Retailers, manufacturers struggle to recruit, retain talent as the pandemic reshapes labor demands

According to recently released research by Deloitte and FMI – The Food Industry Association, the greatest challenge facing food retailers and product suppliers is recruiting and retaining employees who can meet job requirements that are quickly evolving and becoming more tech-reliant due to the pandemic.

Deloitte and FMI’s survey, “Future of Work: The State of the Food Industry,” reveals 44% of food retailers cited a broader workforce shortage as a challenge, 40% cited retaining talent as a top challenge and 39% noted challenges retraining employees to use new technology. This mirrors the experience of product suppliers, 45% who cited struggles with retaining talent and 36% who listed attracting emerging high-demand skill sets as a challenge.

Even before the pandemic, turnover in food retail was 40%, according to FMI’s The Food Retail Industry Speaks,​ and 46% of survey respondents in the report note COVID-19 made it harder to recruit and retain people.

Recruitment and retention challenges are further compounded by shifting hiring practices in other fields, such as technology, which are starting to drop four-year degree requirements and tap into less-credentialed labor pools from which the food industry historically draws, Deloitte and FMI note.

In addition, the ability to work remotely is opening more doors for potential employees – again cutting into the potential labor force on which  retailers and food manufacturers rely.

According to Barb Renner, vice chairman at Deloitte and US consumer products leader, how retailers and food manufacturers respond to these challenges will dictate the degree to which they fill positions and the loyalty of future talent.

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