SUPERMARKETS SAID TO HAVE EDGE FOR EMPLOYEE RECRUITMENT

WASHINGTON -- With all their wealth and experience in marketing to the consumer, supermarkets should have little or no trouble developing initiatives that "sell" themselves to prospective employees, according to a employee recruitment and training expert.A well-planned recruitment program and a comprehensive training program can go a long way toward attracting and keeping good deli/bakery associates

WASHINGTON -- With all their wealth and experience in marketing to the consumer, supermarkets should have little or no trouble developing initiatives that "sell" themselves to prospective employees, according to a employee recruitment and training expert.

A well-planned recruitment program and a comprehensive training program can go a long way toward attracting and keeping good deli/bakery associates even in today's market, said Dave Brumley, executive vice president of Payback Training Systems, Broken Arrow, Okla. He said he has no sympathy for supermarket officials who say there aren't any good people out there.

"Market yourself just like you do your products. Figure out what type of person you need to do what you want done and then ask yourself where you're going to find them. They're there," he said.

Brumley contends we have the most sophisticated, knowledgeable young people we've ever had in the U.S. The challenge, he explained, is to get them to want to work for your company.

"Competition from the likes of Blockbuster's and Chili's is creating a tremendous rate of turnover," he said.

Just as in marketing a product, the company should clarify for itself what image it wants to project and then go find the people who can help deliver that message.

He warned that this is an employee's market. With the rate of unemployment under 2% in many areas, it's necessary to offer employees something the competition doesn't, Brumley said. But he stressed that it doesn't have to be money-related.

"The large companies are very structured. There are a lot of ways of compensating an employee for a job well done other than with money. Employees want a sense of belonging. You want them to feel they're working for the best supermarket in the area. It amazes me that there are a lot of supermarkets that have great programs, benefits that could attract employees, and yet they do nothing to communicate that information," Brumley said.

Lack of information is what most often discourages employees, he explained.

"They want to know what's expected of them, what their job is, and what your company stands for."

While employees have often been viewed in the past by supermarket managers as easy to come by, that's how prospective employees at the entry or part-time level are looking at jobs now, he said. So it's incumbent upon the supermarket company to make itself appealing.

A good orientation program with a shortened learning curve can help, Brumley explained. And he suggested that interactive training via CD-ROM can help accomplish that in short order.

The biggest change for supermarkets is probably to go into a recruitment mode rather than just posting a sign in the window that says, "Now hiring." Brumley strongly advised companies to go out and aggressively seek the type of people they want.

"Go to the high schools, the community colleges and technical schools. Become the instructor's best friend so that when he spots a good person he'll think of you. Also, think about senior citizen organizations. We can't wait for the good people to find us, we've got to go look for them and hire them before the competition does," Brumley said.

The first step though is to evaluate your recruitment team, he said.

"Make sure they have the skills needed to find the people you want. They're not just screening people anymore; they're actually recruiting. You want the interview [with the prospective employee] to be informative and comfortable," he said.

But once a person is hired, an interactive training program can be the most efficient way of getting him up to speed, Brumley advised attendees at the Retailer's Bakery Association's Marketplace 2000 conference and exhibition here this spring.

"The technologies we have available to us today offer enormous potential for training," Brumley said, adding that with CD-ROM and a link-up to the Internet and the intranet, the possibilities are almost limitless. "It's one-on-one communication utilizing text, graphics, and video. Today's technologies allow us to tie all these things together, providing actual workplace simulations."

Brumley went on to list some of the benefits of such interactive training.

"The computer is consistent, it doesn't get in a bad mood, or get sick. It's available 24 hours a day, and you can measure trainee performance as you go along. You can pull back information, see how effective it was, and then tweak if you need to. But most important, it reduces training time and therefore saves money, and study after study has shown, too, that the retention rate with interactive training is 70% greater [than with traditional methods]."

It's also easier to measure the results so it could figure into getting more money budgeted for training because the results could be verified, Brumley said.