Solid jobs numbers mean grocers must concentrate on their workforce even more
Last week’s jobs report contained both good news and bad for retailers. Yes, it was a sign of a stronger-than-expected economy. But closer to home, retailers understand the increased challenges the positive numbers mean for attracting and retaining good help at the stores, warehouses and fulfillment centers.
Employment in the retail trade increased by 49,000 in March, with gains in general merchandise stores (+20,000) and food and beverage stores (+18,000). Health and personal care stores lost 5,000 jobs. Retail trade employment is now 278,000 above its level in February 2020.
Not coincidentally, workforce management was front and center at the FMI’s Midwinter Conference in Orlando last week. Randy Edeker, president, CEO and chairman of Hy-Vee and FMI Chairman, told the group of retail, wholesale and supplier executives that the industry needs to concentrate on reconstructing the supply chain to make it more responsive to consumer needs, but pointed to the workforce as the biggest industry challenge.
“As our whole nation undergoes the dramatic workforce reform, we have to work to do, the work of defining who we will be as an industry and helping recognize the vocational possibilities awaiting people in the food industry,” he said.
Rick Keyes, president and CEO of Meijer, told the audience during a panel discussion on the issue that pay is now table stakes and that it is critical for retailers to provide associates with a benefits package, a comprehensive program that promotes retention.
“Every year we want to layer in additional benefits to make Meijer a better place to work this year than it was last year,” he said.
Mr. Keyes added that Meijer has long had a strong corporate ESG commitment but is just starting to use that messaging to attract and retain good talent to the company. The pandemic has strengthened that position for many entering the workforce or looking to switch jobs as supermarket and other retail employees were labeled for the first time as front-line workers.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Would grocery retailers benefit from doing a bottom to top analysis of wages and benefits? What will it take for grocers to attract and retain long-term team members on the frontline and throughout the organization?