What do consumer goods candidates want to know?

Brand name recognition isn’t a problem for the consumer goods sector – with giants like Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Nestle, and Sainsbury’s in the mix, business students are familiar with many of the big players in the industry. And it’s the most represented industry in the Business Ranking for both 2016 and 2017¹, which means that these brands are top of mind for graduate candidates. 

However, even with top marks for awareness, FMCG/CPG (“Fast Moving Consumer Goods” or “Consumer Packaged Goods”) is experiencing a significant drop in sector attractiveness, while Retail is playing catch-up after falling to last place in 2016.

What this means is that candidates are interested in the top Retail and FMCG/CPG brands, but not in the consumer sector as a whole, which creates challenges for firms looking to attract the best and brightest.

FMCG is 11th in Sector Attractiveness, down from 6th in 2016 – Retail is 6th.

Why is the consumer goods sector struggling to attract talent?

The Business Rankings ranked 76 companies in 2017, and of those 76, FMCG had the most companies on the ranking board. However, when students were asked which sectors they prefer to work in, FMCG wasn’t in the top 5. Here, we look at some of the factors driving talent away from the consumer goods sector, and contributing to those low Sector Attractiveness ratings.

Size matters: 75% of business students prefer firms with less than 1,000 employees¹

Smaller consumer firms have gained in popularity – the most popular firm size is 100-499 employees for both business students and engineering/IT students according to a Universum study in 2017. Furthermore, only 25% of business students surveyed would prefer to work for a firm with over 1,000 employees.

This shift toward smaller firms may be reflective of what younger candidates value in their employers. Business students who are inclined toward working in FMCG favour firms with innovative product lines and services, and 47% of FMCG-inclined business students said they valued a “creative or dynamic work environment” as a priority². The attraction to smaller companies might be because students associate these types of qualities with smaller organisations as compared to large, multinational corporations.

Culture focus: Tech gains significant ground on employer branding

FMCG is taking a hit where other sectors, like Tech, are thriving because it hasn’t managed to tackle the issues that matter most to candidates. The Technology sector has successfully centred work-life balance, innovation, and a focus on company culture in their employer branding efforts, and seen a boost to their sector attractiveness rating. To highlight the issue, even among FMCG-inclined students, Google is ranked 2nd as an ideal company to work for – ahead of FMCG powerhouses Unilever and Procter & Gamble.

“By country, students who chose FMCG as their preferred industry in Germany, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Russia, the UK and US selected Google in their top five ideal employers” (Universum, 2017)

As the FMCG sector continues to transform itself through new technology adoption and product innovation, attracting a broad pool of candidates will become more and more important. Standing out against industries perceived as more innovative and creative (like Technology) will continue to be challenging if they aren’t folding these changes into their employer brand.

Talent shortfall: Uncertainty and misconceptions hurt hiring

Even mega-brands have trouble filling roles in consumer goods – a global beverages giant told us this year that they have a hard time attracting and retaining sales people. It’s no secret that sales roles are getting harder to fill, but even once hired, this company is experiencing massive churn. Why? The new hires don’t understand the day-to-day of the role. Their expectations are out of alignment with the reality of the job, and that’s an incredibly expensive problem to have in your sales department. There’s also a sector-wide issue with filling roles in manufacturing – 35% of respondents in an EEF report said they found it difficult to fill these critical roles. Lack of technical skills and qualifications were cited as reasons, along with lack of applications.

And 57% of retailers report that they’re struggling to hire for their high demand, skilled head office roles – a real problem in an increasingly digital-focused industry. Given that the sector has had significant job losses and cutbacks in recent years, it’s not surprising that candidates with in-demand technical and digital skills might shy away in an uncertain time. It’s not just office roles that retail has trouble filling – store managers are hard to hire, according to one of our clients, a multinational retail brand. A job in retail is often seen as a “dead-end job”, not leading to a career – a misconception contributing to 40% turnover.

Bridging the content gap in FMCG and Retail to improve talent attraction and retention

It’s not all doom and gloom – FMCG and Retail both enjoy the benefits of having household brand name recognition. And firms have the power to stand out in their sector and compete against rising stars like Technology and Energy; by bridging the content gap, and ensuring that candidates have access to the information that differentiates your company, dispels misconceptions about what it’s like to work in FMCG and Retail, and reassures candidates about the career paths available to them. Here are some key questions and practical steps companies can take to tackle the content gap.

What do students want from their employer?

Business students consider a number of factors beyond work-life balance, salary, and long-term security when deciding where to work. When asked what matters most to them about a future employer’s image and reputation, business students cited “Attractive/exciting products and services” and “Market success” as their top concerns².

Additionally, when asked what matters most about the job itself, 48% of FMCG-inclined business students (and 45% of non-FMCG) said that professional development and training was their first priority. They’re also seeking leadership that supports and mentors them, in addition to a creative and dynamic working environment. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, that Technology is winning this battle – a sector known for cool office spaces, flat working structures, flexible working, and hefty training and development packages.

So how does an FMCG or Retail firm set itself apart, not just in-sector, but also from companies in sectors perceived as more supportive and innovative? By closing the content gap that stops the right candidates from applying or accepting an offer, and the wrong candidates taking roles.

To offer a concrete example from our own platform, Sophia asks Madelynn, a Finance Manager at Nestle: “How did Nestle help you to build your career? Did you do any training?”, Madelynn’s answer was marked as useful by 17 candidates – all of whom presumably wanted more information about training and development at the corporation.

Another example, from Pernod Ricard:

Get personal: Candidates want tailored information about their own circumstances and priorities

Having content available to consumer goods candidates that address all of the concerns and priorities outlined in sector research is important, but it’s important to ensure that there’s an easy and scalable way for candidates to access information that is tailored to their personal priorities as well.

I am a transgender woman - will my gender be an issue at Marks and Spencer? Question for Insider

Candidates are not one-size-fits-all, and their personal situation and interests will inform the type of content they want about your company and the roles on offer. Making sure that content is available to them at every step of the process could be the difference between losing an applicant to a misconception about the sector and making a successful hire.

The Candidate Journey: How a consumer goods candidate consumes content during the recruitment process

We analysed the journey of a PathMotion platform consumer goods candidate for one of our retail brands, and found that the types of questions they ask change as they progress through the recruitment process. The areas they’re interested in evolve over time, and it’s important to consider the whole journey when creating content for your careers site.

¹ Universum “World’s Most Attractive Employers 2017”

² Universum “No more business as usual: Why the FMCG industry must strive for STEM talent”, 2017 

How can we help improve your candidate experience?

PathMotion is an online discussion platform that connects job candidates directly to real employees via the company’s career website.

PathMotion lets today’s digitally-savvy job seekers find the content they truly want by allowing employee advocates to share their personal stories through online discussions, live chat events, video content, and social media integrations. The content can then be shared across social platforms and the career site – meaning that you only have to answer each question once (instead of hundreds of times)!

PathMotion helps improve the employer brand and accelerates talent acquisition and recruiting. Organisations like Air France, Deloitte, Post Office, AXA, the NHS, Citi and more choose PathMotion to increase their qualified applicants by over 200% and improve their job offer acceptance rate by 65%.