Nick Speight, Director of Culture & Colleague Experience at The Co-op

Nick Speight, Director of Culture & Colleague Experience at The Co-op, discusses staff recruitment and retention

Engaging with local communities and creating a great candidate experience have been identified as key to attracting and retaining staff in retail.

Speaking at The Convenience Conference, The Co-op Group’s director of culture & colleague experience Nick Speight, explained how the business is tackling what he describes as “one of the most challenging labour markets on record”.

“Average employee turnover rates have increased by 9% since 2019, and are predicted to pass 40% in 2023,” he said. “On average, it takes over 40 days to find and hire a new employee. And the cost of replacing a member of a team is around 25% of their annual salary.

“Recruitment and retention is frequently reported as one of the biggest challenges for all employers, with 63% of HR leaders saying they’re worried about staff retention.”

He said the increasing cost of living is also having an effect on worker loyalty, as many decide the only way to survive financially is to look for a higher paying job elsewhere.

He stressed that while money is important, staff also want other elements in place such as a good work-life balance. “Colleagues don’t just want financial reward. They want a good workplace culture. And they want good teammates and a great boss. They want the work-life balance and they want good workplace benefits.”

He urged retailers to take a leaf out of the Co-op model by focusing on four areas:

· Figure out selling points of your business

· Maximise digital profile

· Engage local communities

· Create a great candidate experience

Speight said retailers looking to hire staff should make more of the tools at their disposal. “Put up posters in stores but you’ve got to make them bold, noticeable and simple in their messaging. Also use local events - many councils run recruitment fairs for local employers, and you can easily access them for free, or a very low cost. And don’t forget referrals - some of the best hires come through recommendations by established colleagues. So actively encourage teams to think about whether you know anyone who wants to work for you. And think about how you might incentivise them to do so. You could offer vouchers, bottles, or time off in the form of an extra day’s holiday.”

Embracing digital was also advised when looking for new staff. “Most job seekers these days will use the web to search for suitable roles. And while not all businesses can afford to pay for advertising, there are plenty of places online where you can get in front of candidates with little or no investment. Obviously on social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok, they’re all used by employers to promote jobs and career opportunities. They’re all free to join and they enable a two-way conversation with potential candidates.”

He added that it’s also important to make the application process as good as an experience as possible. “We often fail to treat everyone who applies for our jobs with the same kind of respect and courtesy we offer to our customers. And in the current candidate lead job market, we need to sell our business to job seekers just as much as they need to sell themselves to us.

“The recruitment process needs to leave a positive impression with everyone who participates. And remember that every candidate is a customer, and every candidate knows customers in the local community. So we need to make sure that the recruitment experience is friction free, fair and engaging.”