Shopping for talent: Retail HR trends

The retail sector has long been known for its unpredictability and fast pace of change. Consumers are notoriously fickle and as technology develops, even the way in which people make their purchases has shifted dramatically in recent years. Ever-changing customer behaviour presents new demands for HR professionals on an almost daily basis. After all, in retail, customer needs drive strategic objectives and HR has to ensure the necessary talent is in place to support these goals.

26th April 2017


At Cubiks, we recently carried out some research into retail HR and the specific issues and trends in this sector (please contact us if you would like to be sent the results.). To complement our survey, we invited leading retailers to attend a seminar and share their  views and experiences. This event was a great success, involving major retailers such as Boots UK. Some key themes emerged, and it became clear that retail HR professionals share a similar set of challenges.


Competing for the best talent 

Like everyone, retailers are looking for the best talent. By their nature, these organisations are competitive, and of course this has to extend to competing for top quality staff. Retailers need to stand out if they want to attract the right people, their selection processes must engage the best candidates and get them inspired by the role and the organisation.

But there’s the added challenge that applicants for crucial customer facing roles often come in high volumes, and to find out who’s most suitable they need to be assessed in depth. Our Sift Survey highlighted that people working in retail HR perceive the speed of selection as an area that needs improvement. But can expediting the process really balance with providing an engaging experience and thoroughly assessing candidates?

Yes it can. Attraction and assessment can be seamlessly combined. There are a wide range of interactive online sifting solutions available that enable employers to rigorously evaluate applicants, automatically scoring them against the critical competencies and only progressing the best onto the next stage.

It is important that these people are assessed against the competencies required for success in today’s retail environment, so profiles often need to be updated to reflect contemporary challenges. For example, the growing application of omnichannel retailing (extending a continuous customer experience through multiple channels, such as shops, mobile internet, catalogues, direct mail etc.) impacts on what retailers need from their staff. In light of this, retailers need to review their role profiles so that the most relevant competencies can be embedded in their sifting processes. At Cubiks, we can help employers decide which competencies matter most, establishing consensus by collating perspectives from multiple ‘job experts’ across the company.


Extending the customer experience to candidates 

To fully engage candidates, it is crucial that they have a great experience of the recruitment process. Retailers, more than any other sector are already identifying with this. In this sector there is, of course, a wealth of knowledge about providing a positive customer experience, and this can be applied when it comes to recruitment. By treating candidates like customers (which they could also be), retailers can transform this expertise into outstanding experiences for their potential employees.

Although this insight exists, many retailers are not yet applying it in practice. Whilst some are delivering ground-breaking recruitment innovations, as a whole our survey showed that the industry still sees attracting the right candidates as a key challenge. On top of this, only 3% of retail HR professionals who responded to our survey rated their overall recruitment process as ‘very effective’.

It is clear that across this sector there is huge potential to apply the specialist knowledge gained from working in this highly competitive and people focused industry to recruitment processes. Retailers aspire to achieving impactful, efficient selection processes; attracting talent with the right profile and in a time sensitive and cost effective way. These may seem like tall demands, but we’ve worked with retailers in the past and proven it is possible and has a clear ROI.

Cubiks has partnered with a number of retailers to implement successful online selection solutions. These incorporate a variety of important elements, including realistic role previews, impactful branding, consistent messaging and the opportunity for candidates to select themselves out of the process once they have learned more about the role.

The benefits of these interactive assessment processes are quickly felt by the employers that apply them. For instance, Cubiks assisted a world leading healthcare and pharmaceutical retailer with designing and implementing a new online selection system for its store colleagues. Soon after this was deployed, store Managers reported that they had saved significant time and had better quality candidates reaching the final stages. For this client, independent surveys also showed that there was a very marked increase in customer satisfaction after this solution was put in place.

The task of overhauling an established process can be a daunting one and this may be the reason why some retailers are holding back. It may seem like a heavy investment, but the value of reinvigorating your recruitment approach should not be underestimated. Getting it right from the start will make huge savings, as you reduce recruitment costs, hire better staff and retain them longer.

Although less tangible, there are also important commercial benefits. An outstanding candidate experience will help ensure that even failed applicants leave with a positive impression of your company. In a sector in which candidates are often customers (and can generate new business via word of mouth) this has a real impact.

To find out more about how Cubiks can support recrutiment in the retail sector, please get in touch with your local team or email

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