Widen Recruitment Net to Avoid HR Crisis


It’s not yet a crisis, but it’s getting closer.

Supermarkets will continue to have a more difficult time filling roles as Baby Boomers begin to retire. That shouldn’t be surprising, because it’s been predicted for some time.

But it leads to a crucial question: Are supermarkets doing everything they can to resolve this problem?

At least one seasoned observer says no.

Jose Tamez, managing partner in the Denver office of executive recruiting firm Austin-Michael, asserts that supermarkets are missing a prime opportunity, and his points are worth hearing.

As he sees it, supermarkets are in a tight spot in recruiting members of the Millennial generation. These younger workers like flexible hours, but the supermarket business doesn’t typically offer much flexibility. Millennials are users and lovers of new technology, but supermarkets are technology borrowers rather than innovators. This emerging generation is known for having lots of options in life and getting restless, yet much of the supermarket business is repetitive and systematic.

However, the key issue may not be about Millennials in general, but the pool of these candidates supermarkets are targeting, in particular for backbone roles like procurement, store operations and distribution/supply chain, Tamez observes. Retailers are largely eyeing candidates with four-year college degrees, yet often that profile isn’t the best fit, he says.

“Supermarkets would be better off targeting associate degree programs,” he says. “It fits their profile almost to a ‘T.’”


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Tamez contends that candidates with two years or less of college are particularly well aligned with supermarkets. They come from middle- to lower-middle-class households for which a four-year degree isn’t an option, due to finances. They are looking for avenues to go right into the workforce, with limited immediate expectations about rapid advancement. They are hard working and resourceful, as evidenced by the fact that many are in junior college and working at the same time.

Tamez sees opportunities for supermarkets to partner with junior colleges and build more certificate programs as pathways to learning the industry and trade.

Supermarkets would also do well to tap high school graduates for some roles, he says, as this segment has shown itself to be very loyal to food retail over the years, including having produced some of the industry’s top leaders.

So rather than just pouring energies into becoming more appealing to four-year college grads, Tamez urges retailers to become “innovative” by expanding their range of possibilities.

SN Data Points: Supermarket Industry Salary Table

“This requires a rigor and reframing that most talent acquisition and human resources teams are either unable to do due to company hiring models, or unwilling to do due to a paradigm shift that requires abandoning their own departmental process,” he contends.

My take is that Tamez makes some important points, although this approach may not be for all organizations. His solution should be considered as part of a comprehensive plan, which also includes becoming more Millennial-friendly, partnering more with academia at all levels, and maintaining good in-house training and continuing education programs to boost advancement.

That way companies will be firing on all cylinders, which is exactly what’s needed to attack the growing human resource challenge.

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Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on Nov 9, 2013

I agree with the recommendation, but offer for consideration a cliché but effective program I saw when Giant Food was a family owned company in MD. We promoted from within. Many store personnel found that there course of studies fit into positions we needed filled. When your Administrative and Management staff are filled with people who understand the culture and the mission of the company, they are very loyal and translate what they learn in school directly to something meaningful. We often spoke at Community Colleges about the advantage of people continuing their education after they saw the relevance in the context of the company they work for. Those people are highly motivated and have proven to us and themselves they have what it takes.
Always consider augmenting your recruiting with homegrown staff.

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Liz Webber

Liz Webber is Engagement Director / Fresh Market Editor at Supermarket News. She covers fresh foods for the magazine and creates multimedia, blog posts and other content for the website. She joined...

Elliot Zwiebach

Elliot Zwiebach has been with Supermarket News for more than 45 years — a span difficult for him to comprehend, having once been the youngest reporter on the staff. During that time he has...
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