Grow your own retail resources

Human resource, Young businessman holding white billboard with a question mark on it and waiting for job interview,We are lucky in western countries. If you need a resource in retail, you advertise or headhunt. It then becomes a function of what you are prepared to pay. There are very few cases where you will not find who you are looking for and at the big end of town this includes looking overseas, always a worry mind you.

And it’s not confined to retail. In 1996 the NSW government recruited Peter Ryan as police commissioner, a position he served until 2002 when he resigned two years early. He received a payout of $455k – 12 months salary. He was followed by Ken Moroney and then Andrew Scipione. Some 13 years after Ryan left, Scipione’s salary is about the same as Ryan’s was, although he is receiving an increase now. In fact Moroney’s salary when he succeeded Evans was a mere $340k.

Our fellow retailers in Asia are not as lucky. They do not have a pool of resources from which to draw and they need to home grow their resources. This means foresight – something that is not always practiced that well. Succession planning needs to be well thought out years in advance – or you pay the price of not having resources when you need them. Importing expats is expensive and they need time to learn the local ropes.

If you are starting with a thin or nonexistent knowledge base in retail, hiring the ‘right’ recruits is vital. You need to look beyond qualifications and experience. You need to see the fire in their eyes – the passion which is what retail is all about.

This is not an HR or training responsibility. It is the line manager’s duty to surround him/herself with a good team. On the company’s part, it needs to allocate the financial resources to achieve this.

The added challenge is that in many Asian countries there are only a few retailers. Years ago while working in Singapore, I had a heated debate with a fellow retailer at a meeting at the Singapore Retailers Association. She said that she didn’t believe in training because as soon as you trained staff, they were snapped up by the competition.

Which leads to the next point. There needs to be an incentive for people to stay. This can take numerous forms including contracts but these are notoriously difficult to enforce. A bonus scheme which increases over the years is worthwhile considering. Also non monetary rewards such as a clear career path, a meaningful title, a slightly larger work station and many other incentives – certificates, plaques and so on.

The line manager can also be incentivised. He or she must be responsible for staff turnover and rewarded accordingly. Whether in Asia or not, how many times does a new recruit last a matter of days? In fact I have heard of a case where someone drifted off after morning tea on their first day never to be seen again. This smells of a shocking disinterest by a line manager to take time out to recruit and settle a new staff member.

Senior management have a vital role to play. Intentionally or unintentionally there is sometimes a desire by middle management to want to remain the feudal chief for reasons of ego and/or job protection. This is a recipe for non delegation because there is nobody to delegate to. And so the boss gets involved in all kinds of petty things and avoids the hard job of strategising and thinking – and recruiting and training. But he/she becomes (almost) indispensible.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing and can be contacted at or 0414 631 702.

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