Kelly Smith: Industry faces talent challenge

12 May 2016

The food and grocery sector has to do a better job of attracting, developing and retaining good-quality talent, says industry training and development leader Kelly Smith in FGC's Leaders Series video.

“As an industry we’ve got to start focusing more on how we attract really good-quality talent and promote ourselves as an industry a lot better than what we’re doing to get that talent coming through,” says Kelly, of Bizadvisor.

“There are other industries that are far sexier than food and grocery. If you look at telcos, the marketing and advertising agencies – we’re not doing a good job as an industry promoting ourselves out there both to school leavers and to people already in tertiary education.

“Once they’re in our businesses we’re not investing in developing them. We’ve got too much focus on the output and what we’re getting from the talent we’ve got within our business, rather than actually what we’re giving back to them to enable them to get to that next role.”

She says it’s a big challenge.

“With the lack of investment, what’s happening is we’re just getting poaching between the companies throughout the industry … people are just moving between companies instead of actually focusing on building a career and what are the true best options for them developmentally.”

Kelly Smith says the industry should look for students to get some experience, even while they’re at school or university, to see what areas of the industry they might be interested in.

“There’s one thing that makes our industry very different to telcos, finance companies, banks and law firms and that is the breadth. The breadth of career options in food and grocery is the broadest, I believe, of any industry. Even if you go in as an accountant or in finance, you can end up in sales, marketing, supply chain, finance – you could go into operations.

“The skillset you can build from going into those multi-functions makes you stronger as a candidate, not only for progression within our industry, but also for going on to bigger and better things on the international scale, potentially bringing some of that international learning back into New Zealand, which would be really exciting.”

She says if she was recruiting for a graduate she would like to see somebody who has done work experience in a supermarket deli or packing groceries “because that gives you that customer and consumer experience that you’re not going to get when you’re sitting in an office”.

“That’s the key – building your career up but being prepared to put in a bit of hard yards and have passion for what you’re doing.”

Kelly Smith is behind a food and grocery industry jobs expo being planned for Auckland University on May 25. Further details will be announced shortly.

FGC Chief Executive Katherine Rich says the Leaders Series is designed to expose member companies to insights and ideas of some of the leaders and thinkers within FGC.

“In this video, Kelly provides some frank advice about a concerning issue. And as an FMCG training and development specialist with extensive hands-on experience in the industry, industry leaders should be taking heed of what she has to say.”

Speakers so far have been Geoff Shaw of Saturn Group on training up talent for senior roles, Sharna Heinjus of Kimberly-Clark on sustainability, Veronique Cremades of Nestlé on health and wellness, and Gerry Lynch of Mars on health and safety.

 Watch or link Kelly Smith’s video on FGC’s YouTube channel here.