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Why great customer and employee experience needs to start with your recruitment and selection processes.

It’s becoming more widespread to think about the candidate experience when we’re hiring.  But what about the connection between the customer experience and engaged employees? Why does great customer and employee experience need to start with your recruitment and selection processes?

The selection process for supermarket front line workers has traditionally revolved around customer service and communication skills, teamwork, working under pressure, problem-solving and initiative.  As technology has changed jobs in supermarkets, these traditional skills are becoming less important; but many supermarket’s selection processes still assess these skills.  Meaning supermarkets will not achieve real levels of employee engagement – and with disengaged employees, they will not deliver the level of customer experience needed to be successful……

This is based on my own experience of working in supermarkets during this weird and wonderful global pandemic.  A growing part of the supermarkets’ business is Online Grocery Shopping, where groceries are picked in store by employees and delivered to customers’ homes.  But for supermarkets, this area of the business has a lower profit margin, so much of the process is automated to keep costs low.

I went through the selection process for an “Instore Shopper”.  I completed an online multiple choice questionnaire and competency based interview looking at my:

  • Ability to listen, build rapport and trust
  • Ability to solve problems
  • Innovation and creativity skills
  • Desire to help and support other people

Which is strange because jobs in Online Grocery teams do not require these skills.  In fact, I’ve seen people who have these skills find the reality frustrating and disengaging because they cannot use these skills for most of their working days.  Here are the reasons why:

Online Shopping is driven by process efficiency and digitalisation

Profit in this business is dependent on automated, easily replicated, standardised processes. Creativity and innovation is not required, because processes are not to be deviated from.  A system calculates the most efficient way to pick customer orders; work is sent to employees via handsets to follow exactly and avoid errors or exceptions. Performance is measured by productivity, speed and accuracy.

Performance is measured by efficiency, not relationships.

Store based Online Staff very rarely see or talk to customers as contact (if it is needed) is via a centralised call centre.  Their performance is measured by “scan rates”, “Items per hour” “delivery time windows” and “stock availability”.  Performance metrics help to ensure adherence to those standard processes, feedback is given if performance falls short of expected performance measures.

So what happens when you hire people for their skill sets, but the job doesn’t require them to use those skills? The reality is low levels of engagement, minimal performance levels and high levels of attrition.  For an industry built on low margins and high volumes, this brings lots of unnecessary cost and waste into the process.

But most retailers publicise a commitment to employee engagement and wellbeing?  The majority of these programmes provide extrinsic rewards, and very little is said about intrinsic rewards; yet it’s intrinsic motivation that has the greater influence on employee engagement.   Intrinsic motivation comes from doing an activity for its inherent satisfaction rather than for some separable consequence; and I believe the foundation for intrinsic motivation are people who feel enjoyment from the work they are asked to do, and the skills they are required to apply.

My experience over the past few months has shown that the people who do stay in these jobs are those who, through a happy coincidence, also poses the following traits –

  • Enthusiastic – The tendency to be eager and excited toward one’s own goals
  • Flexible –  The tendency to easily adapt to change
  • Persistent –  The tendency to be tenacious despite encountering significant obstacles
  • Precise –  The enjoyment of work that requires being exact and the tendency to be detail oriented

And also have:

  • The tendency to be productive while still paying sufficient attention to detail – Prolific Quality 
  • The tendency to accept guidance intended to improve performance – Receives Correction

And finally enjoy work and a working environment that involves:

  • Repetition – The tolerance of monotonous work: the same single activity is repeated over and over (e.g. assembly line)
  • Pressure Tolerance – The level of comfort related to working under deadlines and busy schedules
  • Tempo – The enjoyment of work that needs to be done quickly
  • Tolerance Of Structure – The tolerance of following rules, schedules, and procedures created by someone else

So to really create a positive employee experience and develop engaged employees, supermarkets need to rethink their Recruitment and Selection processes.  Be honest as to the skills needed for success and intrinsic motivation in their jobs.  Hiring people who will find intrinsic motivation from the nature of the work is the starting point.  It’s no longer good enough to think broadly about the type of skills needed for an industry, as more automation is deployed, jobs change and skill sets needed for success in those jobs change too.

How can you do this?  This is one of our areas of expertise at Blue Grape – we use a job specific psychological assessment to measure intrinsic behavioural factors that drive individual engagement, and also identify whether the candidate has the skills, competencies needed for success.  Because this is the starting point identify people who will find your vacancies intrinsically motivating.

In my next blog post I’ll talk about the leadership capabilities needed in retail to leverage those skills, and provide a working environment that people also find intrinsically rewarding – because even the best selected people can experience low levels of engagement if Leadership Capabilities are misaligned.

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