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Spotlight on FMCG: Unlocking the Talent Conundrum

Spotlight on FMCG: Unlocking the Talent Conundrum
As FMCG recruitment specialists, we’re interested in the challenges people face in the grocery industry and particularly, the people challenges. There was plenty of concern raised about the industry’s relative attractiveness and robust discussion about how to increase the flow of talent. What became obvious was the struggle leaders have with the idealistic world (where everybody hires and develops raw talent to boost the capability of the industry) with the reality that it is time consuming and expensive to hire and train people from outside the industry only for them to leave for a bigger or better paying role.

Widening the Talent Pool

What do you do? Not attracting, training and retaining good people leads to a smaller talent pool and increased costs. Organisations end up paying more for the best people and more than expected for those with average skills or experience. With that in mind, accepting there will be a cost to doing nothing could encourage hiring managers to put their money where their concerned mouths are and take a punt on hiring someone who has less experience or has gained their experience in another channel (maybe even another industry).

With every job vacancy, there’s a wish list that usually includes some nice-to-haves and quite a few non-negotiables. Perhaps now, when the FMCG industry wants and needs to increase the depth of the talent pool, it’s time to really consider what is important and think about skills that can be learned or experience that is transferrable. Is it essential that a candidate has specific product category experience or is it more important that they’re resilient? Yes, they might not have worked in the exact channel you need them to know but if there are more similarities than differences wouldn’t someone who has proven ability to learn and develop be able to pick it up? Hasn’t everybody in the FMCG industry had to do that at some stage?

How real is the concern that managers are so busy with their day jobs that they don’t have time to coach and mentor new employees? Yes, we’re all required to achieve more with less each year but potentially, the reluctance to hire for transferable skills and train people up is due to either a lack of enthusiasm or capability to develop people. We see a huge range in managers’ coaching ability. Bringing fresh blood into the FMCG stream really needs to be coupled with upskilling managers to work alongside their teams to upskill them. Even if the industry can’t increase the quantity of coaching, there is a real opportunity to increase the quality.

Crunching the Numbers

One area that sets FMCG apart from other industries, particularly in sales and marketing roles, is the requirement to analyse an abundance of data. There seems to be acknowledgement that FMCG is a tough industry to crack into and often, the limiting factor is candidates’ ability to crunch the numbers. It’s particularly relevant now when grocery retailers are talking about leveraging access to data to provide more personalised engagement with their consumers that FMCG suppliers can do more to tell that story. And perhaps a new approach is to find people capable of getting to grips with trade maths and providing the level of analytical insight your customers require rather than only looking at the obvious people floating in the FMCG talent pool.

A common objection to recruiting outside the square is that it’s been tried once before and didn’t work out. However, there are some great success stories where people have looked beyond the obvious and hired someone older / younger / less like them – someone who brings the right attitude, transferable skills, ability to work at pace and the inclination to learn, develop and adapt. Confidence and assurance can always be given to these seemingly risky decisions with thorough reference checking and psychometric assessment.

Closing Thoughts

By keeping an open mind, hiring for intrinsic attributes and transferable skills and experience, the FMCG talent pool will be flooded with capability, an outcome that is good for everyone. Have you been affected by the FMCG talent conundrum? I’d love to hear your thoughts
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