Skip navigation
supermarket crrts.jpeg

“The dynamics of our workforce have dramatically changed”: IDDBA CEO Haaf

Focus needs to shift to quality of life, improving corporate culture, Haaf says

The deli/bakery department has long been one of the most labor-intensive areas of the store and has been especially challenged in the current employment market, said David Haaf, president and CEO of the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association.

Speaking at a general session of the recent 2023 IDDBA Show in Anaheim, Calif., Haaf said retailers may need to rethink their strategies for recruitment, training, and retention in an environment of low unemployment and plentiful job opportunities for workers.

“We have to understand that the dynamics of our workforce have dramatically changed, post-pandemic,” he said.

Workers today are concerned about what Haaf described as the “three Q’s” — quality of life, quality of work, and quality of schedule. Companies need to ensure they are meeting their employees’ demands around these aspects of their jobs, he said.

Haaf outlined some best practices for recruitment, training, and retention, and he challenged attendees to take a hard look at their own practices to better compete for the limited supply of talent available to them.

Recruitment — Beyond wages and benefits

“Recruitment now requires some great salesmanship to attract today’s workforce,” said Haaf.

While offering competitive wages is important, salary may not be the deciding factor that convinces prospective employees to accept a job offer, he said. Workers are asking companies to accommodate their own personal schedules, for example, and are seeking to ensure the workload will be reasonable. In addition, they often would like to see that there are opportunities for advancement.

“The tables have turned,” Haaf said. “We now have to sell our company, and the three Q’s, to the potential employee, vs. them selling us on their abilities.”

In this environment, it’s also important to make a good first impression on potential hires, he said, citing the need to have a strong “careers” area on a company’s website. Many of the largest companies that have had success recruiting talent have invested time and resources into making a good first impression with their career sites, Haaf said.

Some of the attributes of a successful career site include:

  • They share employee stories. “Candidates love to hear first-hand experiences before they apply,” said Haaf
  • They have landing pages for specific job descriptions. This makes it easier for job-seekers to browse and focus on the most relevant opportunities
  • They have a mobile-friendly design. “Invest some time and effort to design a site that accepts mobile applications,” said Haaf

Training — Technology is key

Retailers should explore opportunities to use video training that employees can easily access from their workstations, which can help reduce the expense of one-on-one in-person training for many job responsibilities.

“Simple on the job training is not going to cut it,” said Haaf. “Companies are pressured to do more with less and can’t spend time training.”

He cited Starbucks as an example of a company that has an effective training process using its “clean, safe and ready” cards. The cards have a QR code that workers scan to watch a video that guides them through sanitation and safety practices.

“They provide simple video instruction for easy comprehension and task execution,” said Haaf.

Retailers also have more choices than ever when it comes to products that minimize labor, such as freezer-to-oven baked goods that require no in-store prep work, as well as proof-and-bake items and fully finished items.

“All you have to do now is decide what product offering fits your workforce, and your customers,” said Haaf.

Retention — Focus on corporate culture

Once companies have recruited new hires by promising to accommodate demands for quality of life, quality of work and quality of schedule, they need to follow through in order to retain those new workers.

“Today’s workforce is less patient, and the job supply is plentiful,” said Haaf.

Successful companies navigating the retention challenge all have these courses of action in common, he said:

  • They have a strong organizational culture. Improving a company’s corporate culture can be challenging, said Haaf, but it’s a key driver of worker satisfaction in the current environment. It should involve articulating a company’s values, listening to employees, and a commitment to diversity and inclusion, he said
  • They prioritize work-life balance. “This is not just a buzz word anymore; it’s reality,” said Haaf. “Understanding remote and flexible scheduling is important, but of no use if employees have more work than they can reasonably achieve”
  • They recognize employee contributions. Haaf cited a Gallup survey finding that when employees feel that they are recognized by their employer, they are 56% less likely to look for new job opportunities
  • They create opportunities for growth. The most common reason employees left their job last year was the lack of opportunities for advancement, he said, citing a McKinsey report 

“These are all real challenges and opportunities,” said Haaf.

He said IDDBA is committed to helping its member companies develop their talent, with resources such as job aids, certification classes and leadership development, among others.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.