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Moving from consultancy to industry: how do retailers retain the best talent?

Mark Collins weighs in on the jobs market and gives his advice for attracting talent

The Great Resignation post-pandemic has given way to something else entirely – at least in my industry. At the moment, I’m seeing more people looking for work in the retail and consumer goods space than there are jobs available. Why is this happening?

Consultancy and retail – a brief overview

At least some of it comes down to what’s going on in the consultancy sector; there’s not much M&A action happening in retail at present. Don’t get me wrong, companies are still hiring – just not as much as they were previously.

Meanwhile, there aren’t as many projects going on in consultancy. We’re seeing a domino effect between this wind-down on one side, and an increase in the number of senior candidates looking for better work/life balance on the other. The restructuring and unsettlement we’ve seen in this sector lately, not to mention the frequently demanding workload, have caused driven, overqualified people to leave consultancy to try their hand in industry.

Hiring from consultancy for retail

In theory, this is a good scenario for retailers who, with strong candidates in an overcrowded field, can get more bang for their buck. Still, a question that hirers are sure to ask themselves is: if we’re willing to take on candidates from consultancy, will they be up for a bigger challenge, and often for a lower salary than what they were previously used to?

Separately, and with that in mind, what advice are we giving to clients looking to hire – not to mention retain – talent against this interesting if challenging backdrop?

Key points

  • Sell the sector! Retail and consumer goods is a dynamic and fast-paced field, with challenges that will appeal to people who are interested in – and have a knack for – logistics, operations, and statistics, among other things. The field offers candidates a chance for hands-on work that sectors like consultancy simply can’t match, in my view. As if this wasn’t enough, you’re involved in something that’s absolutely central and essential to how we live day-to-day, not to mention key for economic growth. Don’t be afraid to cite these factors in order to attract the right talent – in addition to whatever unique culture and value proposition your company can offer, of course. Both aspects should help to motivate your candidate in the long run.

  • Be flexible In-person versus remote work has emerged as a key topic in the post-COVID workplace. Many employers are not too keen on it but offering from-home or remote working options – at least for non-frontline staff – is often a deal breaker for candidates. The flexibility can pay dividends, with workers enjoying the trust and freedom to do their roles while balancing other commitments they might have. It takes strong management and clear objectives to work successfully, but for any employers who are dead set on a total return to the office – I’d urge you to reconsider!

  • Make sure ‘competitive’ salaries and benefits mean just that In the retail and consumer goods sector, we see at first hand just how much worries around inflation and the cost of living affect people – not to mention their spending habits. Okay, salary is unlikely to be the main motivator for candidates moving from consultancy into industry – but you should still do your research to ensure your offerings are in line with current market standards.

  • Ensure your opportunities for development are clear Attracting talent from consultancy to industry often means relying on candidates wanting the chance to gain additional skills and experience working in retail – but where to go from there? Offering clear progression plans is one solution; make sure there are plenty of ways for staff to grow and develop beyond the initial role they are hired for. This also ties into...

  • Knowing when it’s worth taking a risk You’ve been there before: you find a candidate you really like and who could fit the least, you think they could. It can be hard to strike the balance between someone who has the right experience but lacks other key attributes, like exceptional leadership or particular skills that might be a definite advantage for the role, and someone else who has little or no experience of your sector but otherwise seems like an impressive candidate. Given how hard it can be to tick all the boxes, my advice would be this: if you find someone who fits most of your criteria, it’s worth taking a punt on them. Trying to find the finished article is often time-consuming, and not particularly cost-effective; waiting for the ‘perfect’ candidate could well mean wasting time missing out on people who will do just as good a job, if not better!

I may be biased, but using a search firm will give you access to the best talent in industry and consultancy alike. You can get a sense of what’s happening in these areas, as well as use your recruiters’ insights on how to optimise the hiring process, plus tips on how best to retain the people you hire. You heard it here first, guys!

If you need help with talent solutions in retail and consumer goods or consultancy, please reach out to me – I’d love to hear from you!


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