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Deloitte and NRF survey points way to retail talent success

Wednesday, March 31, 2010  
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Deloitte and the National Retail Federation (NRF) have released the results of a comprehensive survey of 29 top 100 retail companies designed to provide an in-depth look into where retailers are succeeding on the talent front. The survey, which may be downloaded online, also reveals opportunities for improvement in retail talent management programs.

"The retail sector is largely built upon the relationship between retail employees and customers, putting talent management high on the list of critical success factors for the industry,” said Thomas McElroy, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and U.S. retail talent leader. "Since employees have the first and last interaction with customers nearly every day, improving the customer-employee relationship may present a significant opportunity for retailers to drive sales and ultimately enhance customer value.”

The study reports that while the majority of respondents agree that talent management is part of their company’s strategic planning process, they appear to be challenged in translating strategy into action. The study identified key challenges facing the retailers surveyed and opportunities to better align their operations with talent management objectives, including:

• Closing the leadership development gap. More than eight out of 10 (83 percent) of participants rank leadership development as critical to their organizations’ success, although one in five (21 percent) do not monitor their future supply of critical talent and one-third (34 percent) believe that their succession planning efforts are not effective.

• Addressing the deficit of human resources technologies. Forty-one percent of retailers who participated in the survey said they do not have the HR technology (including candidate identification and learning and training systems) to support talent management within their organizations. Nearly as many (38 percent) do not have a process in place for documenting and retrieving the knowledge of skilled workers — potentially missing an opportunity to pass along the organization’s intellectual capital and knowledge base to younger workers.

• Adjusting to demographic changes. Retailers are beginning to feel the demographic shifts that are impacting their workforce and customer base, according to the survey. More than four out of 10 (45 percent) of the respondents cited greater workforce diversity as a very or extremely critical issue to their organization.

Retailers surveyed also indicated that attracting new talent and retaining top talent are two critically important areas. However, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of respondents indicate that their organizations know what is required to motivate and retain top talent. The top three tools cited to attract and retain talented employees include financial rewards and incentives (76 percent), training and development opportunities (69 percent) and brand affiliation, with two-thirds (66 percent) of the surveyed executives citing brand attraction as a key tool.

"The study suggests that retailers understand the talent management imperative and are focused on improving their competitive position in the talent market,” said Dan Butler, vice president for retail operations for the NRF. "Retailers that take a proactive approach to engage top performers, develop the next generation of leaders and increase workforce diversity through effective recruiting, development and retention strategies may be well positioned to drive positive business performance through an economic recovery and beyond.”

For the complete survey results, visit For more information about Deloitte’s retail sector, please visit

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