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New IDDBA President Addresses Industry Concerns At 2023 Show

David Haaf

Attracting and retaining employees, addressing customer wants and needs and working in partnership to advance the industry were topics addressed by new IDDBA President David Haaf, who spoke at the organization’s recent show in Anaheim, California.

First impressions are critical in recruiting top talent, according to Haaf.

“Some of our country’s Fortune 500 companies having the most success with recruitment and retention have invested top dollars and efforts in the first-line impressions, which are their career sites,” he said. “They simply are far from basic or generic. Your career site is the first thing every candidate will check out. And we all know how important first impressions are.”

Three key focuses that these companies have in common are shared employee stories, landing pages and specific content and mobile-friendly design.

Haaf said job candidates “love to hear firsthand experiences before they apply. Who would speak better about your company than your employees?”

Creating landing pages for each job function allows candidates to more easily browse through the jobs and start with the ones that hold most interest for them, Haaf said. Also, as cell phones “are essential to our livelihood,” he suggested investing time and effort in designing a site that accepts mobile applications.

“Staffing and workforce expectations are constantly changing and, at times, demanding,” he said, adding that training is a key focus. “Once again, we have to rethink strategies in our companies and organizations. Simple on-the-job training is not going to cut it. Companies are being forced to do more with less. Our associates are pressured to keep up with workload and production, much less spend time training.” 

Haaf said companies today must look at stronger commitments to computer-based training and on-demand videos for new employees, including the use of QR codes. As an example, he said Starbucks assigns cards each day to its baristas. 

“They provide simple video instruction for easy comprehension and task execution. Technology can also play a role in assisting in our productivity, as well as bridging the gap while we train our new workforce.”

New innovations in manufacturing also are helping with labor issues. The quality of freezer-to-oven products has come a long way over the past several years, he said, and have become more relevant in bakery categories.

“Bakers used to be a dime a dozen and train their replacement upon retirement. Now, the turnover in bakeries is at an all-time high.”

Recent innovations in freezer-to-oven have eliminated the proofing step for some baked products. “You now place on pan, bake and package. As retailers, you now have multiple options to pick from – proof and bake, freezer to oven or fully finished.” 

Employee retention also is an important challenge for the industry, the IDDBA president said. 

“Today’s workforce is less patient, and job supply is plentiful. Compensation and benefits, though important, are not the sole determination of associate loyalty and retention.”

Companies that have found success in navigating this challenge have certain courses of action in common. First, improving organizational culture is one of today’s key drivers of workplace satisfaction, Haaf said. This includes articulating values, employee voices and commitment to both diversity and inclusion. 

Prioritizing a work-life balance also is important. He said remote and flexible scheduling, while important, is of “little use if associates have more work than they can reasonably achieve.”

Recognizing employee contributions is encouraged, as everyone likes to feel valued, Haaf said. “When employees feel recognized, they are 56 percent less likely to look for new opportunities.”

Finally, creating pathways for growth is critical, said Haaf, adding that a lack of opportunities in career development and advancement topped the list of reasons why employees left jobs in 2022.

“These are all real challenges and opportunities. We’re here to help. We have an IDDBA community full of resources dedicated to educating you and your companies in these endeavors. We’re committed to continued growth in education and training, with job aids, certification classes and leadership development, just to name a few. Reach out to our talented team of professionals here at the IDDBA.”

Understanding customers’ shopping habits has taken a “dynamic shift” following the COVID-19 pandemic. While savings continues to be top of mind, customers also accept that they will have to pay more for products.

“Elevating affordability and value is still a top priority to our customers. However, customers have also come to expect and turn to higher quality products. This can be seen as a win for retailers, allowing them to introduce new and higher quality products.”

Haaf said retailers must help educate their customers on the value in products. With inflation and the recent end of the emergency SNAP allotments, “Our industry is staring at a $46 billion gap in customer spending. As inflation leads to recession, customers will be forced to watch their spending even more, raising stress levels even higher.”

During these times, customers are looking for “permissible indulgences,” or small, affordable ways to treat themselves. Haaf said retailers should look at ways to present value to customers, but at the same time, feed their permissible indulgences. One example is offering half cakes and half pies.

“Programs such as these give our customers the quality they want at a retail better suited to fit their budget. As the leaders of our industry and companies, we have to coach and train our employees on communicating the value to our customers. In addition to quality and value, customers now expect an experience, meaning more service and customer-centric training with our employees. It also means reacting and marketing to the dynamic shifts our customers are demanding.”

Haaf said understanding that customers have become more creative and engaged in meal preparation is important in reaching them. He cited an example of a TikTok post about a baked feta pasta dish that went viral and overwhelmingly increased demands for feta cheese.

As e-commerce continues to be strong, Haaf said companies must ensure it is a central part of their staff education and resourcing strategy.

“Convenience has always been popular with American shoppers. Cost of convenience, however, has become a key factor in the e-commerce sector.”

A recent survey showed that, for the first time in a year, cost rose to be No. 1 in importance over convenience. While Americans are still invested in home delivery, they also are becoming more frugal in their decision making, he said.

“Millennials are utilizing at-home delivery at nearly twice the rate of Baby Boomers. Redirecting your marketing strategies has to be a top priority. Click-and-collect sales were in excess of $95 billion last year and are expected to exceed $113 billion in 2023. 

“Curbside service flourished throughout the pandemic, and now our customers have become accustomed and enjoy the service. Focusing research and resources is a must. Our IDDBA community can assist you with these trends and supporting information.”

In closing, Haaf emphasized the importance of partnerships. “We need each other. Manufacturers can’t survive without retailers, and retailers can’t survive without products and services. Most important, our customers are depending on us to partner together to provide the products, services and value they need.”

While supply chain challenges remain, that should not get in the way of partnering together.

“I want each and every one of you to know and understand that we, the IDDBA, are a partner to each and every one of you and your companies…reach out to us,” Haaf said. “Tell us your needs. Challenge us to better assist you. 

“Our industry is back on the track and running full steam ahead. We’re going to be your partner with your strategies and your future. Together, we will persevere.”

About the author

Treva Bennett

Senior Content Creator

After 32 years in the newspaper industry, she is enjoying her new career exploring the world of groceries at The Shelby Report.

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