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PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates suggest that retailers fulfill their hiring needs from the following sources—

  • Referral hiring— Between 50 – 80 percent

  • External hiring— Between 15 – 50 percent

  • Internal hiring— Between 1 to 10 percent

Workforce management retailers plan to develop robust programmes to engage and retain staff

India has been identified as a major target market and growth opportunity for both global and domestic retailers. Several studies suggest that India is one of the top retail investment destinations among 30 emerging markets.

According to the Indian Labor Market Report 2009, published by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), retail is the largest employer among the emerging sectors in India. Hiring in the retail sector is projected to increase in the future due to several new entrants, including well-known global names, entering the sector as well as the range of formats that retailers plan to adopt

Growth in the Indian retail sector and the corresponding demand for talent has highlighted the need for effective workforce management systems. A closer look at the industry suggests that in general, HR practices in workforce management are in the nascent stages of development. To understand the challenges in acquiring, developing and retaining a retail workforce, it is important to understand the context of talent in the retail sector:

  • Since organised retail is an emerging sector in India, experienced retail talent is somewhat scarce.

  • Globally, retail has a high turnover of greater than 40 percent, with even the larger and more established retailers facing attrition rates, which can be higher than in other sectors.

  • The talent crunch in retail is exacerbated by the lack of requisite training infrastructure.

Talent acquisition

Organised retailing is highly manpower intensive. Similar to manufacturing, 80 percent of the employees in retail work at the front-end. At the lower levels, there is requirement for large number of support staff, such as customer care associates. The sector can employ the urban, semi-urban and rural unemployed since high educational qualifications are not necessary preconditions; in fact, several employees in retail operations are not graduates. It is essential to hire employees with the right hard and soft skills, customer service ethic, etc.

Employers have explored various options of meeting workforce requirements from hiring students on a part-time basis to entering into agreements with management schools to offer programmes in retail management for line staff and store managers.

  • For experienced frontline staff, companies typically poach from multinationals and other retailers.

  • For filling front-end operations like HR and merchandise management, FMCG companies are targeted as sources for potential hires.

  • Retailers are entering into partnerships with business schools to create content and courses in retail management.

  • Companies are using referral programmes and internal hiring to fill talent requirements. Employers are increasingly using technology and outsourcing services to manage large scale staffing programmes, ranging from workforce planning, candidate selection, onboarding, etc.

Strategic Issues for Retail CEOs* : Perspectives on Operating in India’s Retail Sector

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