A lack of fresh commercial talent in the FMCG sector and how to attract it
Posted on 05-05-16 by Terry Batty
There’s a common theme our specialist consultants are hearing when taking vacancies from clients. It sounds something like this…
“We’d like someone who is up and coming. A bright talent for the future that can develop further within our business but they already have two or three years’ experience of operating in a similar role.”
Sounds ideal doesn’t it? Employ someone who has enough experience to carry out the role without having to provide significant training. They have time to further grow and develop, whilst also boasting the energy, drive and determination of youth. All this and they command a salary significantly lower than a more seasoned pro.
Well I wish it was as simple as that!
Recruiters and consequentially employers are fishing in a pretty small pool for talent that match this criteria. The old cliché “war for talent” has never been more apt. We can also throw into the mix a significant upturn in counter offers as companies fight much harder to retain talent once they have it. In the past, this particular talent pool was far deeper, so what has caused this shortage of fresh talent coming through?
The Great Recession
The financial crisis of 2008 and the following recession have certainly played their part in the shortage of new talent. Back in those challenging times, firms of all sizes either slowed down or put a total freeze on recruitment at all levels. This was equally true with graduate schemes where the intake of fresh grads was cut dramatically for a number of years. And here lies the heart of the problem. Now eight years on, we are missing that new wave of talent that would have progressed through such schemes, gained a few years’ experience and then been ready to move on to a new challenge and progress their careers.
Thankfully with the economic improvements of recent years, graduate schemes are now back in full swing meaning this is more of a temporary void period rather than a permanent issue. But it does make hiring up and coming talent in the here and now difficult.
The Contraction of Field Sales
Sales recruitment within FMCG is one of Clear Edge’s largest specialisms. Over the years we have noticed that many businesses within food, drink and consumer durables have severely reduced the size of their field sales teams. For example, ten to twenty years ago a midsized consumer durables supplier may have had between five and ten Area Sales Managers covering the UK independent retail channel. Today, it is very common that such a business will employ just two Area Managers – typically one in the south and one in the north.
The reason for this is pretty clear. As multiple retailers have grown and thrived, this has been at the expense of the independent trade. With the contraction of the independent channel, the need for as many feet on the ground to manage these relationships has reduced. But as a consequence, this has hurt the amount of sales talent coming through. In the past there was a whole host of people cutting their teeth in sales at ASM level, chomping at the bit to move into KAM or NAM roles and with the cream of the crop doing just that. Today, the limited number of opportunities at this more entry level of sales has severely reduced the talent pool that is ready and capable to progress into bigger roles.
So with talent at a premium, how do we go about attracting it I hear you say?
For starters, don’t rule out more experienced talent that has been proven over the long term. Whilst such candidates may command a higher salary, this extra investment can be quickly recouped through their performance in the role. Their experience, maturity and knowledge will enable them to hit the ground running with minimal fuss and support, repaying your investment quickly whilst freeing up more of your own time.
But what if acquiring fresh up and coming talent is your primary objective? Firstly, choose the right recruitment partner and view them as just that – a partner. Provide the recruiter with lots of information on your business and the role. Tell them why your business is great and why someone would love to work with you. Share any exciting business plans that are in place and make the career progression path clear. Then make sure you share this information yourself directly with candidates when interviewing. Don’t fall into the trap of just interviewing the candidate to ensure they are right for you – remember a good candidate is also interviewing you, so you must try and attract them!
Keep the recruitment process efficient in terms of timescales – protracted processes often go wrong and you will miss out on your preferred candidate. Also, provide detailed feedback and updates on status to your recruitment partner so they can keep candidates informed and engaged in the process. And to really target and attract the very best talent, consider a retained search. That up-front payment can seem off putting, but it really is money well spent!
To learn more about our retained service please take a look at our information for clients.
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