Take steps now

Russell Metcalf looks at how Covid-19 is driving a digital recruitment revolution

Assess the damage, dust yourself down and prepare for the future. That is the very clear message we have been hearing as businesses in the F&B sector take stock of the three-month hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

For some, it is seeing what business they have left and for others, who have seen an upsurge in demand as a result of the pandemic, it is identifying the next steps. As specialist recruiters to the F&B sector, we have witnessed how F&B businesses have dealt with the impact of Covid-19, and the implications on recruitment – both short and long term.

Unsurprisingly, as countries went into lockdown, so did the job market. Across the EMEA region permanent recruitment has been on hold as businesses pivoted to temporary solutions. Short-term staff and interim managers were in high demand to oversee supply, production and shipment as businesses looked to keep up with consumers across the world who stripped supermarket shelves in a bought of panic-buying. After the initial rush, this has now stabilised.

We have watched businesses just get on with the job to get through this period, but now, as the world reopens, these businesses need to be aware of the wider impact of Covid-19. Talking to organisations in the sector, they have indicated that recruitment plans are being ramped up with a view to targeting new senior hires from September.

If businesses want to be in a prime position to act decisively there are three broad areas to consider:

    • The ‘radical transformation’ of the F&B sector as result of Covid-19
    • Greater adoption of digital recruitment tools

  • A succession planning strategy

I envisage there will be a number of changes within the F&B sector that will impact on the way businesses will operate and the way they interact with in the job market.

  • There will be more tech-related jobs developed with F&B
  • Producers and manufacturers will invest more in Industry 4.0 technologies such as automation, digitalisation and robotics
  • Consumer habits will drive businesses to invest more in sustainable food
  • There will be a huge shift towards local supply chains
  • Manufacturers will adopt a direct to consumer model

Some of these changes may well have been coming, but they will be adopted much faster as a consequence of the pandemic and the various rules and regulations required for businesses to operate, such as social distancing protocols.

In terms of recruitment strategies and how these are carried out, again, I envisage this will be very different.

Firstly, we are now in an entirely different job market to the one we had six months ago. At the start of the year, it was very candidate driven, but it is now totally transformed as a result of the high number of people expected to lose their jobs as a direct result of Covid-19.

The International Labor Organisation predicts 300 million people across the world will lose their jobs. One major significance of this will see a trend towards lower salaries. There has been huge economic impact, as we are all aware, and this will also play a part in what companies can offer.

On the plus side, it also means that there could be more talented individuals from non-F&B sectors that could make an impact in the sector.

However, for organisations to tap into this new talent, recruitment strategies also have to be aligned with the implications of a post-Covid-19 world.

This means greater use of digital recruitment tools – or tech stack – to identify and hire staff. A full ‘tech stack’ includes:

  • Candidate sourcing tools
  • Applicant tracking
  • Online assessment tools
  • Virtual interview software
  • Onboarding applications

The whole recruitment process can be achieved digitally and remotely, which is a necessary factor at present. Alternatively, source the right recruitment partner that can enhance your talent search.

Finally, businesses need to identify the right talent that will enable them to deliver the ‘radical transformation’.

One positive from the pandemic is the career profile of the F&B sector is much higher, which makes it more attractive to high calibre candidates, which has not always been the case. This increased profile should be seized upon to bring in the new wave of talent, which the sector urgently needs.

The current senior executives across the sector have shown astute leadership, however, this does not hide the fact that it does have issues when it comes to recruiting to key positions that will continue to drive these businesses forward.

The F&B sector is not alone in having this problem, it is a general recruitment issue as the Open University Business Barometer Report 2019 indicated that nearly half (47 per cent) of employers’ report that the last position they struggled to hire for was a senior, intermediate or junior manager, while one in five (20 per cent) had difficulty in filling a leadership role. As a result, 62 per cent of senior business leaders think that their organisation is not as agile as it needs to be due to a lack of skills.

In a post-Covid-19 world there is going to be a greater need for businesses to be more agile in their operations. A way to achieve this is via succession planning. This will enable businesses to reassess their recruitment strategies and avoid over-spending when it comes to hiring management and leaders. More and more businesses, across all sectors and all sizes, are using succession planning to identify the leaders and senior managers to fill business-critical roles.

There is an overwhelming business case for embracing succession planning when seeking the right talent including:
• Adapting to demographic changes
• Identifying quality people from a small talent pool
• Pinpointing skill gaps
• Replacing unique or highly specialised competencies

A well-defined succession plan will bring greater clarity to the business needs and the leadership talent required to achieve that.

These are still testing times for the F&B sector, but taking the right steps now is essential for success in a post-Covid-19 world.

Russell Metcalf is managing director of Clarico Food Executive Search, a division of the Clarico Recruitment Group. Clarico Food Executive Search are headhunters for leadership candidates for the EMEA food & beverage sector covering roles including C suite, president, vice president and directors. Clarico combines the latest big data, digital marketing and recruitment technology to offer food & beverage clients and candidates a rewarding recruitment partnership.