Food Forum: Hiring top talent

Organized and cost-effective recruiting is key to hiring success in the grocery industry.

By Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer, iCIMS

Since 2008, the troubled economy has slowed hiring in many sectors ofsusanvitale6-13 the job market. One industry that has remained relatively stable is the grocery trade. Why? The products these retailers provide have an inflexible demand. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average American spent $200 less annually on dining out after 2008. Consumers have shifted to looking for bargains at local grocery stores, which has increased traffic at these businesses.

However, with the rising cost of food, grocery retailers have been struggling to keep prices down in order to compete for customers, resulting in smaller profit margins on products. As the grocery industry looks to reduce expenses across the board, human resource budgets are under scrutiny; recruiters are expected to make their pennies stretch when it comes to finding and hiring employees. Since staffing for the grocery industry is multi-dimensional (retail, warehouse and corporate), automation that offers flexibility across job types is key to creating a cost-effective processes. To maximize recruiting efforts while reducing expense, grocery retailers should follow these basic steps.

Effectively manage all levels
At times, grocery retailers need to manage high volumes of inbound candidate interest, so one of the biggest challenges of hiring is organization. Utilizing an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that can manage different processes across varied hire types can introduce efficiency by eliminating manual data entry and automatically sorting employment applications so top talent does not slip through the cracks. Additionally, an ATS can assist with pre-screening questionnaires regarding previous experience, shift availability and union requirements to assist with organization and compliance needs.

Build your brand     
Recruiters in the grocery industry have one huge advantage: Strong brand recognition among candidates. Leverage that brand name to connect with candidates and develop relationships with them. Talent acquisition software can display a consistent brand across all communications, like your career portal and HR emails to candidates.

Just as you want your retail website to reflect a positive brand, recruitment technology also serves as a reflection of that brand. A tedious online application process can turn candidates off and even reflect negatively on your overall brand. Shortening the process and removing manual entry by enabling candidates to upload their social media profile data (LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+) can also provide a more pleasant and efficient candidate experience.

Know your outlets
The use of social media now extends past brand building; these environments are also highly effective for finding potential employees. Currently, 73% of employers successfully hire candidates through social media outreach. In a world where there are over 300 social sites, choosing which ones to use is a strategic decision for recruiters.

When looking to source a part-time cashier, a retailer might turn to a young audience. Social media is a great way to target these candidates, as they have the highest social networking penetration of any generation and have the highest Facebook user counts: 65 million users. To tap into this audience, grocery retailers should focus their efforts on their company page. Posting job ads on Facebook can be helpful, but keeping candidates actively engaged on the company page ensures top talent is looking when an opening is posted. When it comes to corporate job openings, many grocery stores cite great results with LinkedIn, the environment where 77% of job ads are currently being placed.

Grocery recruiters that deploy an automated social media distribution tool for their open job postings will also gain insight into which channels perform best for specific positions. Another added benefit is that these tools improve the company’s ability to collect and track employee referrals—long known to be one of the best, most efficient sources of viable talent.

Creating an efficient, organized recruiting system engages candidates
By using an automated system, companies can cut down on the time, effort, and cost associated with the recruiting process. An organized, automated recruiting process can help retailers source candidates for several levels of hiring and function more effectively during periods of peak demand. Reinforcing the company brand with tailored communications and social media outreach engages potential new hires. While margins may be shrinking on product sales, grocery retailers can look to beef up profits by using talent acquisition software to reduce the hard- and soft-dollar costs associated with recruiting.

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