How Tesco Uses Workforce Planning & Proactive Recruitment

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Recruitment and selection have become fundamentally important concerns for employers globally in large part because of considerable shifts in emerging technologies, nature of the labour market, sources of recruitment, job expectations, modern job philosophy, and competition in the market, among other factors (White & Escobar, 2008). Increased specialization and the emergence of global organizations have precipitated matters further, enhancing the need for employers to recruit the best employees in the market to enhance their competitive advantage. These developments oblige employers to evolve workable recruitment, selection and retention methodologies if they are to effectively compete with rivals for the right people.

In equal measure, while many organizations have awakened to the fact that productivity and efficiency are geometrically proportionate to the quality of existing workforce, a significant number continue to encounter difficulties in recruiting and selecting the right type of employees who can be entrusted to align their human capital capacity to critical business objectives and outcomes.

There is compelling evidence that an average organization’s employee cost in terms of remuneration and other related benefits amounts to over 25 percent of its generated revenue (Searle, 2003), yet the value of this enormous cost may never be justified, at least productively, if the organization doesn’t get it right when it comes to recruitment and selection of employees. To arrest this situation, many organizations have developed and adopted a multiplicity of recruitment and selection processes with the aim to create an enabling environment through which they can source or recruit the best people in the market. This paper purposes to demonstrate how workforce planning and proactive recruitment and selection processes employed by Tesco have served to resolve the persistent issue of recruiting the right people for the organization.

Definition of Terms

According to Bernthal (n.d.), “…recruitment is the process of identifying and attracting a group of potential candidates from within and outside the organization to evaluate for employment” (p. 1). The selection process, on the other hand, generally entails collecting, determining, and evaluating critical information about candidates’ academic and professional qualifications and abilities in relation to the specified positions. Organizations, according to the Bernthal, allocate an average of 33 percent of their HR budget to recruitment, while an estimated 18 percent goes specifically to selection. The importance to hire people with the right skills and abilities therefore becomes of great concern to the organization by virtue of the costs involved in undertaking these processes.

Workforce planning is the process of constantly evaluating an organization’s expected needs for human capital in terms of numbers, capabilities, skills and locations (Tesco, n.d.). This process is particularly important because it gives organizations the leverage to plan how the stated needs can be optimally met through effective recruitment, selection and training strategies.

Many organizations adapt conventional recruitment models to fit the needs of specific positions, and Tesco is no exception in this rule. However, Tesco has over the past couple of years practiced what can be largely termed as proactive recruitment, which basically entails taking cognizance of the fact that searches are costly for the organization since they take considerable amount of resources and, as such, must be carried in an active way that reflects the mission and identity of the organization, including availing information on opportunities for career advancement, diversity commitment, mentoring, support and training (Searle, 2003).

Brief Overview of Tesco

Tesco is the largest private sector employer and the market leader in the supermarket sector in the United Kingdom (UK) by sales and market share. The company has in excess of 360,000 employees globally (Tesco, n.d.). Originally involved in retailing food products and grocery, Tesco has diversified its products range to include clothing, consumer electronics, internet and telecommunication, and financial services. The company’s business strategy is based on four fundamental components namely: core UK business, retailing, international expansion, and non-food business. It is imperative to note that Tesco operates in 12 countries outside the UK, including Thailand, Japan, United States, China and Turkey.

The company is in continuous need of human capital across a broad continuum of both store-based and non-store positions. Specifically, Tesco is in continuous need of checkout employees, stock handlers, specialist staff such as pharmacists and bakers, supervisors, stock managers, logisticians, marketers, lawyers, human resource specialists, property managers, and information technology specialists, among other job categories. The need to develop and maintain effective and resilient recruitment and selection strategies is, therefore, obvious.

Tesco’s Workforce Planning and Proactive Recruitment and Selection Processes

The underlying objective for Tesco in human resource management is to ensure that all positions functions together to spearhead its business goals and outcomes. The company needs to make sure that “…it has the right number of people in the right jobs at the right time” (Tesco, n.d. p. 145). To achieve this feat, which has evaded many organizations, Tesco has developed a structured process for recruitment and selection that aims to draw qualified applicants for managerial, operational and frontline roles. This section aims to critically evaluate how the company has utilized workforce planning and proactive recruitment and selection processes to attract the right type of people.

