Be a magnet for talent

Is your company suffering from a genuine shortage of good staff or is your hiring process flawed? Elit Rowland explores how to attract and retain talent in your business

Wholesale has always suffered from not being seen as one of the ‘sexiest’ of industries in which to work. As the UK economy continues to improve, candidates will have even more choice about where to work, meaning wholesalers will need to work hard to attract and retain the right people.

Nearly half of the UK workforce will be looking for new jobs this year and one in five workers is already actively job-hunting. Employers run the risk of losing valuable, skilled staff and wholesalers are no exception.

“There are great opportunities in wholesale, but it’s about making people aware of them. As an industry, I don’t think we’re good enough at doing that.” says Heather Angus, people and sustainability director at Bidvest Foodservice.

1. Keeping good staff: learn to say ‘thank you’.

Nearly one in 10 would prefer more flexible working hours and one in 16 simply want more clarity on what their options are for career progression.

Before attracting new talent, having systems in place to retain good people must be a priority. A third of employees say they are miserable in their jobs due to a combination of poor management and not feeling valued. Simple changes make a big difference – when asked what their employers could do to increase their happiness, one in eight people just wanted to be told ‘thank you’ more.  

2. Eliminate poor management: know what demotivates employees.

At the HR Directors Business Summit in Birmingham this year, the EMEA head of talent development for computer manufacturer Lenovo, Maxim Strashun, identified 13 ways in which managers can demotivate employees. These ranged from not delivering a clear set of performance indicators or career paths, through micro-managing and not offering equipment that works, to creating an unhealthy work-play balance, turning up late to meetings and not helping staff to feel part of the ‘team’.

Diane Sheppard, managing director of Smart Leadership Training, says that all good managers know who are the talented members of their staff and that they mustn’t take them for granted.

3. Invest in people: training and development.

When given the choice between a 3% pay rise and a different benefit, 28% of the UK workforce said they would rather have clear career progression, while 24% would rather their employers invested in their training and development.

There’s no doubt training is a critical part of any employment package and wholesale is no exception.

Last year, to demonstrate to parliamentarians that wholesalers are investing in young people, the FWD held its first Skills and Development Awards at the House of Commons. More recently, it introduced a training bursary, which offers to match a member wholesaler’s investment in an individual’s development up to the value of £2,500 a year.


Meanwhile, last July, Blakemore launched a graduate scheme to attract young talent. This is a two-year programme that offers four successful candidates a comprehensive six-week induction that incorporates time in frontline roles, and the opportunity to gain new qualifications and be involved in community projects.

4. Marketing mediums: develop a storytelling video strategy.

With predictions that video content will make up 69% of all internet traffic by 2017, wholesalers will need to make video an integral part of their recruitment strategies. And with many wholesalers still lagging when it comes to digital media and IT, the opportunity is there for the taking for businesses that get it right.

“Wholesale is quite behind the times when it comes to technology, which makes it harder to recruit the next generation of workers, who are ‘tech savvy’ and won’t want to start going backwards,” says Bidvest’s Heather Angus.

People no longer rely entirely on job agencies to find talent and the rise of social media has presented opportunities for businesses to promote themselves beyond LinkedIn. Telling a compelling story will be the key to success.

One wholesaler generating interest with social media and video content is JJ Food Service. With three new branches planned for this year, the wholesaler is recruiting and has invested in developing shareable, engaging video content, promoted using LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

5. Use your youth: Spar’s next generation.

Who says the best ideas come from the most senior people in the business? Last year, a group of 18-25 year olds associated with different aspects of the Spar retail business were part of the Next Generation group set up to develop ideas to attract younger customers. Their duties included reviewing social media activity and trends in the marketplace, with a view to implementing recommendations. What better way to keep your finger on the customer’s pulse? Are you fully using the younger staff in your business?

6. Networking and events: promote your business.

Some wholesalers shy away from industry awards because they don’t feel they need them or simply don’t have the time to go through the gruelling entry process. But winning or being in the running for an industry award is a valuable way to give your company and specific individuals the recognition they deserve, while making your business look more attractive to outsiders in the process. 

Events that bring the UK’s top wholesale talent together can also be potential (albeit indirect) recruitment opportunities – although Bidvest’s Heather Angus cautions that building a great business is not just about employing those with wholesale experience. “There is a tendency among wholesalers to recruit from within their own sector, rather than looking for those with transferable skills from outside. We tend to ‘recycle’ and that isn’t healthy for us as an industry.”

As for encouraging millennials to consider wholesale as a career option, she says we must start early. “We should be working with schools to help them understand the fantastic career opportunities open to them in this sector.”


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.