Learn from the best: heres how top supermarkets are changing their strategies amid COVID19

As demand increases supermarkets across the globe are in a race against time to keep their growing workforce well-trained and healthy.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused a rippling effect in the retail industry. You only have to visit a supermarket to see it. Empty shelves, nervous shoppers and website crashes due to an overload of traffic. Panic buying has become a new shopping trend as supermarkets feel the pressure to employ more workers to keep up with shoppers demands. Whether behind the scenes producing more food, or on the frontline stocking more shelves.

Grocery Dive talked to Chief Human Resources Officer Matt Lutcavage at The Giant Company, the massive American supermarket chain. Lutcavage reported that they usually only employ around 6 to 12 workers at a time for one store but due to the virus outbreak they are employing up to 1,000 new people just to handle the influx of business and maintenance operations as well as the increase of online orders.

With many people now losing their jobs as businesses close across the world, grocery stores seem to be a new opportunity for many. Many people are taking temp jobs as delivery or supermarket employees. But are many people actually willing to work in a place of high risk exposure? 

According to Chris Kelly, vice president with the Connors Group, which advises retail clients on labor and workflow management, they are. He says the harsh reality is that most people right now just need jobs, no matter the risk.

With new workforce and pressure from the public to keep supermarkets “safe”, supermarket companies are having to implement new strategies. This includes more frequent but shorter break times so people can regularly wash their hands, and there´ll be less people eating at the same time. There’s also the added pressure of what to do when an employee gets sick. The right response is to offer them sick pay and send them home for self-isolation. The Giant Company for example offers relaxed attendance policy so people who feel they have symptoms can voluntarily stay at home, without losing their job. 

The Giant Company is happy to offer these conditions as its a large company. But happens when you have a smaller workforce? Mercato, which powers e-commerce for independent and specialty grocers works with some retailers that are so small they need to close for a day, not because they need more products, but because workers need a day off; Bobby Brannigan, CEO of Mercato told Grocery Dive.

Many supermarkets already offer standard training procedures as it is, but with influxes of new employees through supermarket doors the pressure to implement new training policies is as important as ever.

The Giant Company for example is providing  an abridged version of its typical onboarding process for new hires, Lutcavage said. This includes completing proper paperwork, making sure the hire understands what their role is and getting them activated as soon as possible.

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