Recruitment nightmare for retailers as skilled staff cherry-pick where they work

The skills gap and the fact that employees can pick and choose where to work is proving a double-whammy for independent KBB retailers struggling to recruit the staff they need.

Elizabeth Pantling-Jones from Lima Kitchens in Milton Keynes and Luke Wedgbury from Coalville Kitchens in Leicester spoke on The kbbreview Podcast about their experiences and why it is so hard for them to find the right people.

The skills gap is one of the most pressing issues with both retailers reporting that they are struggling to find people with the right skill sets – whether that is specific industry experience or broader issues, such as whether they have a driving licence or live in the right area.

Wedgbury is finding all areas difficult to recruit for as he currently has multiple vacancies on his design and installations teams. He said: “The skills gap is so huge on the installations side that trying to find the right guys to put in our clients’ homes is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.”

He added: “In regards to the design consultant side of things, that essentially again comes down to the skill set. We’ve had lots of applicants, because we are trying to be as proactive as we possibly can, but they just don’t have the skills to jump in and get going straight away, which in an ideal world is what, as independents, we are after. We have a huge void to fill because we are so busy. We have to put the right people in the right places to fill the void and grow the business.”

The overwhelming demand over the past year has meant that a lot of companies need people to fill roles straight away. So recruiting those with a lot of experience, so they can hit the ground running, is essential.

Pantling-Jones explained her issues: “We need people to come in and lighten the workload and pick things up immediately. But, at the same time, you want it done, as an independent business, in the way that you like things to be done. Getting someone with the experience in line with the way that you work is really difficult.”

Training also takes time that can affect the business in the short term, as staff are taken away from clients and put on training, according to Wedgbury. At Coalville Kitchens, their on-boarding process, even for experienced designers, is six to eight weeks and as much as 10 times that if the staff have no skills. 

Coalville Kitchens is looking at the long-term issue of the skills gap and at training programmes for those who want to join the industry but have no experience. The company did this year employ an apprentice installer. However, Wedgbury knows that this will not solve the short-term issues.

The other issue is the way employees are able to pick and choose, and independents may find it difficult to match the salary and benefits package offered by the national chains. Pantling-Jones shared her experience: “In recent years, there have been things to try to address the skills gap, but the growth and focus for each business is different. Also, it is an employee’s market. We have been in the position where we have offered a designer role but unfortunately they have started elsewhere, as national and franchisee companies have been able to offer a better package than we are able to do as an independent business.”

Pantling-Jones has found that the better package can be either pay or any bonus or benefit schemes. Wedgbury has had a similar issue going against bigger companies and not being able to match their offer.

Wedgbury agrees and said: “There has been a shift in power. Before, the interviewee would sell themselves to you, but now we are finding we are having to sell the business to the interviewee – how we sit in the market, and how we operate, and hopefully that is enough to convince them to jump on board.”

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