How do we find the right employees for tomorrow’s jobs?
REWE Group is growing – and has thousands of jobs to fill each and every year. But it is getting ever more difficult to find new employees. This is related to demographics: The Baby Boom generation is edging closer to retirement, and succeeding generations hardly match the Baby Boom’s for size. It is a situation that requires a tremendous amount of creativity in personnel marketing and recruiting. Read more about it in the interview with Dr Daniela Büchel, Executive Board Member Retail Germany, Human Resources/Sustainability.
Qualified applicants can choose from a large number of attractive job offers. Why should they decide to go into trade?
Dr Daniela Büchel: Many young professionals do not realise that trade offers a broad range of interesting and diverse jobs and good career opportunities. Instead, they frequently view the business from the customers’ perspective – in stores that have long business hours, even on Saturdays. They draw these conclusions from these experiences: A job in trade is physically demanding and monotonous. To top things off, it requires people to work long hours after many others have called it a day. Such assumptions are wrong. But because they exist, employers in the trade sector must work extremely hard to improve their image. They must clearly show that a job in a store is something much more than stocking shelves and working at the check-out desk. Young people also need to see that trade will give them an opportunity to assume responsibility at an early stage and launch a career – even if they don’t have a university degree.
Dr Daniela Büchel,
Executive Board Member Retail Germany
Demographic trends are changing the labour market situation. Expressed in purely arithmetic terms, there are simply too few applicants to fill every open position in Germany. How is REWE Group responding to this change?
Dr Daniela Büchel: Recruiting must be rethought: We no longer wait for candidates to send us their CVs. Rather, we speak directly to them and introduce ourselves as a German retailer who is an attractive, modern employer. And we do so as much as possible at the time when young people are making career choices or are beginning to gather information about potential employers. Specifically: REWE and PENNY contact schools, actively communicate in social networks and address young academics by working with universities and setting up booths at job fairs. When applicants visit our company to learn more about it, we try to bring trade to life as well as introduce them to our dialogue-focused, open culture. The applicants should see close-up what our industry is all about and how we respect our staff. Demographic change is doing much more than altering recruiting practices. It is compelling the company to turn employee loyalty into a top priority. We take care that employees feel good at our company, that working conditions and work/life balance are right and that employees can develop their own talents.
What role do such social networks as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram play in recruiting?
Dr Daniela Büchel: If you want to reach young people, you have to use social networks. REWE Group understood this fact of business life at an early stage. The company successfully attracts trainees via Youtube and Instragram by sharpening its image as a dedicated trainer and reliable employer on these channels as well as providing authentic insights into the company’s training programmes. By contrast, Facebook users have frequently passed the age of trainees. For this reason, REWE and PENNY generally focus here on topics like the compatibility of career and family as well as modern working conditions like part-time models and the option of taking a sabbatical or becoming an independent retailer at REWE.
“Recruiting must be rethought: We no longer wait for candidates to send us their CVs. Rather, we speak directly to them and introduce ourselves as a German retailer who is an attractive, modern employer.”Dr Daniela Büchel,
Executive Board Member Retail Germany
When they select an occupation, young people listen to their friends and parents. What impact does influencer marketing have, particularly in terms of trainee recruiting in Germany for trade?
Dr Daniela Büchel: For young people, influencers are frequently a type of good buddy. They often have high levels of credibility because they create their own content and speak the language of their community, that is, their fans and followers. In many cases, they also connect with a large number of people. As a result, influencer marketing reaches a clearly defined target group much better than the scatter-gun approach taken by ads and is much more credible – when it is done well. Influencer marketing has become an essential aspect of many REWE campaigns, and we use it to strengthen our image. We are food-retail pacesetters in this area. Our activities have won multiple awards, including the HR Excellence Awards and a special prize presented by the trade publication Lebensmittel Praxis.
Have the good old days of job ads in print media come to an end?
Dr Daniela Büchel: Today, newspapers are much less useful in recruiting than they were 10 years ago. But they still do play a big role in the recruitment of certain specialists like lawyers or skilled restaurant staff. In addition: Many parents of the generation graduating from secondary school right now and their teachers are newspaper readers – and will tell young people about job ads they saw in the paper.
Thick application file or a slim online application: How does REWE Group handle the application process?
Dr Daniela Büchel: The key factor is for applicants to be able to quickly and easily express their interest in a job opening. It makes no difference if they can do that by submitting a classic letter, sending an e-mail or using our online portal. REWE Group allows applicants to choose from all three options. We quickly provide the interested candidate with feedback after we receive an application and then initiate further steps. Applicants are entitled to receive prompt information, and we want to get to know interesting candidates as quickly as possible.
The labour market for highly qualified individuals is growing increasingly international. How is REWE Group responding to this change?
Dr Daniela Büchel: Compared with other industries like consumer goods and IT, German food retail is not particularly international. The language spoken in the business is, as a rule, German, and most managers are Germans as well. This will most likely change in future. REWE Group has already given many management responsibilities, including ones on the Management Board, to international managers. This trend will continue in years to come. In recruiting, we will increasingly have to think and act in international terms as well.
To what extent can refugees help offset the shortage of skilled workers in Germany?
Dr Daniela Büchel: REWE Group has been working intensely to help integrate refugees into the labour market. We have designed a structured, long-term concept, for which we have received much praise from labour market experts. We want to recruit refugees who can become long-term employees of our company. We have already succeeded in many cases – to the benefit of both sides. But the hurdles remain high. These include both the language barrier and legal requirements. In the Region South, we have already gained some very good experience in a large, highly praised project. In this effort, refugees are offered internship positions, particularly in sales and logistics, as a way of piquing their interest about a possible occupation in these areas. If the internship works out well for both sides, these refugees – primarily those who have received official protection – are accepted into a six-to-twelve-month basic qualification programme. The time is used for intensive language training and is followed by a three-year training programme. If a refugee has been given protected status, the individual can be offered a full-time position following the training programme. Refugees who complete a three-year training programme, but have the status “tolerated” instead of “protected”, may work for at least two more years in Germany. REWE Group is very interested in providing refugees with a long-term employment future. For this reason, we focus on recruiting refugees who have already been given protected status.
A company that wants to attract good employees must be creative and occasionally take unusual approaches – as REWE Group has done in its personnel-recruitment partnership with the German armed forces, or Bundeswehr. What potential does this alliance have?
Dr Daniela Büchel: Both sides profit from the partnership between the Bundeswehr and REWE Group. Each year, 10,000 to 15,000 service members leave the Bundeswehr. They then take part in individual training programmes that prepare them for the move to the civilian labour market. We can provide these people with qualified career opportunities and create a new way to meet our urgent staffing needs. REWE Group regularly posts appropriate job, training and internship opportunities in the internal job exchange system of the Employment Promotion Service of the Bundeswehr, appears as an employer at information events for outprocessing service members, and provides the Employment Promotion Service of the Bundeswehr with information material.
How does the REWE Group Recruiting Centre search for new employees?
Dr Daniela Büchel: We monitor the labour market and determine which people would be a good fit for our company. They might be interested in a new employment challenge. In this way, we find employees via the appropriate employment networks and seek to remain in touch with applicants who initially turned down our offer – with the hope that we can reach an agreement sometime in the future. We also get in touch with all the people who applied on their own – that is, individuals who did not apply for a particular vacancy – and add them to our pool of applicants. In a nutshell: Recruiters are no longer in the comfortable position of being able to choose from a huge field of qualified candidates. They have to compete extremely hard with other companies to recruit qualified applicants for open positions.
REWE Group as an employer
REWE Group also offers dual-study programmes that combine an academic education and practical experience in cooperation with universities of applied sciences and private educational institutions. These programmes cover such areas as tourism or event management or business information technology.
A good way to get to know REWE Group as an employer is to visit one of the numerous career events that the group holds or takes part in. These events include the graduate job fair “Absolventenkongress” in Cologne; Women & Work, Germany’s largest trade fair and conference for women, held in Frankfurt; and Sticks & Stones, Europe’s largest career festival for both homosexual and heterosexual students, graduates and professionals, held in Berlin. You can find an initial overview of job opportunities and entry-level openings at REWE Group on the company’s career website.