Simon Acres, MD at Simon Acres Group, looks at the current recruitment crisis facing the industry, and considers what retailers and manufacturers can do to navigate their way through it.
"People build business, and in the current climate it is exceedingly difficult for retailers and manufacturers to find and retain the right people.
"Pent-up demand following the pandemic has created a challenging market, with retailers experiencing full order books, delays and disruption in supply, and finding they don’t have enough staff. Designers are difficult to find, but it is even harder to recruit installers.
"The demand has come from households that have found themselves with surplus funds to invest in their homes – money that may have otherwise been spent on overseas holidays or eating out. With 18 months of delayed purchases compounded with standard demand, this trend is set to continue.
"At Simon Acres Group (SAGL), we anticipated this scenario by investing in additional team members and advising our customers to plan ahead, taking the necessary steps to have new staff in place before the upturn came. Many retailers were able to do this – by their nature they are smaller and more flexible organisations than manufacturers, which have been in most cases slower to respond.
"Those that have been quick to respond and more agile will find it easier to navigate the current crisis, with increased demand likely to continue for around 12 to 18 months.
"In recent weeks we have seen a rapid rise in enquiries from manufacturers for area sales managers and – of course – delivery drivers. Traditionally, good sales people came from word of mouth, with people knowing who was looking for a new position. The current climate has taken away this slack, and the best people will not necessarily be on the market. Using a headhunting service in this market can prove to be a quicker and more cost-effective solution, especially when you also consider lost opportunity sales.
"Many retailers have found themselves in a position of having to recruit for the first time and don’t always know where to start. Finding a KBB-focussed platform is key to getting those with the right experience or qualifications to apply. With furlough coming to an end, there are lots of people considering new jobs and willing to apply for almost anything. Having to sift through unsuitable candidates is time consuming, and will ultimately cost retailers money.
"Apart from the immediate issue of bringing more people into the business, retailers and manufacturers would benefit from thinking long term, and introducing practices and policies that will help them retain a loyal workforce. Taking care of employees and providing training and support will reap rewards. The industry has responded to the pandemic by providing more accessible training, often available online, making it easier and more cost effective than it has ever been.
"Added company benefits around wellbeing and mental health are also now more readily available. This can be more appealing than providing money for gym memberships. Companies can bring in a wellness expert to run workshops with staff, train and appoint a mental health advisor or provide access to training.
"Finally, another important aspect is that of bringing young people into the industry and training them up. Over the course of the pandemic, some senior or experienced people have been furloughed and decided not to return.
"As an industry, we don’t do enough to promote our sector to young people and encourage them to build careers, so it is even more important that this is addressed now. We must all support the KBB initiatives, such as the new L6: Living and Commercial Spaces Designer apprenticeship from TKET, the Bucks New University foundation degree course in kitchen design, and their new FdA course that provides an extra year to gain a BA in Kitchen Design."