October 23, 2018

Where are all the FMCG candidates? They’ve gone interim

An opinion piece by Richard Hanwell at The Sterling Choice.

At The Sterling Choice, we are in a unique position whereby we have an insight into a number of challenges currently facing the food and FMCG industries. Right now, there is more than one battle to contend with; the ongoing Brexit negotiations are meaning that manufacturers are being hit with increased costs, and a future faced with uncertainty when it comes changes in legislation and increased competition with the likelihood of increased American imports.

The other battle that the industry is facing, is the growing trend of permanent employees choosing to go interim.

Interim employees aren’t an entirely new concept, there is a substantial history of seasoned experts, that possessed a lengthy career history, (and therefore a wealth of knowledge) that would get to their later years in employment and embrace interim positions, in order to achieve better a work, life balance. Firms would welcome these experts with open arms, they were renowned for entering a business that were facing specific issues, using their extensive experience to solve the issues, before leaving.

For a long time, this model was successful; yes, interim employees commanded higher wages, but they provided a return on investment in terms of solving issues, and preventing them from eating into profits or damaging brand reputation. In short, it was spending to accumulate.

This model is now changing, and we can’t say that it is a positive change. In FMCG and Food recruitment, we are seeing an influx in younger, far less experienced employees going interim, because they are aware of the prices that are being paid – they are not in fact recognising that the prices reflect the ability of the individual. Can you compare a member of staff with over 20 years’ experience compared to three years? In short, no, but the industry is in a stranglehold.

We have previously discussed how the FMCG sector in particular, is going to face a labour shortage. An aging workforce coupled with an inability to attract graduates and young recruits because of its outdated and unappealing image, means that firms within FMCG are limited with regards to the talent that they can access.

Put simply, they are forced to pay the interim prices because they are limited in the number of other options available with an ever-shrinking pool of talent to draw from. To further put it into perspective, employees that were once employed in £30,000 a year positions, are now charging £300 a day as an interim for the same position.

This sharp payroll increase creates a catch-22; firms are unable to fill the positions, leaving them with little choice to bring on expensive interim prices, which in turn eats into their recruitment budgets, leaving them with a reduced chance of attracting great talent to fill the vacant positions.

It’s also unlikely that the firms using these interim employees are witnessing the type of ROI that the legacy interim brought in, restricting their ability to increase, or even maintain profits.

Ultimately, this new wave of interim employees is bad for the FMCG and food sectors; what’s more, is that it’s the new recruitment businesses that FMCG brands are trusting to recruit for them that are using underhand tactics to influence mediocre and less experienced staff to go interim. Now this is starting to make sense, isn’t it?

Of course, the increased cost of interim staff means that recruitment firms can charge increased fees for recruiting them – but then, these young firms have not spent time building relationships in the industry and in reality, have nothing to lose. Their lack of experience in recruitment in an industry such as the FMCG sector means that they are unable to take into account, the importance of longevity when recruiting employees, rather than taking a quick-win, firefighting approach – that solely benefits them, as brands will constantly need to recruit.

It is for the benefit of the industry that we buck this trend; there is no sense in paying sky- high wages for inexperienced staff that yield no returns. Instead, the FMCG and food sectors must focus their efforts on changing the perception of the industry, to attract dynamic talent that will drive the industry forward.