Workforce Planning

The human resource department at Tesco have realized the need to plan ahead in meeting the requirements of its human resources basically due to the fact that the company is constantly growing and hence needs to recruit in a habitual basis for both the food and non-food core areas of the enterprise. The company has the capacity to create many types of job positions due to its expansion strategy both in the UK and internationally, staff turnover, promotions, and retirement, and shifts in its processes and technology.

To adequately fill the emerging positions, the company employs a workforce planning table to ascertain the expected demand for new staff in both managerial and non-managerial positions (Tesco, n.d.). In the 2008/09 financial year, for example, the company calculated that it needed around 4,000 new managers to successfully meet its business growth and expansion strategies. The workforce planning process at Tesco runs each year, beginning the last week of February and entails quarterly reviews and adjustments in May, August and November.

Available literature demonstrates that there is no one preferred model or theoretical framework for workforce planning, nor is it a mechanistic or stagnant progression (Searle, 2003). Fundamentally, it involves analyzing an organization’s current employees, and then broadening that assessment to identify the future skills and competencies that are inarguably required to convey new and improved services, hence assisting the organization to achieve its business objectives. Workforce planning, according to Hawley & Taylor (2006), is based on the logic that an organization can be staffed more effectively if it develops capacity to predict its human resource needs as well as the actual supply of human capital that is or will be available.

Workforce planning has enabled Tesco to not only adjust staffing levels and conduct recruitment where necessary, but it gives the company adequate time and flexibility to effectively meet its demands for people in addition to meeting its business and organizational objectives such as expansion and maintaining customer service standards (Tesco, n.d.). This implies that workforce planning to a large extent assists Tesco to align its human capital needs to critical business outcomes, a fundamental indicator of effective human resource management.

Human resource theorists are in agreement that workforce planning not only creates a framework through which organizations are able to understand the skills and capabilities needed for the future, but also assists in the management of employment expenditure by anticipating changes and ensures that adequate and sufficient training and development is availed to employees (Hawley & Taylor, 2006). More importantly, workforce planning provides organizations with the capacity to improve services by linking core business strategy to people plans, not mentioning that it allows for effective implementation of diversity programs.

In its workforce planning initiative particularly related to graduate recruitment, Tesco utilizes the Talent Screener software to tackle the challenge of including unsuitable candidates in its human capital pool. The software, according to Chubb (2007), analyzes the applicants’ suitability for a particular position in the first stage of recruitment and rates them on a traffic-light scale, with red signifying ‘not suited’ while green signifies ‘highly suited.’ This categorization curtails wastage of time in consequent recruitment and selection processes by aligning the suitability of candidates to the needs of the advertised positions or future job openings.

According to Angela, the company’s graduate recruitment manager, “…the colour rating helped Tesco to identify more clearly what it was, and was not, looking for” (Chubb, 2007 p. 12). Additionally, the colour rating inspired Tesco to retain people who, though conceivably not appropriate for the position applied for, could fit elsewhere as detailed in the workforce plan. For example, a candidate with a colour rating of amber could potentially be asked to attend an interview for a different position which fits well with his or her qualifications and skills. This not only ensures that the company has the right number of people with the right type of capabilities, but also saves considerable amounts of financial resources in advertisement costs.

Proactive Recruitment and Selection Processes

Tesco realizes that the fundamental objective of recruitment is to attract the best candidates for the position in terms of both productivity and adding value to the company. As already demonstrated, many employers are experiencing difficulties in filling available positions and always gets the wrong candidates for the job in spite of the fact that are many qualified candidates in the market (Searle, 2003).

Having noted this challenge, Tesco have adopted proactive strategies in the recruitment of critical staff such as managers and other highly-ranked professionals by ‘selling themselves’ to potential candidates in a number of ways. Specifically, the company post fliers in its stores detailing the opportunities for career advancement while working at Tesco, and also utilizes the internet, intranet, newspapers, and television to do the same. However, this is only done when the company lacks someone within the organization with the right skills and capacities for the position (Tesco, n.d.).

