Retailer adopts agency model for internal team

mattx700x250Source : Shortlist

Retail giant The Warehouse Group is integrating an “agency model” into its internal recruitment function in a bid to access better candidates, according to recruitment manager Matt Bartlett.  The recruitment team will operate across all 20 of the New Zealand retailer’s brands, but will use an agency approach to maintain the individual identity of each division, Bartlett told Shortlist.

“The individual brands have their own identities, visions and values as employers, and [the executive] don’t want to lose that, so we can’t lose that when we’re talking to candidates,” he said ahead of his presentation at next month’s RHUB Conference in New Zealand.

“Once the relationship between the candidate and the brand is broken down for whatever reason – the candidate or the business isn’t interested – then we can say, ‘actually we think there’s another opportunity for you in the group’. “I am loath to call it this [but] it’s almost an agency model because [the recruiter] can put her Warehouse Stationary hat on when she’s recruiting for Warehouse Stationary, or a Warehouse hat when she’s recruiting for Warehouse.”

The company has also put together a team of dedicated ‘job-type’ recruiters who specialise in one core business area, much like traditional agency consultants, said Bartlett.  “We now have specialists in cross-brand and store management recruitment, and that’s to really drive candidate experience and provide what we call ‘return on candidate’.  “[We’re] basically positioning somebody to be the retail store leadership expert in the country, so they can tap into or approach any store manager in any business and say ‘I represent a whole lot of different brands, what I know from you is I think you’d be right for this [brand]’.”

Bartlett, for example, focuses on supply chain and marketing, while another team member focuses on retail support roles, such as HR, finance and IT. The strategy came about through necessity as the company began to acquire more brands, but did not allocate corresponding recruitment resources, Bartlett said. The Warehouse Group, which makes around 2,500 hires annually, still uses volume recruiters to hire in-store staff and has worked extensively toward automating that process, he added.

Retail workers aren’t ‘second-class citizens’

The Warehouse Group sponsors education programs to improve the poor public perception of working in retail and attract more talent to the industry, said Bartlett. The strategy was spurred by a quote on the company’s Wikipedia page calling its workforce “second-class citizens”, he said. “As much as we’re trying to target the top retailers in the country to join us… we’re also leading the way in shifting the perception of the industry among the wider population.

“The reality is you don’t get parents going ‘I’d love for my kids to work in retail when they grow up’, but we would like to get to that.”

Warehouse, in partnership with Massey University, also offers New Zealand’s first ever retail degree, and is working with Careers NZ to promote retail careers to teachers and kids across the country, Bartlett said. The company also offers a work experience program and has developed retail modules for technical institutes’ business courses, he said.

“A good grounding in business studies or economics will lend itself well to becoming a buyer or a category manager. [We’re] just trying to educate people, who have got the right core skillset, that retail is a way to actually earn good money, travel a lot and run their own business essentially.”


Matt Bartlett is the Recruitment Manager at TheWarehouse. He will speak at on 18 Nov (day 2)