Hiring “Great” Talent vs. Hiring “Good Enough” Talent In Retail

Hiring “Great” Talent vs. Hiring “Good Enough” Talent In Retail

I frequently hear from my colleagues how frustrated they are with their team’s turnover and how difficult it is to hire talent that is the right fit for the role, the culture, and the customer. No doubt, it is a very challenging reality that we deal with – but so much of what we experience is self-inflicted because we are working with antiquated and outdated tools/processes, job descriptions, useless applicant tracking systems, irrelevant training materials, and “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” beliefs. We are creating impediments in our business as we insist on committing sabotage by email, sabotage by meetings, and sabotage by not investing the time and budgets needed time to update our recruiting/hiring practices, onboarding, and training programs for our teams.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 6.32.15 PM

These are the things that are holding us back from identifying, hiring, and retaining “great” talent in our retail organizations. So where do we start?

According to Brad Wolff,  Managing Director for JumpVine, an Atlanta-based recruitment firm whose science-based Hire2Retain approach results in a reduction in turnover from 46% to 10% over 18 months, as covered in this article from TLNT, here is what most retail organizations currently believe the process for hiring talent should look like:

  1. Producing a generic job description (often a previous one you have used or one you found the web).
  2. Advertising the job on Internet career sites.
  3. Interviewing candidates [using a parochial and pedestrian list of questions]
  4. Making a job offer and hoping it doesn’t result in a counter offer [then going back to step #2]
  5. Getting everything ready for the new person to start (typically, an uninspired laundry list of to-do’s).

This process results in maybe good enough [fingers crossed] talent being brought into the business. People who will then manage compliance and checklists Here is what your hiring cycle should look like to find “great” talent:

  • Accurate outline of the position’s roles and responsibilities along with specific actions required to accomplish
  • Open-minded and updated consideration of different types of backgrounds and skills that could fit rather than making assumptions or simply requiring the same background and skills you have hired in the past.
  • Well written job description that sells the unique features of your company and the position.
  • Well-conceived and executed candidate sourcing strategy based on the specific type of position being hired.
  • Proper screening of the candidates’ résumés
  • Initial communication with candidates that meet the above résumé screening step. You need to determine whether or not they meet your parameters related to compensation, location, skills and experience before going to the next step.
  • Objective evaluation of the aptitude or ability (not experience) to actually do the job using an appropriate psychometric tool/assessment before investing the time of your employees and the candidates in interviewing.
  • Well- thought-out plan for interviewing — Who, what, when, where, how?
  • Well- thought-out, structured interview process to provide objective, accurate assessment of fit with regards to skills, experience, attitude and values.
  • Proper execution of a “debriefing process” within 24-48 hours of interviews and delivery of properly communicated information to the candidates within that time period.
  • Properly-conceived process to determine the details of the offer including compensation amount, start date, vacation and sick time, benefit package.
  • Proper timing and delivery of the offer so it is more likely to be accepted along with a strategy if a counter offer is made.
  • Engaging preboarding process during the period between resignation and start date to minimize the chance of candidate accepting a counter offer.
  • Structured but flexible onboarding program tailored to candidates experience, skills level to prepare for the start of the new employee

What Does This Mean For Hiring Great vs. Good Enough Talent

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 11.00.17 AM

Obviously, creating a compelling employer brand commitment to potential employees is critical and that, in my experience, is done through treating your current employees with the respect and support that we owe them and having them genuinely advocate on our behalf. One of the most beneficial programs we embraced was a strong employee referral program –  one that the employees are invested in helped drive our talent sourcing and hiring from good enough to great. Our team was passionate about and 100% committed to working with people they enjoyed, both working and collaborating with, and who were highly-productive. They made it a priority to invite people onto the team that would complement the team both in productivity [roles and responsibilities] and in personality [values and culture].

The other piece that we found had the greatest impact on hiring “great” and letting go of “good enough” was to truly invest the time and attention to screening of the candidate résumés. Being selective about where we chose to source candidates from and through creating a truly comprehensive job description that outlined the meaning and purpose of the role[s] and the expectation of innovation and problem solving of the role[s] – both in the immediate area of responsibility and inside the collective organization – helped us identify a diverse pool of high-level [great] talent that was fearless, driven, and highly ambitious. The job description eliminated the “good enough” candidates that weren’t looking for a career or a challenge but simply a paycheck. By making a conscious commitment to being selective and taking the time to review the candidates allowed us to get rid of the horrible ATS that was keeping us stocked with average, hopefully-they’ll-be-okay talent and we were able to identify the “great” talent that was available in the market. We ensured, through a fast but focused interview program, that we were objectively and thoroughly screening our talent through assessments and multi-persepective dialogs that were values, culture, role, and growth-potential based.

We identified in a few of the candidate screenings/interview that the candidates weren’t a fit for the role they were initially interviewing for but absolutely great for other roles in the business and this process allowed us to have those dialogs with them and bring their great talent into the organization in a role that was intriguing to them; whereas these candidates would have been automatically eliminated from consideration using the old system of hiring and their résumés lost in the ATS abyss.

Stay Relevant To Retail And Engage Your “Great” Talent

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 5.54.43 PM

After optimizing your hiring process, you should invest time to ensure the tools and resources are accurate, relevant, and support your team member’s and company’s growth. For example, in early 2014 we made an executive leadership commitment to invest three days, twice a year to sitting down together and reviewing/updating the following business practices:

  • Job Descriptions for all critical/key role roles [the others to be reviewed annually]
  • Employee Handbook
  • Policy & Procedure Manuals
  • Operations Manual
  • Preboarding and Onboarding program
  • Employee Ambassador/Advocacy program
  • Learning & Development program as an executive team [this fluid, evolving program is reviewed by monthly]
  • Stay interview, succession planning, and career path planning programs

We communicate this calendar and invite, for the week prior to the update meeting, feedback and suggestions from teams in the field and at home office – these are captured in a productivity platform specific to this project so that all employees can see the submission and hashtag [#] change topics with suggested updates – this allows us to measure the topic’s priority for review and improvement based on consensus, keeping the process efficient. We found that by establishing this process twice a year, the updates have high-impact, most updates have been endorsed by the employees, and the commitment of time and resources is minimized because we don’t have a heavy amount of revisions – this process is all very easily managed in time, resources, and budget.  We then have a virtual “launch meeting” that reviews the changes and recognizes the contributors and the team effort which allows for all employees to have a sense of ownership and involvement in the process which supports the changes, updates, and improvements and minimizes challenges/confusion. This practice shaped a unique learning culture in our business as our employees sought to find original, innovative, and creative practices that improved the business and the customer experience for everyone – self-directed learners, passionate advocates, supportive change leaders are are characteristics of “great” talent. This process positioned our brand in the market as one where we, very clearly, invested in our team, valued our team, and  involved our team which helped to drive our brand reputation and image with potential talent.

Honestly, these programs aren’t easy and if not managed well can quickly turn into sabotage by committee or meetings and become just another “thing” to do that never quite gets done. However, made an absolute priority and commitment, these investments are necessary and key to staying relevant and driving your brand’s promise to in-house and future “great” talent to be a truly great place to work.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail. Published writer. Frequent Podcast Guest. Speaker. Twenty year [oy vey!] retailer. I am passionate about leadership development and workplace culture. 646 246 1380 | beth@excellencein-retail.com [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

View all posts by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *