The changing face of grocery
With so much change there is one thing that has remained constant in FMCG over the years and that is the challenge of finding quality candidates with the depth and breadth of industry experience most roles require. Even the most open-minded hiring manager, when presented with candidates from a range of industries, will be drawn to the person who already understands the idiosyncrasies and characteristics of grocery. Taking a candidate with no knowledge of FMCG is an extreme exception to the ‘must have industry experience’ rule.
The changing requirements of how suppliers service their customers at store level may alter the challenging supply and demand of FMCG candidates further.
Overall, there may be less demand for Reps, but with some roles being downgraded and others upweighted will the gap between them make the step up too much to allow promotion between the two levels? It’s like the punt of promoting your Account Executive to a National Account Manager role with most employers not willing to take the risk.
With fewer Reps in the industry, where will the talent pipeline come from in the future? It’s significantly reducing one of the few opportunities for candidates to get their foot in the FMCG door. Then there’s the outsourcing option where suppliers forgo their own Rep force and use a sales agency. This has the potential to fill a broad candidate pool with little depth, where Reps are spread across a wide range of products and may struggle to deepen their skills and knowledge enough for promotion within the industry.
Where does the talent go? Potentially experienced Reps will move to other channels and the traditional poor cousins of route and foodservice might become more attractive to candidates.
What’s the solution?
Whatever happens, employers will need to continue to adapt their approach to attract capable FMCG talent. We’ve seen some good success with those willing to hire on transferrable skills and teach the FMCG specifics, often at graduate level. Others have gained good results from ignoring the traditional career ladder and using diagonal or even sideways moves to grow skillsets and progress.
We are seeing candidates taking action to find their next move rather than wait for their employer, who is generally motivated by keeping their expertise in their current role as the cost of replacing and training often overrides the benefit of supporting an employee’s career within the business.
We would encourage candidates to seek a range of advice about career progression in a rapidly changing market rather than rely on the experience of one mentor who has one career path to draw on and whose recent reality may already be out of date.
With change there is always opportunity, and as usual, those who are adapting quickly are finding good career growth and good solutions to a shortage of capable candidates.