Best Buy Canada’s CHRO: ‘It’s not an HR program anymore, it’s just the way we lead’

Attracting festive retail talent in an increasingly tight labour market is all in a day’s work for Chris Taylor

Best Buy Canada’s CHRO: ‘It’s not an HR program anymore, it’s just the way we lead’

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, especially where the retail industry is concerned. As we head into the busiest season, organizations are having to ramp up seasonal hiring – something easier said than done in the ongoing talent shortage. For Chris Taylor, chief human resources officer at Best Buy Canada, the prospect of not having enough employees for December led to many a sleepless night.

“Honestly, we were very worried about it,” says Taylor. “Luckily, we were able to hire to 97% capacity. The only reason we're not at 100% is because there’s a few isolated markets in Canada that’re really difficult to recruit in. In those tougher markets, we had to get super creative. We were offering customers referral dollars if they suggest somebody in their network to come and work at the store, which is something we’ve never had to do before.”

Taylor was ahead of the game when it came to seasonal hiring, knowing that in order to get the people they need they had to place HR’s onus on recruitment and employee experience (EX). In order to do this, Taylor put a lot of emphasis on storytelling, of using Best Buy Canada’s brand to entice talent in. And it worked.

We used channels like Tik Tok to attract the younger talent,” says Taylor. “I wanted to know the anecdotal stories from our new hires, those stories that put faces to names – all this helped make the whole experience more human and much more attractive. We also introduced “on the spot hiring” – we were getting back to candidates very quickly, and made it super easy for them to apply for vacant roles. They didn't need to submit a resume, we could get that after. In many cases, we were issuing offers within 24 hours. It just made the whole process so much more streamlined, which is exactly what we needed in the face of a talent drought.”

And this talent drought isn’t uniquely a retail issue, it’s impacting all sectors. According to a report from Manpower Group, 75% of employers across the globe are having difficulty finding the talent they need - the highest in 16 years. The Great Resignation following the pandemic marked a shift in market power, leaving candidates in the driving set when it comes to wage negotiation and turnover. This shift means employers need to work harder than ever before to make themselves attractive – something that Taylor knew all too well.

In fact, one of the reasons Best Buy Canada was in a better position than their competitors was down to their outstanding company culture.

“We’ve worked hard to ensure Best Buy Canada continues to stay on Canada’s Top Employers list,” says Taylor. “I’d say the biggest thing we’ve done of late is make our corporate office fully remote in Canada. That’s been a huge attractor for talent, as well as a big retention tool. It’s important that we have a fun and energetic environment for our people in store, too. We spend a lot of time with our store leaders talking about how to create that environment, how they lead within the stores, commitment to inclusion, diversity, mental health, all those avenues that’re more important than ever to our employees. The leaders have embraced that more than ever - it's not an HR programme anymore, it’s just the way we lead.”

This onus on HR as a strategic leader is something that’s only grown through and since the pandemic. While COVID was cited as one of the most stressful times in HR leaders’ careers, it also acted as a catalyst for change in the function, with the C-suite finally seeing HR as a core strategic partner – not an administrative function. And yet, despite all the changes, employers are still feeling apprehensive about 2023 – in particular regarding the talent market. Research from the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) found that 82% of employers are fretting over recruitment heading into the New Year – followed by employee burnout concerns (79%) and increasing turnover (77%).

For Taylor, however, he believes the future is bright for Best Buy Canada. In particular, Taylor’s looking to invest in telehealth in order to supercharge their wellbeing plans.

“I’d love to have a counsellor onboard that employees can go to completely free of charge,” he tells HRD. “That way it can fit around their individual schedule. I want to create something a bit different to an EAP, too – something where employees can just drop in and access mental health resources and authentic support. Our people have been amazing at telling us what they want, what would actually help them out. There’s a call for more accessibility around therapy and counselling – something that will really come to the fore next year for our HR team.”

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