2021 Predictions: What’s Next for Talent Acquisition in Retail & Grocery?

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Based on data from Square, the share of the retail businesses that continued operating throughout the pandemic and accepted an online payment went from 38% in February, before the pandemic, to 51% in July. Retailers that added online purchase options during the early days of the shutdown will likely not revert to operating models that don’t include e-commerce once the pandemic is under control, as consumers will continue to expect these options to be available.

What Changes Will We See in the Retail and Grocery Talent Landscape in 2021?

While the pandemic rapidly accelerated trends in e-commerce that have been building for years, the shift from in-store transactions and toward e-commerce will likely drop in 2021 as it becomes easier and safer to transact in person again. However, we will not return to where we were before the pandemic. The retail industry embraced e-commerce to stay afloat during the shutdown and will continue to maintain focus on technology as we move into 2021.

Industry data and research like Square’s are important to creating plans and strategy for the new year, but I wanted to dive deeper to tap into what trends are on the minds of talent and recruiting leaders in the hourly workforce, especially the retail and grocery industries.

Trend #1: More Focus on Virtual Interviews and Onboarding

“Moving forward, I see recruiting and talent teams focused more on pre-virtual interviewing and onboarding. We must leverage what we learned through the pandemic and remain adaptable. I also believe job openings may be less but talent acquisition will need to provide a better candidate experience as job seekers will have more companies to choose from.” —Kelly Colig, Head of Talent Acquisition and HR Business Partner at Le Creuset

"Our company was already remote, so we have done remote interviews for some time, but it is interesting to see how many other companies appear to be shifting toward remote interviewing plans post-pandemic." —Jana Price Radtke, Talent Acquisition Manager at A-LIGN

Related: How we help retail and grocery companies hire

Trend #2: New Virtual Company Perks and Benefit Options Take Center Stage

“Talent acquisition teams will move towards more remote work options, child care, and quality health benefits.” —Tanya Smith, Talent Acquisition Manager at Live Casino & Hotel."

"I think COVID has driven an extreme and sudden shift in the manner that candidates interview, and where the workforce physically sits to do their job. I anticipate that we'll continue to see an increase in virtual interviewing and will work with additional flexibility for the candidate or hire." —Chris McDowell, Lockheed Martin

"In 2021, recruiting will continue to evolve to be more remote and flexible, focusing on candidate experiences.” —Natalie Morgan, Senior Director of People at CareerPlug

Trend #3: Logistics and Warehouse Role Are Essential as the Retail and Grocery Industries Flex During the Pandemic 

“Hiring in high demand areas such as warehouse & logistics, healthcare and technology will remain extremely competitive heading into 2021 due to the current global climate and continuing battle against Covid-19. Many of the industries are growing, as well as people being in tight demand due to facing health or personal problems brought on from the pandemic. Employers will need to be flexible and look for transferable skills from other industries for non-technical roles to help them fill gaps that are expected.” —Kristen Fowler, Practice Lead & VP at Clarke Caniff Strategy Search

“The pandemic has changed the way we ship and shop products forever. B2B retail will find an influx of remote workers to handle the complex logistics keeping in mind the new workflows. 2021 will be a year of resurgence after a disastrous 2020. Most B2B retailers will be looking to make up for the slow growth or losses they experienced this year. They wouldn't want to make any logistics-related mistakes to cost business in 2020.” —Will Ward, CEO of Translation Equipment HQPlan your recruiting strategy with Talent Market Date: Discover Insights

Trend #4: Workplace and Customer Safety is a Top Priority

As we see a return to shopping in brick-and-mortar retail, it’s important to acknowledge that retail workers are prioritizing safety, security, and health when evaluating employers. During Covid-19, employees expect companies to keep their facilities clean, communicate regularly about their reopening status, and maintain safe working conditions. When job seekers evaluate a job offer, they choose "safety of the work environment" over "opportunities for professional growth" and even the "quality of potential coworkers." Companies that adhere to the CDC's national and localized guidelines will be more effective at recruiting and retaining talent right now because workers need to feel safe before they can feel good about doing their jobs and being part of an organization. 

“We have promoted our safety protocols on our career site and in our job postings. It’s important that safety – for customers and employees – is at the forefront of our employer brand, not just for 2020, but moving forward through 2021. Candidates want to know what we’re doing to keep our employees safe and exactly how we’re following CDC guidelines.” —Arron R., recruiter from a leading grocery retailer

Trend #5: Retail Gets Creative In Online Candidate Outreach

As someone who has worked in the retail industry for a large portion of my career, I’m no stranger to non-traditional recruitment tactics. I had success in 2001 using dating websites to source and reach out to candidate prospects from. I am seeing a resurgence of creative strategies from big box retailers including Home Depot to engage and recruit for speciality positions including those within talent acquisition. Just last week, several retailers contacted me directly to reach out to Workology’s own community. 

“We had to pivot quickly and shift hiring from grocery employees to hiring in-store shoppers in order to meet the demand of customers ordering groceries for delivery or curbside pickup. We raised the minimum pay for these positions to $15 an hour, offered flexible schedules, and developed a new, expedited hiring process for these roles using automation and an emailed assessment—no interview required.” —Meghan Fox, Executive Director, Field Recruiting, Whole Foods Market

“The trend to buy groceries and prepared foods online and expect contactless delivery will undoubtedly continue to deepen in a post-COVID reality. The best shopping experience will leverage our brick-and-mortar presence coupled with digital products to meet customers when and where they are. A more digital retail workplace will require a more digital workforce. We will continue to double down on our recruiting efforts to bring the best Software Engineers, Product and Program Managers, and other talent to meet the business demands.” —Andres Traslavina, Sr. Director Global Executive Recruiting, Whole Foods Market

Where will 2021 take us? We won’t know until we get there. The roles and responsibilities of talent acquisition leaders are in flux. But our goal has always been to support our organizations whatever industry they are in. And I know that our fellow talent leaders are ready to step up to the challenge. The retail industry is resilient just as the recruiting and talent leaders who support the business are. 

Topics: Recruiting Industry

Updated February 4, 2021