As the grocery retail industry is becoming seriously understaffed there seems to be no immediate solution to this ongoing problem.

Mark Inskip the CEO of Matrix.

This real and ongoing recruitment headache that retailers are facing isn’t siloed within this industry, Mark Inskip, CEO of recruitment technology company, Matrix told Grocery Trader. Daily we read about the NHS staff shortages and, of course, the recent empty supermarket shelves caused by the driver crisis.

It’s obvious that staff demand is outstripping supply in many areas including checkout, warehousing and merchandising staff needed to fulfil new contracts and maintain the smooth running of these retail outlets.

To substantiate these claims grocery retailer Lidl has recently experienced numerous social media posts from disgruntled customers claiming to have found empty freezers and gaps in shelves. The retailer denies that the problem is due to food shortages but simply a lack of candidates to fill the 3,000 available vacancies across the country.

And, despite employment being the highest since the 1970s, the Office of National Statistics reports that there are 570,000 fewer available workers than before the pandemic struck.

Of course, we are sympathetic to the recruitment officer’s predicament as we realise that they are working tirelessly to control this situation at a time when the recruitment market has become increasingly restricted. Over a million EU-born workers have already left the UK. Other issues including IR35, foreign workers rules, modern slavery, controlling wage inflation, new COVID outbreaks and the need to demonstrate social value are making the task of recruitment even more complex.

It’s obvious from this and other recent recruitment nightmare stories that businesses now need to ask – are we planning ahead enough? Does our current staff provider have the most up to date technology to cope with my requirements? Are we using the correct model to help us to overcome these challenges? Or do we need a different, more innovative approach that breaks away from the way the recruitment industry has operated in the past?

My belief is that a Neutral Vendor model (a single point of contact for clients with no affiliation or interest in any one supplier) is now vital with an expansion of the preferred supplier list (PSL) essential. We realise that PSLs are currently the most common and best-understood option for temporary recruitment but the main problems with the PSLs is that they can be time-consuming, costly and difficult to manage with the added hassle of only having restricted access to temporary skills needed to cover new projects. Hiring managers usually fill gaps their PSLs can’t fulfil by going off-contract whether they have approval or not.

As I said, the best option for solving today’s recruitment challenges is to adopt a Neutral Vendor Managed Service Provider. I say this with total confidence as this approach definitely gives access to a wider pool of agencies and temporary skills without having to go off-contract. It also solves compliance headaches, because Neutral Vendors provide proactive and transparent checks that most agencies don’t provide.

Obviously, one is not to know how individual retail recruitment officers operate, and with what technology, but either way there is no doubt in my mind that a Neutral Vendor solution would give retailers greater access to a diverse supply chain of suppliers that delivers against social value requirements with guaranteed compliance checks before candidates start a project, which in turn, should help with the candidate vetting process.

What is also plainly obvious with this issue is the crucial need for management information for predicting trends and recruitment needs which would surely alleviate the pressure on retail management. By adopting a Neutral Vendor approach employers would have access to a much larger pre-approved supply chain of recruitment agencies that would give them a complete overview of the market. Many of these agencies are SME local suppliers that also supports social value requirements.

Ultimately, with this model you get much greater insight into the resourcing picture – so you can recruit temporary agency workers for the right cost, with guaranteed compliance, and with full visibility of the agency worker population.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my local supermarket and convenience store but I have noticed recently their lack of desire to interact with me, as in the past. I’m pretty sure that this change has to do with the fact that they are now probably doing a three-person job and simply don’t have the time anymore to speak to ambling shoppers such as myself!!


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