Enhancing Distribution Center Talent Acquisition with Digital Transformation

Fountain recently sat down with Richele Middlebrooks, Director of Talent Acquisition at Grocery Outlet with about 400 stores to talk about how Grocery Outlet are best leveraging digital transformation in their recruitment strategies.

One thing that has drastically changed for manufacturers and distribution centers is the simple fact there is more competition for talent among companies not necessarily in your space. On top of the competition, there’s also the competition with work life balance and remote work. With it currently being a candidate’s market, you can work from almost anywhere, but when you run a distribution center or a manufacturing plant, there is no room to do that. Workers need to physically be on the floor working.

What do we mean by digital transformation?

Digital transformation is a lot more than just moving from paper to digital. It’s about making all of your processes streamlined and better for both the candidates and the recruiting team. From the number of reduced clicks, to reducing manual data entry and paper, to having overall reduced errors -- there is so much opportunity to make your process more efficient and easier for everyone involved.

How Grocery Outlet is Using Digital Transformation for Their Distribution Centers

Prior to the pandemic, Grocery Outlet’s onboarding process was completely done on paper and manually passed to person to person for completion. COVID forced them to move to a digital solution, and it was really important for them to have it tied into other areas of their tech stack. It not only has saved them a lot of time but has created a really great experience for new employees.

What advice would you give to recruiters and talent acquisition teams on getting rid of the big folder?

  • Don’t just stick to a process because that’s the way you’ve always done it. Try to get the context behind why something is done in a specific way. Chances are, there’s always a better way. 
  • Don’t just assume that the process you have is going to work perfectly when you transition it to digital. Look at your full process and see what can be improved before you move it.
  • It’s not as scary as you think it is. Start with one document and get it digitized and then move on to the next to gradually scale. 
  • Consider looking at the overall growth strategy of the company and where you are right now and where you will be in five or ten years. Picking solutions that will be able to not only fix your current problems but that can also scale with your growth strategy is extremely important. 

What are some tips and tricks for attracting new talent?

For corporate roles it’s about what you can do for them now and in the future. They really care about the company culture and corporate environment. For hourly, it’s more about “what can you do for me right now,” said Richelle Middlebrooks of Grocery Outlet, “if you don’t offer an hourly employee a job before they walk out of your building, someone else will.” 

  • Don’t underestimate your Glassdoor reviews. When a new employee starts, encourage them to leave a Glassdoor review. Their experience should be positive and it will be recent, helping you recruit other talent and keep a healthy pipeline.
  • Find unique ways to get in front of candidates such as billboards, radio, bumper stickers, text messaging, and various job boards. 
  • Show potential candidates you are invested in their future by offering training programs that show growth opportunities and a career path.

What are some recommendations for combating the competition for laborers in distribution centers?

While many distribution centers and manufacturers have offered referral bonus programs, sign-on bonuses, or even a stipend to show up for the interview, Grocery Outlet’s commitment to company culture sets them apart from the competition.

“We realize someone is not going to come into an hourly role and stay with us for ten years. We’re happy if we can get two years out of someone in a distribution center. We actually created an education program where we are helping our distribution center employees get a certification or learn a trade in exchange for that commitment to us for two years. And of course any fun things we can do from a culture perspective to make them feel included as part of the corporate culture, is also very important,” said Richelle Middlebrooks of Grocery Outlet.

The future of hiring for distribution centers and manufacturers continues to be a challenge, but with the right tools and partners, it can be simplified. To watch the full webinar, click here.

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