Retail’s Biggest Gamble:
Getting Boots on the Ground

Too often, in too many retail businesses, people strategy is all about getting a fully-manned shift. About having enough boots on the ground to deliver your service and keeping your existing workforce on-side by ensuring they’ve got enough colleagues beside them on the shop-floor. Over-stretched hiring communities and store managers usually have the time, money and resource to focus on one thing only: getting someone to do the job.

This ‘boots on the ground’ approach to hiring leaves retail businesses juggling both poor performance and high employee turnover, which inevitably has a negative effect on the bottom line. When Chemistry works with retail businesses, it’s our aim to transform this inefficient and ineffective pattern of recruitment. We believe it shouldn’t be about getting someone to do the job, but about getting the right person to do the job. When someone leaves the business or an HR function is faced with demanding seasonal hiring targets, there shouldn’t be a scramble to fill the gaps; there should be a pool of the ‘right’ people ready and waiting to do the job.

Think about it: if you put a job vacancy sign in a shop window, what are the chances of someone walking past and applying who’ll be brilliant for the job? Someone who’ll be a true cultural fit for your retail brand? The chances of someone walking past who needs a job are high; the chances of them genuinely being the right person for the job, however, are low. This approach to hiring, whether it’s the old-school sign in shop window or the result of a retail business’ HR function being inundated with volumes of applications that it’s simply impossible to deal with manually and objectively, means businesses are effectively leaving their entire hiring process to chance. It’s the biggest gamble the retail industry takes – and on a daily basis, too.

And there’s simply no need for retail businesses to be making this people gamble. Getting the right people to do the job is key to differentiating brand experience and genuinely driving better commercial outcomes. Businesses should therefore be focusing on getting the right people rather than getting a fully-manned shift. By now, you’re probably wondering who the ‘right’ people are and how you can ever know that they’re the right people? Well, that’s the easy bit…

The right people are the ones who will perform like the best people you’ve already got in your business. They’re the ones who’ll be capable and motivated to deliver your unique retail brand experience brilliantly. They’ll be engaged and productive employees. At Chemistry, we define the right people as being the embodiment of What Great Looks Like (WGLL™). WGLL™ is essential to finding the best people for your retail business. If you define the behaviours associated with the high performers you already have, you can screen for those behaviours in your hiring process to find the people who match that profile, consistently and at scale.

When Chemistry started working with House of Fraser in the run-up to Christmas 2014, we delivered a two-step solution based entirely on What Great Looks Like for the role they were hiring for and What Great Looks Like in their unique business context. They came to us for help because they had never met their hiring target for the Christmas season; they had never, according to targets, got enough boots on the ground. We helped House of Fraser transform its approach to seasonal hiring with a solution that was so successful that all temporary Christmas jobs were filled ahead of time for the first time in their history. They even had a waiting list.

It was so successful, in fact, that the following year, Sam Ramsay, House of Fraser’s Head of Resourcing and Employer Brand, asked us to extend our work to the recruitment of permanent salespeople – after all, ‘boots on the ground’ isn’t just a problem at Christmas. After our first year of working together, House of Fraser were hitting 8 out of 10 successful hires, when they’d previously been averaging just 2.5 out of 10. Sam Ramsay also reported that recruitment was no longer the most important topic at the regional manager’s meeting – another first in the organisation’s history.

At Chemistry, we understand that time and money constraints mean a ‘boots on the ground’ approach to hiring is all that many retail hiring teams can manage. Our Select hiring platform tackles this problem head-on, delivering an efficient and effective hiring process that can objectively deal with high volumes of applications and alleviate the challenge of seasonal hiring. By filtering out the candidates who are the best fit for the role and the brand, hiring communities are given the breathing space to focus only on the best candidates and quality of hire is dramatically improved; they could even end up with a bank of ‘right for them’ candidates. What retailer wouldn’t want that?

May, 11, 2017