Retail is among the top-five industries with the largest millennial workforce – a new generation of employees who are creating a change in the workplace. Connie Ng, director of human resources at DFS Group tells cpjobs.com how revolutionising your hiring strategy will help your organisation stay ahead of the competition in the war for talent.
Cpjob.com: What differentiates DFS as an employer?
Ng: We offer our customers a multi-brand shopping experience and seamless, one-stop convenience all under one roof, and this sets us apart from other retailers. Recently, we have moved to emphasise a luxurious retail experience rather than just luxury products. We know our customers have the choice between shopping on line and shopping in a store, and so the in-store environment and experience really makes the difference.
As well as looking for experienced hands with knowledge of the many brands we work with, we are also eager to recruit younger, less experienced talent. Our learning and development (L&D) team has a great suite of programmes to enhance the skills of experienced hires as well as training new hires in all of the skills they will need for a career in retail. Our bespoke, category-specific programmes are complemented by localised courses for Hong Kong people and, at the same time, our luxury brand vendors also offer their own staff training so there is a full 360-degree approach to training staff in the products we sell.
Cpjob.com: In recent years what has been DFS’s key recruitment strategy to attract and engage young/millennial talents?
Ng: This year, we introduced a digital platform for millennials/Gen-X/Gen-Y. We set up a platform on Facebook that enables ambitious young applicants to enrol with our recruitment assessment centre by uploading their personal data and CV. Then, after identifying the most promising applicants, our HR department contacts them. To save them time, phone interviews and online aptitude tests are arranged prior to a face-to-face interview. In addition to this, candidates attending our job fairs, which are held in hotels, can get instant confirmation and a contract if they fit the requirements. This illustrates how seamless and efficient our recruiting process is, especially in view of the present high turnover in the sales associates market.
We also encourage job rotation, giving new staff an opportunity to explore their passions and interests. One successful example is a product support assistant who, after six years’ grooming, became a make-up artist. We encourage staff to aim at constant improvement, and our door is always open to them.
Cpjob.com: What changes or adaptations has DFS made to stay ahead of competitors in the talent war?
Ng: Besides focusing on recruitment efforts to attract new staff, we must also aim at retaining the people who are already working for DFS. It is one thing to bring new people into an organisation – but it is equally important to show our employees that they can have a long, varied and fruitful career with us, with opportunities for learning, development and promotion along the way.
Every March and August, our career interview programme gathers the general manager, managing director and myself for meetings with each young manager. The object is to find out what their job aspirations are, and what support management can give them to spur their development. This programme has been running since 2014.
Cpjob.com: What are the results so far?
Ng: We have over 50 vacancies this year and as business continues to increase we will need to expand into new projects and so keep tapping talent. Across our industry in 2017 the average staff turnover was 18-20 per cent but our turnover rate was lower than the market average. Surprisingly, many former staff rejoined us, ranging from management trainees to sales associates. This shows that they value our many qualities as an employer.
Cpjob.com: How will DFS prepare for the upcoming challenges as the young workforce has different thoughts and plans to older workers?
Ng: We are passionate about transforming our business as much as possible with the advent of new technologies and through digitisation. In fact, we intend to be wholly digitised by 2020 in response to the paperless trend and the introduction of new IT tools.
The younger generations are also passionate about CSR, and this plays a big part in their evaluation of which company to work for. DFS has always had a strong commitment to giving back to our communities, but we have been encouraged by the strength of our newer employees’ enthusiasm, so this year we launched a new leave initiative in Hong Kong which entitles all staff to get a day off each year to volunteer for a charitable organisation in the community. Naturally, this idea was suggested by our management trainees!