New site wants to make independent grocery jobs into careers

Photo: @opkirilka via Twenty20
Aug 15, 2019

It’s not always easy to find grocery workers who have their eye on sticking with a company — especially an independent — and moving up, a fact The National Grocers Association Foundation hopes to address with its new NGA Foundation Career Center website. 

The Career Center features a grocery industry-targeted job board with thousands of listings, but it goes beyond that, according to Progressive Grocer. The Center features job seeker services, like a complimentary resume review and tips for interviews and social media use, information on professional advancement resources, and an online training center with more than 170 courses. 

For employers, there are advertising opportunities and resources for getting news of openings out to industry professionals who aren’t actively checking job boards. It also points students visiting the website to information on the NGA’s long-standing range of scholarship offerings and competitions. 

The Career Center job board lists a broad range of roles available at local grocers nationwide. It includes entry-level store positions, sales roles, supply chain positions, tech/developer jobs and positions at various levels of store management.

The NGA’s move comes as large grocers have been implementing standalone initiatives to recruit and maintain talent in a tight labor market.

Walmart, for instance, announced the launch of a debt-free college plan earlier this year to court high school students. With fewer than 25,000 of its employees currently enrolled in high school, the plan offers the opportunity for up to seven hours of college credit, reliable scheduling for 13 weeks out, free SAT/ACT prep and debt-free degrees in areas adjacent to retailing at six participating non-profit universities. 

In addition to the realities of a tight labor market, many major retailers have begun to espouse the importance of hiring “expert” staff to provide the type of experiences that contemporary customers are seeking. Such talent can be even more difficult to attract and retain.

As of May 2018, the grocery industry employs the second highest number of low wage workers in the U.S., according to Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers reported by Business Insider. Only the restaurant industry employs more low wage workers.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will a national job board and resource site like NGA’s lead to the recruitment of better talent for independent grocers? What else might grocers do to lock down career-minded talent?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Maybe a more active role for NGA would help attract and keep talent – this sounds more passive, in that you would have to find it before it became useful."
"Great idea and parts of it could be useful. But I would not look at is as a hiring tool, I would look at it as a retention too."
"Low wages translate to entry level jobs and higher employee turnover. Those characteristics do not change through a national job board."

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13 Comments on "New site wants to make independent grocery jobs into careers"

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Dr. Stephen Needel

No offense meant to any of my retailer friends, but let’s be honest – working in a grocery store, like working in fast food, is a right of passage for many teenagers. There just can’t be that many saying, “Gee – I’ve always wanted to manage a grocery store!” Maybe a more active role for NGA would help attract and keep talent – this sounds more passive, in that you would have to find it before it became useful.

Frank Riso

While I like the idea of a national job board, I am not sure anyone will relocate to a new state or across the country to take a job in an independent grocery store. Locally it should work out well for the grocer. I do think an independent grocer should have a formal training program for its employees with the promise of advancement if you complete the combined program using the NGA program in conjunction with their local program of working at the store or stores. If someone completes the grocery manager training program, that person is next in line for the position when it opens or when another store is opened. The promise of advancement can be the big retention of employees that retailers are looking for with the example of those who have advanced already!

Rich Kizer

Well, this sounds ambitious, but — wait a minute: why wouldn’t the grocers in their locations launch, with a local community college along with NGA, a teaching program to do the same, for candidates already in the market? And once a week, a representative of a store can come in and share real world experiences and discuss. I think the local investment by the grocers would be worth it, even if they recruit only three fireballs.

Patricia Vekich Waldron

It’s a step in the right direction to actively recruit excellent employees, but it will take more effort from independent operators to recruit top talent when new opportunities arise.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Laura Davis-Taylor
Founder, Branded Ground
2 years 9 months ago

My high school job was at Publix. It was a great job, and I was treated very well. I have many people from my home town that are now retiring from thriving careers there, and they don’t have a negative thing to say about it. Even a deli worker can buy into stock and become a highly paid manager one day, and loyalty, great customer support and hard work pays off. Everyone there knows it, and the retail experience is superb — making it one of the most beloved grocery brands out there. Many lessons to learn within their walls for the larger industry on what a career here could result in IF their leaders know how to cultivate the ecosystem for all.

Ralph Jacobson

There needs to be more work spent on the career benefits of a lifetime in retail. I know that’s easier said than done, however, industry leaders like the NGA need to work on this task and start campaigns reaching into high schools and creating awareness of the career potential.

