In 2015 2.8 million people were employed in UK retail generating £339 Billion in revenue. (Source Retail Economics Analysis).  Retail recruitment is therefore particularly important for everyone employed.  It is often said that people are what make a business.  No more so than in retail sales.   If you wish to create a pleasant shopping experience for your customers, then you need to recruit the right retail staff.  Recently Saville Consulting (an international assessment organisation) published in-depth research into what it is that those in the retail sector need to consider when recruiting staff.

Can you shop for the perfect candidate?

retail-imageThe obvious answer to that is you can shop but unless you know what you are looking for you will potentially fall short of recruiting ‘good’ people.  In the research, Saville Consulting worked with leading brands, including Harrods, Tesco, World Duty Free, Selfridges, Michael Kors and other leading retailers to identify the best retail talent as well as ensuring that those rejected for employment had a positive experience.  This is on the basis that a candidate is also a customer.  If candidates are treated well in the recruitment process, then they will also remain loyal customers.  In their research they have created a new model, ‘The Retail Behavioural Model’ in understanding what the critical behaviours are for employing retail staff.

The Retail Behavioural Model

The four key areas of behaviour important to retail are:

Solutions Focused

This behaviour is where excellent service and sales are driven by employees demonstrating product knowledge and applying that to understanding customer needs.  It was important for retail sales staff to understand customer requirements with the ability to establish what level of service it is they require; do they require one-to-one assistance or simply to enter, make a purchase and leave.

Customer Influence

Customer influence is seen as particularly important where stores were facing competition from online retailers.  The customer experience offered by retail staff was seen as a key differentiator between these two shopping formats for customers.  In defining what ‘good’ looks like for the shopping brand, a combination of behaviours – being able to establish rapport; provide an excellent level of service; creating a good customer experience; having the ability to apply expertise; as well as offering custom solutions for what is being sold, were important.

Team Working

Working collaboratively has strong links with success where importance is placed on understanding customer need, combined with supporting and spending time with customers.  A key theme from the research across the retail sectors was in dealing with challenging customers.  It is important for retail staff to be resilient and maintain self-belief so that in dealing with challenging customers or in not making sales, they have the ability to ‘bounce back’, and not let these aspects of the job affect future performance.

Get Up and Go

This set of behaviours focuses in on delivery, achieving results and maintaining standards by staff.  The Retail Behavioural Model is a calibrated set of behaviours designed to predict successful workplace performance for department stores.  These may of course vary depending on the role requirements, performance benchmarks, culture of the store and the shopping experience the store wishes to create.  Trying to create the ‘store culture’ is often dictated by the managers.  Research has shown that in this area when managers are in a ‘Bad Mood’ then ‘Bad Performance’ follows. (David 2016).

Candidates as Customers

When you begin the recruitment process for your business you must always remember that the applicants could include existing or potential customers.  If the applicant has a negative recruitment experience they are likely to share these feelings, potentially impacting on your brand.  This is not only likely to arise with large multi-nationals but in any retail business.  One leading media and telecoms provider found that in an 18-month period over 7,500 unsuccessful applicants terminated their subscription.  This equated to over £4.4 million in unexpected lost revenue. Therefore, the cautionary tale is that to protect your brand and finances it is particularly important to deliver a positive candidate experience when they apply for a position.  To do this the following four themes will go some way to lessening the impact of negative comments by unsuccessful candidates.

Theme 1 – Manage Expectations

Creating a realistic job preview of the position is a particularly good way in which to engage potential candidates.  The main reason why employees leave their job within the first three months is it ‘wasn’t what they were expecting’.  It is important to provide to candidates, the reality of what the job role entails.  Both the good aspects and the not so good.  By creating the right balance, candidates can self-select into applying which improves the calibre of potential employees.  This is a relatively simple exercise and can pay many dividends to the organisation.

Theme 2 – Using Technology

If you think of buying or paying for goods you want the process to be effective, efficient and easy to engage with.  Candidates when applying for positions also look to be able to complete applications or assessments online.  Embracing modern technology can positively influence the candidate experience by allowing a seamless end-to-end experience.

Theme 3 – Using your Brand

If Human Resources personnel approach candidates as customers and apply it to the assessment process they are likely to attract high calibre retail applicants.  Theming application forms with logos and or using multimedia technology will create an enhanced Employee Value Proposition and so will engage the right candidates that you want to serve your customers.

Theme 4 – Provide Feedback

Candidates spend some considerable time in applying for retail positions many with much excitement, only to be unsuccessful.  The most common complaint for candidates is in receiving little or no feedback on their application, test results or interview.  Providing transparency of the recruitment processes and timescales creates a picture of an organisation that has invested time and effort in treating individual candidates with respect.  It is likely that you will reject many candidates but by providing them with a positive impression of the service they have received, the business is likely to see them remain a customer or, even provide referrals to their family and friends as a result of receiving feedback.  A positive rejection strategy should be incorporated into the recruitment process at all times.

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Testing Talent are an independent firm of Occupational Psychologists offering professional assessment services to businesses in the retail sector.  Saville Consulting are one of the international test publishers we avail of in helping to identify talented and high calibre individuals for both large and small businesses.  Whilst the research has focussed on larger stores, the Retail Behavioural Model is equally applicable for smaller retailers and potentially more so.

If you wish further information, please contact us.