Kingfisher’s Steve Willett reveals how the retailer recruits and retains people with the digital expertise essential for success.

Digital trends and disruptive technologies are transforming retail and radically changing customer behaviour and expectations.

Our own customers tell us they want ideas, advice and support throughout their projects, from inspiration to installation.

And they want this in a seamless and simple way, with just a swipe or tap, and with no boundaries between physical and digital.

“First and foremost, if you want to attract the best digital talent, you need exciting work to offer them”

This is a huge opportunity, but recruiting the best digital talent is key to realising the potential.

We know this can be challenging. The home improvement industry in particular was once seen as a slow adopter when it comes to digital and, for someone looking to grow a career in digital, a technology company or trendy start-up might seem a more obvious destination.

How can businesses like ours compete?

First and foremost, if you want to attract the best digital talent, you need exciting work to offer them.

That means being ambitious and forward-thinking in how you approach digital and embedding this across your entire business. At Kingfisher, digital is at the heart of our transformation strategy and we have big ambitions.

We move at pace and test prototypes with customers every two weeks. We’ve set out to do things that we didn’t know were possible, and that’s something people want to be a part of.

“They want to work where they can gain new skills and knowledge to help them progress to the next stage of their career”

It is important to match this with a rich and vibrant culture. That is something we have worked hard to create in our digital hub in London, a dedicated space where our digital teams can collaborate and innovate. It is designed to look and feel like a tech start-up, and employs people of many nationalities.

Knowledge-sharing and socialising is at the centre of everything, from weekly ‘think and drink’ sessions, where colleagues hear from inspiring speakers over a beer, to regular hackathons to solve business and societal challenges.

Learning must also be a key part of that culture. Many digital recruits don’t see themselves being in the same organisation in five years’ time. They want to work where they can gain new skills and knowledge to help them progress to the next stage of their career.

That’s why we offer skills-based training, provide access to events where they can learn about emerging technologies, and encourage all digital staff to spend time on their own digital projects.

Meet and greet

Finally, if you’re not a Google or Amazon, digital talent may not think of you when job-hunting.

For businesses like ours, ads and jobs fairs aren’t enough. You must go to the places where digital minds congregate.

For example, we launched a SAFe (scaled agile framework) meet-up group last year for people interested in ‘agile’ ways of working – where teams work together on fast-paced, short-term projects – and we’ve worked with a web developer school to find new recruits.

“Only if we’re visible and active in the digital community can we attract and recruit the right people”

Only if we’re visible and active in the digital community can we attract and recruit the right people. We also run regular ‘pizza and portfolio’ evenings when we invite candidates to our offices to find out more about us in an informal setting over food and drink.

We know these efforts pay dividends. Today, we get 16 million visitors to our Kingfisher websites every week. Our digital teams have launched a simplified checkout, one-hour click-and-collect in all B&Q stores, and a super-fast group mobile platform to improve the online experience.

They have built new services to support customers at every step of their home improvement journey, including a bathroom planning tool with 3D visualisation, how-to guides, and access to our help service.

Put simply, retailers cannot afford to miss out on digital talent. They need to attract people who can help to harness the power of technology and develop bold, creative and customer-centric solutions. And competition for those people is fierce.

Digital ambition, a vibrant culture and a focus on learning and development are all key in winning the war on talent.