Michael Terpkosh
I commend the NGA for starting the job board and putting some resources towards this growing problem. However, I also believe more needs to be done to create a “pipeline” of great retail talent moving into a career path for grocery retailers and wholesalers. Let’s be honest, working in the grocery business is hard work and unless a part-time employee develops a passion for the business the talent will be lost to other industries. On the other hand, there is great talent out their today working in grocery stores that have no idea about the career opportunities in the business because there is no communication, meetings, webinars or trainee programs to connect the talent to the long-term career opportunities. To be truly effective, these efforts must be at the local level connecting retail grocery employees to retail and wholesale management teams. I am not talking job fairs. I am talking well thought-out programs that are sustainable over time by management to create the passion for the business in the next generations of grocery retail employees.
Mohamed Amer, PhD

Low wages translate to entry level jobs and higher employee turnover. Those characteristics do not change through a national job board. Careers are about perceived future prospects of personal growth in a healthy, growing segment of an industry. So the NGA’s national job board is an excellent way to provide transparency and a sense of belonging for those in the industry already, I’m less optimistic about it capturing the attention and imagination of future employees.

Independent grocers are well connected to their communities – that is their strength. Attracting and keeping talent must start locally with ongoing investment in employee education, training, and pay so those early entrants can more easily imagine a potential career.

Mel Kleiman

Great idea and parts of it could be useful. But I would not look at is as a hiring tool I would look at it as a retention too.

Recruiting is an individual store problem and not something that is going to be solved by another job board.
The site could be a great retention tool if the educational portion of the site is any good. One of the key motivators every employee is looking for is a chance to grow and learn. This site could be a great benefit to the independent operator because it gives them a training platform for employees.

Richard Layman
2 years 9 months ago
The National Hardware Retailing Association has an extensive online training program and other training resources that can be made available to the staff of member stores. It’s a good model for what could be done. But the stores have to incentivize employees and care about them for this to work. E.g., a few weeks ago I shopped at two different (high end as opposed to their “normal” stores) Harmon’s Supermarkets in Salt Lake City (City Creek, and Emigration Market stores) and I was struck with how engaged the employees were, how friendly, how the bread person offered me samples while I was waiting for the bread to be packaged, etc. This is not the kind of experience I am accustomed to at traditional supermarkets (Safeway, Giant, Harris-Teeter), although now, when you ask someone where something is, they usually will escort you to the location. WRT some of the “negative” comments … the fact is, many of the leaders in the supermarket business got their start as bag boys, etc., so they can build credibility for… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom

While there’s certainly nothing to dislike here, I don’t think there’s really anything innovative either. If retail has a problem attracting people, it likely due to either 1) low pay and/or 2) poor working conditions (who wants to stand all day?). Neither of these is going to change soon, save perhaps for the replacement of some of the lower end jobs with automation … which will simply narrow the pool of potential advancers.

Having now said that, maybe there is actually something to dislike: the site seems entirely focused on serving people already in the industry, but does little to attract people to it … a much larger group.

Lisa Goller

The NGA Foundation Career Center is poised to become a successful grocery community hub that could improve the quality of talent for independent grocers by focusing on people’s passion for food.

For instance, the career center may actively target people who care about nutrition as the foundation for health and wellness, or home cooks who love to host dinner parties. Their enthusiasm for food and relevant experience could improve the customer experience for independent grocers.

Also, by sharing industry information, this online resource can help associates stay engaged and relevant by understanding – and serving consumers who seek – emerging grocery trends like plant-based meats, artisanal goods and less plastic waste.

By uniting people who love food, this online hub can create a community and boost loyalty among independent grocery workers (and the consumers they serve).

Francois Chaubard
One of the biggest challenges for all retailers in the current environment is the ability to attract and retain associates that are willing to work a minimal amount of daily/weekly hours at the low end of the pay scale. Flexibility to not only allow but to enable associates to work simultaneously at multiple retailers will provide the associate with a more predictable wage and the retailer a much stronger candidate. To do this retailers must be willing to share schedules among each other to avoid the “this job comes first” mentality. Many of the WFM solution providers have this capability but it is very rarely used because of concerns of competitors getting sensitive information. Having a secure third party platform that contains only shared associate data could be one possible solution. Another major factor in the ability to retain a steady PT associate is the ability to offer benefits. Once shared resources are adopted, this platform could also open the door for a shared benefits package across retailers to take allow the 40 hour associate… Read more »
"Maybe a more active role for NGA would help attract and keep talent – this sounds more passive, in that you would have to find it before it became useful."
"Great idea and parts of it could be useful. But I would not look at is as a hiring tool, I would look at it as a retention too."
"Low wages translate to entry level jobs and higher employee turnover. Those characteristics do not change through a national job board."

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