A BRIGHT FUTURE IN STORE
Aldi is synonymous throughout the UK with offering high-quality, own-label products at consistently competitive prices. Now the business is replicating this positive reputation in its developed recruitment strategy.
The company opened its first UK store in 1990, and the business has since experienced strong, steady growth across the country. From 2012 onwards, Aldi began to rapidly expand its portfolio of stores, and it is now opening at least 50 new outlets a year. Employee numbers have increased more than three-fold: from around 8,000 staff in 2012 to more than 27,000 by the end of 2015. This expansion has, in turn, created the need for new staff across all positions.
The company responded by opening the Aldi Academy, a dedicated department to support the recruitment, training and development requirements of both new and existing staff. The department is also charged with reviewing Aldi’s overall recruitment strategy to ensure that branding is targeted effectively towards potential Aldi employees. Processes were also put in place for every element of the employee life cycle, by strengthening the recruitment process, identifying suitable candidates and then fully integrating new employees into the business.
A sense of clarity
Aldi’s success as a retailer is rooted in its positive outlook as an employer. The retailer’s store-management teams have a real sense of clarity in terms of individual decision making and working together to drive the business forward, which employees find particularly rewarding.
The company has always valued the contribution that its employees have made to its success and this is reflected in the market-leading salaries and the progression opportunities it offers. Its strapline of “Careers Like No Other” reflects the culture and benefits of working at the company – a strategic approach that is particularly apparent in Aldi’s Area Manager Programme. This targets graduates and career changers interested in running their own multi-million-pound operation. Aldi’s Area Managers are trained in all aspects of the business, including store operations and logistics, and – after a year – Area Managers are expected to oversee and lead a portfolio of three to five stores.
Aldi has set itself the ambitious target of recruiting at least 150 new Area Managers a year, so ensuring a steady supply of high-quality applicants is crucial. The role requires individuals who are genuine self-starters, have a passion for retail and the ability to manage and inspire others. In return, Area Managers receive a starting salary of £42,000 and there is the genuine prospect of progressing into a directorship role within the business.
Current Area Manager Ben Strode joined Aldi after initially pursuing a career in the energy sector, and can attest to the opportunities on offer. “People may think they have missed the boat with Aldi if they have embarked on a different career path,” he says, “but Aldi sees the experience and skills you may have developed elsewhere as a positive.
“My degree gave me a sense of responsibility, self-discipline and time management. However, Aldi is always looking for common sense, positivity, and the ability to influence attitudes. I appreciate the variety of my role as each task presents a different challenge, whether it is administration, developing and motivating my team, or maintaining store standards.”
The approach developed for Aldi’s Area Manager Programme has been favourably received, with Aldi now ranked second in The Times’s prestigious top 100 list of graduate employers – the highest position ever achieved by a retailer.
A significant proportion of Aldi’s current directors started out as Area Managers within the business. Many have also benefited from international secondments with Aldi’s operations in Australia and the US, spending up to 18 months abroad acquiring new skills and experiences, which have helped make the UK’s stores even more successful.
Aldi also works closely with a range of educational bodies, including universities throughout the UK, in order to raise awareness of both its Area Manager Programme and Industrial Placement Scheme with students, and to attract the best available talent.
The Industrial Placement Scheme is specifically designed for students who are able to take a sandwich year as part of their degree course, and wish to gain real insights into working in retail. Over a 12-month period, industrial placement students become fully involved across the Aldi business, including store operations, logistics, trading and financial administration.
The mixture of theory and “hands-on” work tends to appeal to those who have an appetite to succeed, and students who perform strongly are then encouraged to apply for the Area Manager Programme. With around 50 Industrial Placement Scheme positions available annually, Aldi is continually searching for the next generation of retail talent.
The opportunities at Aldi are not just restricted to those who possess a university degree. In 2012, Aldi launched its Apprenticeship Scheme to appeal to those who do not wish to attend university. Aldi store and logistics apprentices are trained in all aspects of retail and warehousing & storage management respectively, depending on which discipline they choose, during the three-year course. Each course features a mix of practical and theory work.
The stores programme offers Store Assistant training in year one and Store Management training in years two and three, with market-leading apprenticeship salaries. Successful store apprentices are offered a Deputy Manager position upon completion of the course, and many have already progressed onto Assistant Store Manager. Aldi has now created more than 1,000 apprenticeships throughout the UK, and is working with a dedicated training provider to identify and attract young people interested in pursuing a retail or logistics career. Aldi’s store apprenticeship vacancies are available nationwide, and the business is looking to employ at least one apprentice in each of its stores across the country. The business also has logistics opportunities at its Regional Distribution Centres, based throughout England and Wales, including one in Cardiff launched in 2017.
The recruitment and training initiatives that Aldi continues to introduce are integral to its plans for the future – providing long-term benefits for its employees and allowing the business to position itself as an employer of choice within the UK retail sector.