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Battling to net the best ecommerce staff

Nicola Wensley, Associate director at executive search firm Page Executive.

As online sales reached an all-time high for British retailers over Christmas, the demand for good omnichannel talent is set to continue during 2014. Last week’s edition of Drapers highlighted how the role of ecommerce director in the longer term will be absorbed into the core trading function. However, in the shorter term, it’s not so easy to just ‘add to basket’ good ecommerce candidates.

Omnichannel candidates are headhunted at least once a week. With pure-play retailers snatching up top talent with the lure of big equity paydays, fashion retailers need to have slick succession planning and internal talent management strategies in place to retain their star players.

Many businesses start with a long list of qualifications when attracting digital talent, but with rapid advances in technology, today’s vital skill set may be irrelevant tomorrow. However, competencies such as adaptability, forward-thinking and inspirational leadership are as important as technical skills.

Because of the astronomical rise of online retail, omnichannel directors typically have less than five years’ ecommerce experience and are in their 30s. For ambitious employees currently in fashion retail, this is an opportune time to fast-track a career. If you work solely with bricks-and-mortar retailing, consider expanding your skill set.

We’re moving towards an industry with more frequent job moves and inflated salaries for those in the online sector. This is because of the number of opportunities available and the premiums offered to entice good online talent. As results (or lack thereof) can be shown more quickly online, it’s important to ensure candidates are as good as they appear to be. Demonstrating good sales growth may be as much to do with the channel as it is to do with the person.

A watertight recruitment and retention strategy going into 2014 is essential to win the war for digital talent.

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