In the above context, Tesco can be described as greatly oriented to in-house recruitment and selection processes. It’s ‘talent planning’ strategy recognizes the fundamental importance of motivating its employees to develop their professional careers with the company, and therefore encourages members of staff to work their way through the company. Particularly, the company has evolved an annual appraisal scheme in which managers develop technical skills, capabilities, and behaviours needed for particular positions and existing employees are encouraged to apply based on their qualifications (Tesco, n.d.). Such an arrangement is proactive in that it not only assists the company to attain its business objectives, but also assists employees to realize their personal and career goals.

According to Hawley & Taylor (2003), in-house recruitment strategy has the obvious advantage of costs and time savings in terms of training needs since employees with inside knowledge of the operations of the company requires shorter periods of training. In addition, internal promotion acts as an incentive to all employees to work harder for the organization and also allows the organization time to critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of an insider as opposed to someone who is completely new (The Times 100, 2010). However, the technique is criticised for not injecting fresh ideas to the organization that may initiate new creativity and innovation, not mentioning that organizations have to replace the individual who has received a promotion (Shittu & Omar, 2006).

In external recruitment, which is mostly done to fill senior positions, the company proactively utilizes its official website and other mediums such as Radio and TV to advertise for the positions (Tesco, n.d.). Although the company always seeks the most cost-effective strategy of attracting the right candidates, it is awake to the fact that an effective recruitment strategy must reach a broad audience and draw a large pool of qualified applicants. Human resource analysts are of the opinion that “…the larger the eligible applicant pool, the more selective the department can be in making its hiring decisions” (White & Escobar, 2008). Though the company is able to get the right candidate for a particular position through external recruitment, the process is costly and time-consuming.

In selection, Tesco proactively screens candidates using their curriculum vitae (CV), which helps the management to assess whether an applicants qualifications and com potencies fits the person specification for the position (Tesco, n.d.). In addition, the company is proactive in providing a ‘job type match’ tool in its official web page to weed out candidates who may wish to apply but lacks the required qualifications in addition to allowing potential applicants the opportunity to see where they might fit before sending their applications.

Candidates who successfully pass the screening procedure progresses to the assessment centre, where they are given various practical exercises aimed at evaluating their aptitude, team-working capabilities, and problem-solving abilities. Candidates endorsed by the internal assessment centres are then booked for interviews with line managers and HR personnel to ensure that the right candidates are selected according to specific job requirements (Tesco, n.d.). This proactive selection model takes cognizance of the fact that it must propagate special considerations to attract minority and female candidates. More importantly, the model assists Tesco to have the right type of human resources in the right positions and at the right locations.


Workforce planning and proactive recruitment and selection processes are fundamentally important is an organization is to effectively meet its current and future needs for staff. This paper has demonstrated how these processes have successfully enabled Tesco to recruit people with the right qualifications, behaviours and competencies to sustain its growth and development (Tesco, n.d.).

In addition, the discussion has demonstrated that these strategies can be replicated in other organizations to assist them evade the persistent challenge of recruiting the wrong type of people to further their business objectives. The cost factor has been comprehensively evaluated to show how these strategies have enabled Tesco to save on costs while getting the best employees to propel its growth plans. Above all, the strategies have revealed that it is not always costly to get the right employees in the market; strategy is the most important factor.

List of References

Bernthal, P.R (n.d.). Recruitment and selection. Development Dimensions International. Web.

Chubb, L (2007). Why Green means ‘Go’ for Tesco. People Management, Vol. 13, Issue 25, pp 12-12.

Hawley, J.D., & Taylor, J.C (2006). How Business Associations use Inter-organizational Networks to Achieve Workforce Development Goals: Implications for Human Resource Development. Human Resource Development International, Vol. 9, Issue 4, pp 485-508

Searle, R (2003). Selection and Recruitment: A Critical Text. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Shittu, O., & Omar, O. (2006). Retail employment: An evaluation of supermarket part-time work in London, UK. Journal of American Academy of Business, Vol. 9, Issue 2, pp 93-98.

Tesco (n.d.). Recruitment and Selection at Tesco. Web.

The Times 100 (2010). Recruitment, Selection and Training. Web.

White, M.D., & Escobar, G (2008). Making Good Cops in the Twenty-First Century: Emerging Issues for the Effective Recruitment, Selection and Training of Police in the United States and Abroad. International Review of Law & Technology, Vol. 22, Issue 1-2, pp 119-134.

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