Retail still attracts few candidates

Resilient during the health crisis, major retailers are hiring thanks to an economic recovery that is expected to continue into 2023 despite inflation.

The development of digital, as well as the recent health crisis, have changed the face of mass distribution. Two fundamental trends, often accelerated by this crisis, are thus helping to gradually change the professions in the sector, as well as its image: the development of electronic commerce and the reduction in the relative importance of hypermarkets and supermarkets in favor of proximity stores.

But it seems that these changes affect professions without sufficiently increasing their attractiveness.

E-commerce and proximity: in tune with the times

Driven by the digital wave, e-commerce must advance even further in the field of mass distribution. The trend is really general and we see that it already represents between 20 and 25% of the turnover of some Asian players (source INSEE).

In France, after a strong increase in 2020, the trend continues and the market share of e-commerce for consumer products stands at 9% according to Nielsen data for FEVAD on FMCG/FLS, while the e-commerce sector -commerce as a whole (products and services), i.e. with a broader scope, weighs 129 billion euros in 2021, and, after an increase of 15.1% in the year, has a market share of 14.1 %.

At the origin of this growing trend, digital technology and its procession of technical innovations. E-commerce websites offer improved ergonomics and ease of use to attract more and more customers. At the service of marketing, they allow, thanks to sophisticated algorithms, to suggest relevant purchases or present a promotion at the right time.

Because it streamlines the activity and makes it faster and more efficient, the development of digital also translates into increased margins, either by reinforcing automation that reduces order preparation costs on the logistics platforms of the heart, or by optimizing the resulting pricing better knowledge of consumer preferences. These operations are also based on complex algorithms and, therefore, on the recruitment of engineers with very specialized profiles.

An impact on all professions

All retail businesses are thus affected by the development of digital technology: the head office businesses, i.e. the communications, marketing, purchasing, accounting and HR businesses, but also the warehouse businesses and, to a lesser extent, the commercial businesses, shelf or fixed. In turn, restoration trades are less affected because they remain associated with technical knowledge whose specificity is now better recognized.

Although local commerce is also benefiting from renewed consumer interest, the dynamics of employment continue to be clearly driven by the outskirts of cities, areas of choice for large retailers.

There, strong labor needs have been observed since 2020 where, after a drop at the beginning of the year due to confinement, the growth of published job offers was significant from April onwards in the four main types of activities associated with large-scale distribution: cargo and storage, logistical support, general and retail functions.

Over the same period, however, we observe that the interest generated by ads related to each of these categories often does not reach the level that would be expected based on a measure of the number of clicks per ad on Indeed. For the profession, this translates into a lower quality of applications, which can become a concern.

A situation that, combined with the tension that currently exists in the job market, also poses new problems for recruiters. The observed strong need for manpower will encourage them to rely even more on automating their recruitment processes, so as to serve as many applicants as possible in a limited time, more easily overcome the disappointing number of applications and fill vacancies faster.

Less appetite among young people

To better understand the lack of interest aroused by these job offers, a study was carried out in March 2022 on workers and professions in large retail and analyzed the perception that retail trade workers have. In particular, two interesting elements stand out: a lower appetite of the younger generations for the sector, that is, those who are more likely to practice these professions in the future, and the fact that just under four workers out of ten would recommend these professions to your children. This reflects a lack of attractiveness, which the work on the image and employer brand of companies in the sector must make it possible to overcome.

Communication is all the more necessary as jobs at headquarters, which should require a higher level of qualification, are also perceived as offering fewer opportunities than less valued jobs in large retailers, with only 20% of respondents associating them to professions that recruit. Thus, if the perception of these professions is positive, they are considered to generate few jobs, affected, perhaps, by the very real reduction in the number of cashiers/receptionists, a profession emblematic of the mass distribution of ‘after FCD. Offers are then less scrutinized by potential candidates.

The HR role at the heart of these challenges

The HR function and recruitment are at the heart of today’s economic issues. They are also obviously at the heart of sectoral issues. The case of retail, analyzed here, shows that preconceived ideas about certain sectors and professions – modernity, dynamism, wages, qualifications, etc. – can be detrimental to recruitment because they condition the quality of applications made in response to offers.

For large retailers, it is necessary, working on the employer brand, to capture the best profiles. For this sector in the midst of metamorphosis, which offers great opportunities for a wide range of professions and, therefore, profiles, it is a matter of attracting the candidates with the greatest potential – whether profiles oriented towards new technologies, marketing or more traditional ones, such as like restoration. In fact, today better recognized, the mass distribution jobs are not sufficiently associated with recruitment jobs.

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