To maintain its role in society during the corona crisis, Colruyt Group needs to make a major effort to keep up the right influx level of new employees. For this purpose, the group is now considering workers who have been put on temporary unemployment by other companies. This way, Colruyt hopes to find 400 new employees for its sales department.
Ever since the start of the corona crisis, Colruyt Group has felt the need to recruit extra staff, and not just supermarket personnel. The dearth of helping hands in production soon became clear, e.g. for meat packaging, both in logistic centres and at the supermarkets. “We have to deliver societal added value”, says Ellen De Braekeleer, Department Head of Recruitment, Selection & Orientation at Colruyt Group. “Customers keep favouring our Colruyt and OKay shops, and initially we were able to accommodate them thanks to a heart-warming wave of internal solidarity. Workers at our non-food stores threatened with temporary unemployment because of the government measures went to work at the food stores. We also recruited working students and temporary agency workers through Randstad.”
When the government took additional measures to ensure safety at supermarkets, the idea arose to not just recruit from the pool of in-house staff, but also from the growing numbers of temporarily unemployed from other companies. After all, the government's additional measures prescribed new tasks, such as the decontamination of shopping carts, and Colruyt Group was well aware that the normal influx of new workers would not be sufficient.
“We had noted how, in Germany, workers from McDonald’s were being put to work at Aldi stores”, Ellen De Braekeleer continues. “We checked whether this might also be possible in Belgium and when we found that it was, we posted an appeal on LinkedIn. Frieda Beeckman, our contact at Randstad, immediately joined the search and made it happen, together with our project manager Laurens Bresseleers.”
In practice, this is how it works: companies who put staff on temporary unemployment provide a list of employees who have shown an interest. Randstad processes the administration procedures and sees to it that the temporarily posted employees can start to work at Colruyt Group as temps. One of the first companies to react positively was Decathlon, which was prepared to detach sixty members of its workforce. “This way, we create a win-win solution for all parties concerned”, Ellen De Braekeleer explains.
“Decathlon finds a solution for its temporarily unemployed staff, Colruyt Group increases its influx of new workers and Randstad could put some of its own temporarily unemployed staff back to work to guide and process this system.” From this first experience, Colruyt Group and Randstad have learned what exactly is required to shift gears faster. They are currently examining how to enable candidates for a temporary function to start their new job sooner by replacing the traditional procedure of proposing candidates for jobs by a procedure to place candidates directly with their temporary employer.
How great the need for more staff at Colruyt Group really is or will become exactly is anyone's guess at the moment. Current scenarios may alter quite suddenly, if for instance the government were to decide that non-food workers can go back to work at their usual store. “For logistics and production, the shortage had been solved, but for our sales subsidiaries Colruyt Group needed 400 additional workers”, is how Ellen De Braekeleer describes the actual situation. “Half of those positions have now been filled and by 21 April we would like to be back on schedule as to the rest.
We have managed to survive the present wave. Now all we can do is wait and see what the next wave will bring. This wave may arrive quite soon if, for instance, the worker students we are employing now can no longer be counted on because lessons — whether online or not — may resume after the Easter holiday. Or if a change in the volume of work were to compel our temps to go back to work at their own company. Shifting gears quickly and searching for new sources of influx will remain a necessity to Colruyt Group for a while.”
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