In focus: Retail recruitment

Kate, you have worked in the world of recruitment for over 18 years , focusing on the UK and International Franchise, Retail and Hospitality sectors at CEO and board level. What inspired you to follow this career path and what was the most challenging aspect of working in the recruitment industry?

I fell into the recruitment industry purely by chance, when I was asked to help to set up a temporary recruitment agency in the mid-1990s. My business partner pulled out the day before we launched!  I had no experience in recruitment but a fair amount of business knowledge so decided to go for it.  The executive search side of the business came a couple of years later, focusing in the franchising niche which naturally included some international retail brands over the years. I thoroughly enjoyed working with my candidates to help them to achieve their career while providing solutions to my clients at the same time. The most challenging aspect then, as it is today, was finding the talent, the passive candidates who were the ‘best available’, not necessarily the ‘most visible’.  When I first started out there was no technology to speak of!

Today you now run your own business as a professional writer covering a number of professional areas working with leading publications on a national and international level, can you share a little of the HR subjects you cover and what the hotspots are in retail recruitment today?

On talent management, I write specifically on the issues that face HR managers, such as how to broaden their candidate reach, boosting the talent pipeline, employee retention, reviewing their hiring processes and so on. Hiring strategies are complex and while all companies have their own individual culture to consider, the main challenges are the same across all sectors. Leadership and employee retention are two of the key issues faced by companies today, not just retail companies. The retail sector can also face the additional issues of high staff turnover overall and staff costs often represent a significant proportion of their business overheads.

Recruitment is a subject close to my heart as it has been the basis of my career for two decades. I have also been involved and had to ‘evolve’ with the rapid advances in technology in that time. While it has revolutionised recruitment for some, especially the candidates, it seems like it has gone too far the other way. It’s important to bring the ‘people factor’ back into technology and I believe employee retention rates will gradually rise as a result. 

As far as IWIB is concerned, it’s a great opportunity to ‘give something back’ and hopefully advise or inspire other women at whatever stage they are at in their careers. 

What do you hope to bring to the visitors of this year's RBTE event?

I hope to offer some insight into HR and recruitment challenges that will either offer solutions or put a different perspective on the challenges companies are facing.

Kate Smedley will be taking part in a panel discussion at RBTE on March 12th at 15.30 ‘Putting the People Factor back into Technology’. The session, run in association with International Women in Business, will address the importance of the personal touch in retail technology. Check out the full programme.

What’s Hot on Essential Retail?