Training and promoting talent from within can be a successful formula

It could be argued that no one knows a retailer’s business better than those on the shopfloor. After all, store staff are in constant contact with the customer.

But harnessing such knowledge and bringing it through the business is not easy. Although many retailers talk about encouraging internal career development not all of them actually manage it.

Laura Ryan, owner and director of business consultancy Know How HR, believes that board members who have begun their career on the shopfloor, have often moved companies rather than risen through the ranks with one retailer.

“It often happens that people have started on the shopfloor but not necessarily within their own company,” she says. Instead misconceptions and a feeling that the grass is greener means retailers often believe that external candidates will deliver more than someone from within.

“If you bring someone up through the ranks they know your business inside out but sometimes there is a perception they have grown up with the rest of your people so may not be able to manage them.

“However, such concerns can be overcome by mentoring and management; and diverting money that would have been spent on recruitment into good coaching or mentoring can deliver significant return on investment,” she says.

Jon Savage, head of people management at The Entertainer, agrees: “While it is important to bring in fresh ideas there is always an inherent risk in appointing externally. Every business has its own culture and a less tangible ‘pulse’ that employees pick up on and buy into over time. So if you promote your internal talent you know they are tuned in. That’s harder to achieve with external candidates,” he says.

At Perfume Shop its 1,400 staff are encouraged to follow the lead of the likes of managing director Jo Walker, head of retail Nikki Bates and head of sales Cathy Cormell who all started life as store managers for the retailer.

For Walker the grow-your- own culture of the Perfume Shop is part of its formula for success. “We are fully focused on developing and growing talent from within our business and believe our continual commitment to promotion of our staff from within is key to our success. Promotion and recognition of our people drives loyalty,” she says.

It’s a similar story at The Entertainer. “We encourage internal development and always have,” says Savage. “Three of our five senior managers joined the business on the shopfloor and have progressed to be heads of department. We also have Saturday staff who have progressed to store manager positions and all of our area managers have progressed internally,” he says.