of today, but those who can lead an organization through transformation for the future. With changing requirements, often it is essential to not only look for talent within an industry, but outside the industry. This is where years of experience and understanding how to assess for learning agility become critical.

6. What are their assessment capabilities? As a trusted advisor, a quality executive search consultant will take their deep knowledge of the industry, the organization and the role and assess candidates against these requirements to ensure that a candidate not only looks good on paper, but will be the right leader for the organization and its strategic focus. The unique advantage an outside trusted advisor can bring to this process are the years of experience across markets, industries and functions, combining the art and the science of assessment to this critical process — beginning with a preliminary assessment and then getting much more in depth with the finalist candidates.

7. Will they help you prepare for succession? Organizations that think beyond “today” also understand the critical need to think about the leaders for tomorrow, both internally and externally. This is the time when organizations take a hard look at the next generation of leaders and ensure that they are developing a diverse group of leaders for the future. Quality executive search firms will bring their talent assessment and marketplace expertise to this critical process to help CEOs, boards and the broader C-suite build a high-performance leadership team both for today and tomorrow.

8. Can they minimize risk? Highly qualified executive search consultants reduce the risk of making the wrong hire. The risks associated with an unsuccessful hire can be catastrophic. The selection of the right trusted advisor ensures that the entire process is a success.

Karen Greenbaum is President and CEO of the global Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC).
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How grocers can retain quality employees -Torrey Kim

Torrey Kim 

January 24, 2018

One of the best ways that grocers can keep customers coming back is to give them an excellent shopping experience, and that often starts with a high-quality grocery staff. But finding top-notch talent can be a challenge for retailers. Grocers can counter those challenges by looking for a few telltale traits up front, which can help solidify the odds of finding and keeping excellent staff.

Seek high-level customer service

Although some grocers consider scheduling flexibility the top trait they seek when recruiting retail staff, it’s actually not the best way to find talent that will last, says Mike Hamaker, director of grocery recruiting with iRiS Recruiting Solutions. Instead, he advises, look for applicants with excellent customer service skills.

“This stands the test of time,” Hamaker said. “Grocery stores are currently in a state of change. Customer service is one aspect of each grocery store that must remain present and strong. Without strong customer service, the experience in the store will diminish and so will the customers.”

In other words, Hamaker stresses, grocers should look at interviewees as a shopper would — not as the store manager would. “Flexibility is nice, but not really a trait that makes a grocer who they are. When we go shop a store, we don’t go there for flexibility of the associates, we go there because of price, convenience, service or selection,” he said. “The one thing that remains after everything else is how we are treated and felt about our service, that is what brings customers back time and time again.”

Look for willingness, drive

In addition to seeking interviewees with strong customer service skills, you should also look for applicants who have a strong work ethic, says Julie Curtis of Curtis Food Recruiters, which places executive-level leaders within grocery retail, wholesale and food manufacturing.

“Candidates that have a proven track record of a good work ethic will move your business forward much more than someone that can work the late shift,” Curtis says. “People that have a willingness and drive to learn your business will be the best hires. The retailer must them give them opportunities to take on cross-functional roles and more responsibility. Most people want an opportunity to grow their career, so give them a road map.”

Once hired, hold employees accountable

After a store hires staff members, management should both nurture them and hold them accountable, Hamaker says. “Store-level associates are the first line of defense against the competition. The reality for many retailers/grocers who don’t differentiate themselves will be extinction. There isn’t room for average retailers with the level of competition continuing to increase.”
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grocery staffretail staffhiring grocery staffMike HamakerCurtis Food Recruiters

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