How to keep your best staff


As well as recruiting top talent, wholesale needs to be able to retain it. Coral Rose explains how you can keep your best staff.

When you reach any milestone, you cannot help but look back on the journey, the memories and the highs and lows encountered on the way. But most of all, you think back about the people involved.

This year, the Country Range Group is celebrating its 25th anniversary and as I have spent a quarter of a century in wholesale, too, I have been taking a trip down memory lane. This has made me realise the importance of our employees and also highlighted how many brilliant people have left the wholesale channel.   

The issue often used to be attracting the top talent. I think this was because of a lack of innovation, creativity, opportunities to progress and buzz around the work we do. I also think many capable women would have been put off by gender inequalities and obstacles when it came to a career route into management.

But progress has been made on both fronts. The grocery wholesale channel is buoyant with new ideas, technology and energy. There is now a diverse range of dynamic careers available, so there is no reason why we should not be able to entice the best and offer them an exciting vision for the future.

Inequality is the problem

As to gender diversity and inequality, it is still holding back the recruitment and retention of the next generation of gifted, ambitious young women in our industry. Currently, around 47% of the people working in wholesale are female, but only 11% hold senior management positions.

FTSE 350 companies are now working to a government target aiming for 33% of all management roles being filled by women by 2020. I believe if we are to make wholesale an attractive and fair place to work and if we are to position our industry in line with other forward-thinking sectors, we should be aspiring to achieve these targets.

Thanks to the hard work of Elit Rowland and many others, the second annual Women in Wholesale conference took place in October and once again proved a huge success (see p10 for a photo gallery from the event).

With more than 160 delegates – double the number of last year – the event saw some very inspirational speeches, and with key male industry figures also there on the day, it is clear that there is momentum behind the movement.

Attracting talent is only one part of the job. Engaging, motivating and retaining staff is also vital. This is where development planning comes in, which is another area where the industry needs to improve. It is not just about money and pay rises – it is about giving staff the ability to shape their own careers in the long term. As well as implementing a structured staff development programme, this most of all means caring, showing an interest and helping employees grow on multiple levels.

I have always felt passionate about developing people, so I am very proud of the work Country Range Group and its members do in this area. With graduate schemes, training, mentoring, coaching and sponsorship of the prestigious Student Chef Challenge already making a difference, I am convinced that if we can invest in people in the long term, we can attract and retain the best people to further strengthen the industry in the next 25 years.

Coral Rose is managing director of Country Range Group

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Coral Rose is the managing director of Country Range Group, which works on behalf of 16 independent wholesale food suppliers across 25 depots in the UK and Channel Islands.


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