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Although talented associates can be hard to find, retailers can beat the odds and find the right employees, according to Lloyd A. Lippman, founder and c.e.o. of retail, direct mail and e-commerce executive search firm Career Management, which has offices in East Brunswick, N.J. and New York City.
"Part of the reason there's a scarcity of talent is that retailers and manufacturers simply aren't investing in the 'best and brightest' candidates being produced by colleges and universities today," Lippman said at a recent retail conference at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. "Additionally, executive training programs -- from which many of today's talented and successful retail leaders have graduated -- are not as prevalent now as they were 15 or 20 years ago, when so many more companies focused on developing leaders for the future."
During a panel discussion about making the hiring of talent a strategic priority, Lippman observed that current retail training programs don't enough sufficient cross-training to produce the caliber of executives that are the tomorrow's successful retailers.
Trainees used to spend time in stores, meeting, and learning to understand customers, as well as working in the merchandising and planning areas, and then applied what they had learned to dealing with customers, noted Lippman. "Now executives rely upon demographics, merchandising statistics, and last year's results to lead their companies," he said. "They have seemingly forgotten the essence of the business -- consistently touching and understanding customers and, acknowledging that without them, nothing happens."
Grocers ought to scour the ranks internally for worthy people, and then develop their abilities. "The real talent today is working in your own company, but they are not being trained, challenged, recognized, motivated, or mentored to be the best that they can be," said Lippman.
He urged retailers to consider internal candidates without the specific experience necessary to fill a given position, but who are smart, aligned with their companies' beliefs and values, and possess real potential.
Once top talent is on board, retailers have to keep it. While compensation plays a role in attrition, employees are far more concerned about being fulfilled in their jobs, noted Lippman, citing the results of a recent survey by Robert Half International that found 41 percent of executives polled attributed their decision to look for new jobs to limited career growth. Meanwhile, just 15 percent of individuals polled said that salary and benefits were their reasons for seeking different employment.