Spotlight: Challenges Finding Senior Leaders in the Retail Sector

October 5, 2021 – Pamela Ruebusch is the founder and owner of TSI Group. When she started the business over two decades ago, her goal was to create a firm that delivered the best available talent and executive search services primarily to the supply chain industry throughout North America. Her entrepreneurial drive and strategic vision has enabled her to evolve her firm responding to market and client demands.

Ms. Ruebusch recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the current climate for executive search within the retail sector and some challenges in finding senior leaders for the industry.

Pamela, discuss the current climate for recruiting senior executives in the retail sector.

The retail industry is ever-evolving due to digitalization and technology, while also coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, making recruitment for senior executives more challenging. The sector accounts for a considerable share of the North American workforce but has been making a notable change in numbers due to the increase in AI tools and E-commerce channels. This is causing companies to invest in capable leaders to help lead an organization into the new and digitally driven retail landscape. This has been seen through industry giants adding supplementary services and offerings to their retail stores such as E-commerce, delivery and pre- made products. Notably, some of the online food and retail E-commerce business have grown over 10 times due to the increase in online shopping during COVID. This increase has caused the need for added senior roles in many organizations as they focus on brining E-commerce and digital executives onto the team.

Further, recruiters are finding that there is a large and eager pool of candidates looking for senior executive roles within the retail sector now that businesses are opening back up after the pandemic. Now, senior executives can explore various opportunities as there is flexibility within the workforce and working from home. This has allowed talent to be sourced internationally and finding leaders with the right skill-set to fill the positions. But from this, the climate for attracting leaders to leave requires hiring organizations to increate incentives due to the high demand of talent and the tough competition within the marketplace. Signing bonuses have greatly increased and companies are winning over candidates by offering them the right incentive.

What are some challenges for filling senior roles within the sector?

Over the past year, TSI Group has seen the executive search industry face various challenges when filing senior leadership roles within the retail and hospitality sectors due to its ever-evolving climate. Many senior leaders within the sector are hard to attract and engage with as they have a long-term commitment to their organization. This is due to benefits and incentives such as retention bonuses, that are incurred by the senior leaders, making the recruitment within this sector more difficult. Additionally, it requires more effort and incentives from the client to top the current incentives candidates are receiving to attract various new senior leaders to roles. This has caused the market to become extremely competitive as incentive packages are rising. Moreover, there has been a shift in attaining executives that are looking in other industry verticals where the skills are transferable at the leadership level. This has caused an increase in candidates as organizations are looking for transferable skill-sets and not necessarily industry experience. Thus, it is imperative that the executive search industry focuses on finding candidates who can bring skills and will be a long-term fit to organizations.

How has technology influenced the sector?

Over the past few years and more predominantly during COVID, we have seen countless brick and mortar stores close and be replaced with E-commerce retail stores due to the advancement in AI technology. With this advancement, the retail sector was able to quickly adapt to these changes and examine how to shift their business model to improve the customer experience both in-store and online. This has caused various retailers to streamline their operations through various digitalization methods to keep up with international and domestic competition. This has also impacted the supply chain and transportation sectors as retail relies on these industries to deliver their goods to consumer efficiently. We have noticed trends within organizations that were E-commerce based prior to the pandemic not being able to keep up with their high demand for products as it is more accessible to consumers. Alternatively, brick-and-motor stores with no E-commerce platform prior to COVID suffered the ups and downs of closures and were not able to push products to consumers as they could not quickly adapt to the online climate. Additionally, technology has expanded the talent pool of candidates to a global stand-point due to the ability of working remotely. We have seen an increase in international talent being hired as remote work is on the rise. The progression in technology and the way in which executive recruiters rely on it, has created the opportunity for recruiters to carry out their whole sales cycle from anywhere in the world, on their computer. With this, we have seen a shift in both the retail and executive search sectors and how technology has influenced how we work.



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