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How to retain and attract commerce talent

May 23 2022 - Talent attraction and retention are priorities for most businesses. Even startups and commerce firms - on paper a more dynamic and appealing proposition - have to go beyond the People and Culture (P&C) department and the traditional focus on salary and benefits to meet this challenge. For Alexander Graf, co-CEO of commerce B2B software leader Spryker, it requires constant learning and a genuine commitment to people.

In the old world, people were trained for a particular job and did that job in the same way for a long time. In the new world, job roles change every two or three years, a process that will likely only get quicker.

This has meant that the role of the employer is changing. Private life and work-life are more interconnected than ever as increasingly, employees work from anywhere, including from their home or far-flung locations. Spryker supports the integration of life and work by supporting our employeesí causes and what they believe in. We are doing this in several ways - setting up a diversity council and becoming more active in CSR topics that reflect employee interests, making sure employees can take time off for charity work, and organizing charity events ourselves.

But we are a startup operating in a sector (e-commerce) that is seen as Ďhotí, so some of the talent challenges are in theory, easier. E-commerce is sexy. E-commerce players doing a lot with new technology are attractive to potential employees. Among the innovators, there is relentless change, with new job roles emerging all the time and a continuous requirement for new skills.

Thatís not the case in other sectors, where it's much harder to optimize the learning curve. The e-commerce sector may have a head start, but e-commerce companies can only capitalize on this if they focus on offering the latest technology that drives a steep learning curve. This is how they should approach it:

1. Learn or become irrelevant

Companies working with modern technologies will attract people who want to innovate. Companies working with older technologies will appeal to far fewer. Investment in new technology also helps to solve the P&C problem. The choice of technology platform goes beyond driving product sales - it is also an investment in attracting the best people. In the e-commerce sector, many tools for the job have not been around long. Not too long ago, there was no HubSpot or IP geofencing. In only a few years, people will work with tools yet to be invented. Ongoing learning is a prerequisite to remaining relevant.

2. Ditch hybrid working - itís the worst of both worlds

With hybrid working, workers cannot be fully remote, and thatís not smart. Companies must be able to attract talent that is not willing or not able to get into their office. Bringing people back into the office, even part-time, will reduce the ability to attract talent massively. Because 99% of the potential workforce for your industry canít or won't come to your office. If you live in India, you will not want the hassle of the travel and paperwork needed to get to an all-hands meeting in Berlin. It's better to focus on getting P&C systems in place for remote hiring and paying salaries internationally.

3. Become a brand

The employer brand is more important than the market brand. Being sexy for employees has become as important as being sexy for customers. The aim is to be an employer brand people want to talk about. It's not about being the biggest employer or having the best reputation among engineers. Employees should be able to brag about working for you to their friends. They should want to tell other people to come and work for you. P&C people must work with marketing people to brainstorm branding ideas. This is so important that in the future, P&C marketing will be a distinct department with its own budget, separated from the product budget.

4. Measure every P&C metric in real-time

P&C must use the same channels as product sales people - LinkedIn, Google ads, Facebook ads. The same amount of time and innovation in campaigning are now needed on the P&C side. And P&C must use and act on the data swiftly, ideally in real-time, just as product salespeople do. Employee acquisition cost is the new customer acquisition cost. What channel is best performing? Where do we have the best retention? Review metrics on everything P&C and improve them. For example, accelerate the feedback process for responding to applications within 24 hours to five hours.

5. Innovate all the time

Simplify recruitment processes. Explore ideas like enabling prospective candidates to apply without a CV and work with smarter tools that make the candidate experience smoother. LinkedIn campaigns might involve incentivizing a survey campaign with a gift card from Amazon. Ask simple questions: "Have you ever heard of Spryker? What sector is Spryker in?" If someone interacts with the survey, who fits the recruitment profile, within 10 minutes, the recruitment team should reach out via LinkedIn.

P&C must learn from innovative marketing departments, marketplace management, or IT departments and apply the thinking and the toolsets available there. Innovation breeds innovation. An innovative company using all the latest digital commerce technology can tap into that for talent acquisition and retention.

About the author

Alexander Graf

Alexander Graf, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of commerce B2B software leader Spryker and co-author of The E-Commerce Book. Sprykerís work model FLOW (Flexible-Life-Oryx-Work) allows employees to work from anywhere and benefit from unlimited vacation days and fully flexible working hours.

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