Employee Churn: “Our biggest competitor when it comes to talent in Saudi is the government”


August 16, 2022 | By RetailME Bureau

Employee retention has been on every company’s minds, especially since the fears of the Great Resignation started looming, because – simply put – hiring a new employee is way more expensive that retaining one.

Grocers across the world have long struggled with employee turnover, especially among the part-time workers for reasons ranging from high competition and lure of other opportunities, low company loyalty and wages. Moreover, retail workforces tend to be fairly young and many people in their teens and twenties aren’t looking for a job for life.

“At supermarkets, we have a lot of people coming in for entry-level jobs so it is not possible to create a career path for everyone as they might leave and change careers. And our biggest competitor when it comes to talent in Saudi is the government that is attracting all the talent into the big giga-projects and creating a talent vacuum for us,” said Ahmad AR BinDawood, CEO of BinDawood Holding.

While the ‘people’ focus is taking dominance in retail, certain jobs and roles within the sector inevitably witnesses higher churn rates than others. The biggest challenge that employers then face is training and the subsequent loss in productivity as their new employee gets fully up to speed.

“So then, we need to device a system that helps us get the knowledge of our business across to the new joiners really quickly and the only way to do that is by reengineering the process using technology,” he said.

“What we used to see before 2017 is that most technologies didn’t make sense, and the human cost was cheaper. With the introduction of Vision 2030, things started changing in Saudi – employees started becoming more expensive, customers started becoming more demanding etc.” he added noting that today, the role of technology to improve employee engagement, efficiency, and productivity is now paramount.

However, with the wider adoption of technology, customer expectations when it comes to speed and convenience have also been increasing. With grocers and aggregators promising 15-minute deliveries and q-commerce becoming the norm, there will inadvertently be added pressure on the staff. Could back-end tech then help relieve this pressure and improve efficiencies? To take it a step further, in some cases, it even makes sense to replace staff with automated systems and technologies, and utilising the human resources where it is most needed – to engage with customers.

“When we started our online business we realised that our technology was working fine, with no drops or downtime. The only challenge we faced was with picking those items and delivering it as fast as possible,” he answered. “There are a lot of inefficiencies when a picker moves from shelf-to-shelf for a basket size of SAR 350, which would take 15 minutes. Having that automated – from picker-to-goods to goods-to-picker – will bring the efficiencies down and the same order would now take 7 minutes. Therefore one of our plans is to open a fully-automated fulfilment centre/online dark store.”

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