Building a talented workforce and strong bench has never been so complicated, given the ever-changing needs within organizations and the environmental challenges that are constantly evolving. Businesses not only surviving- also thriving following COVID shutdowns, have been quick to respond to ambiguity in unchartered waters without the luxury of utilizing data to guide important decisions. Although many retailers are leaning into technology and relying on digital and omni transformations to deepen relationships with customers, there is no substitute for personalized service and candid conversations. As a matter of fact, people are flocking back to stores and restaurants for social interaction, hungry for connection. Identifying talented individuals who strive to educate and delight the customer AND possess solid technical capabilities is no easy feat. Talent pools have narrowed, and competition is fierce in hospitality and retail, as many workers have left these industries to pursue more stable opportunities.  So how does a company effectively identify, attract and retain employees that further their mission and vision? Although answers may vary according to industry, there a few practices that have proven to be universally effective and have a low cost to the bottom line.

"Identifying talented individuals who strive to educate and delight the customer AND possess solid technical capabilities is no easy feat"

1. Create an Untraditional Workforce. Companies who exercise as much flexibility with employees as they do customers have increased engagement and better retention, especially for women who are struggling to choose between family and career. More and more organizations are open to gig workers who earn income from more than one source and require scheduling flexibility. For many, this is a career choice by necessity, rather than choice, given childcare issues and homeschooling challenges. Allowing employees to work remote has also reduced stress for many individuals who no longer want to contend with congested highways and can work comfortably from their own home. Some benefits include increased productivity and decreased employee relations issues. 

Hiring a Part Time or Gig worker can be very competitive and job seekers are not staying on the market for very long. It is very important to move candidates quickly through the hiring process and have them gainfully employed within a few days of the initial contact.   Conversion rates dramatically decline between the Interview and offer stages after 48 hours, due to demand. Offering part time benefits that don’t break the bank can be quite compelling for candidates, a few to consider might include a small life insurance benefit, dental or vision coverage.      

2. Seek Out Minority and Underrepresented Talent. DE&I awareness, along with a competitive landscape has increased the visibility of talented individuals who may have been overlooked in the past. Due to unconscious biases, there is a tendency to gravitate toward those who seem familiar, have a similar disposition or look like the current workforce. As a result, the possibility exists to miss minorities who may not have been given equitable opportunities to demonstrate their capabilities. Creating an interview process that includes a diverse panel and candidate slate can counter blind spots and even the playing field. Diverse representation creates diversity in thought and increased creativity. There are non-profit agencies who refer candidates, free of charge. For example, veterans remain under tapped, yet many possess discipline and offer strong technical skills, and leadership experience.

3. Develop Emerging Leaders and Get Out of the Way. Talent evaluations, calibrations and succession planning sessions are part of most human capital’s calendar of events. Mere execution does not ensure strong talent planning or mitigate the risk of critical position vacancies. Senior leaders must demonstrate a commitment to developing direct reports personally, as well as professionally. There is no replacement for spending time with an individual, understanding their desired career trajectory and working together to develop an Individual Development Plan that is multi-faceted. Areas of focus may include experiential learnings, stretch assignments, readings, certifications, external network affiliations, mentorships, and the list goes on. Regular check-ins are essential to monitor and track progress and provide guidance as well as course correct as needed.  While it may be tempting to interject and take over when things aren’t going as well as expected, continued autonomy and empowerment will develop confidence and innovation in problem solving.  

Employee Resource Groups (ERG) provide opportunities for associates to connect with one another, learn about different backgrounds and cultures, as well as share concerns and seek guidance in a safe place. Establishing 1-2 groups initially is better than creating multiple groups at once. It takes time to select an appropriate steering committee and solidify a vision that others want to get behind. The more individuals connect with one another and feel supported, the less likely they are to jump ship during times of uncertainty.  

Gallup’s Q10, “I have a best friend at work” goes a long way when competitors attempt to poach talent. Creating opportunities that promote collaboration, friendship and social connection increase engagement and give workers a reason to want to get out of bed and look forward to coming to work.