Better, simpler, cheaper: the Tesco philosophy

2002

“Better, simpler, cheaper” should be the mantra of the recruitment industry - that was the message of David Fairhurst, Group Resourcing Director of Tesco, speaking at the Recruitment Society on 19 June.

Recruiters can learn a lot from the way organisations such as Tesco operate, said Fairhurst. Only by understanding every aspect of your business can you improve it.

Better for the customer; Simpler for staff; Cheaper for Tesco. These are the guiding principles of Tesco, and the principles by which any organisation should work. In every aspect of the supply and customer chain, these values should hold. “If there’s ever a conflict between the three, what is better for the customer comes first,” said Fairhurst.

Competition in the supermarket business is infamous. But a chain’s need to create value for customers and earn their lifetime loyalty applies to every sector including recruitment, says Fairhurst. Customers are also candidates. The impact of a brand is instantaneous - every person in a company must represent the right values for the good of the whole.

Recruiters have a tendency to over-complicate yet the best solution is usually the simplest. Fairhurst illustrated his argument with the story of a $12 billion pen invented in America to write in zero gravity conditions on the moon - the Russians found a 50c pencil did the job just as well.

Simpler does not mean easier. We are educated to make things complex, said Fairhurst, quoting Einstein’s maxim: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

Recruitment agencies complicate processes unnecessarily - they send several people for a client meeting when one will do and write lengthy reports on candidates where a summary would be more useful. Corporate recruiters, in turn, ask agencies to justify particular advertising media when they should look at their own response rate for previous job adverts, for example.

The problem is especially pertinent in the current economic circumstances. In a tight market consultancies become depressingly neutral, said Fairhurst - as agencies try to conciliate and hang onto the business they’ve got, they often lose their competitive and forward-thinking edge.

Being a good recruiter can be about challenging received wisdom. At Tesco, for example, 80% of the company’s candidates are also their customers. Acknowledging this, rather than advertising in various local press Tesco started advertising in store. Cardboard cut-outs advertised for store managers, while they placed adverts targeting returning mothers in the baby section and put ads aimed at elderly workers on toilet mirrors.

In order to make something simple you have to totally understand it, said Fairhurst. Most issues aren’t complicated, it is people who complicate them. Creating value for your customers by understanding their needs and responding to those needs is all it takes. Many companies assume they know their clients’ needs, without questioning their own ideas.

Simplifying and improving your service is not a journey that stops, it keeps on developing, said Fairhurst. But too many people are still finding $12 billion solutions to 50c problems.

The next meeting of the Recruitment Society is the summer social and AGM to be held at the Arts Club on 18 July.

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