Stuart Fairbairn from Spectrum for Arcadia was the second of our expert speakers at our recent Northampton Peak Planning Breakfast Event, talking about Spectrums peak hiring strategy.

Stuart is the Head of Human Resources at Spectrum, providing supply chain, logistics, warehousing and distribution solutions to Arcadia. The Arcadia Group is made up of 6 leading fashion retail brands including Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Wallis, Burtons, Miss Selfridge, Topshop & Topman and until earlier this year, BHS too.

Spectrum for Arcadia have 4 sites and the overall throughput is over 2 million units a week, which can spike to up to 3 million during peak. Around 60-65% of the volume comes from two sites in Milton Keynes which are split into a UK retail & digital site, and an international site.

Peak period for Arcadia falls between week one of quarter 3 to January the following year, so they spend the beginning of the year planning for this period and hire over 800 employees during peak.

Here’s the 6 key elements of Spectrum’s hiring strategy for the peak period:

1. Rigorous Planning
  • Spectrum employ people from the Eastern Europe to work during peak period and use a sophisticated approach to hiring with induction videos that are shown to prospective employees in Romania, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.
  • 80-90% of employment inductions, training, test and assessments take place overseas prior to employment through 3rd party relationships.
  • Partners, stakeholders, operational teams, working groups, TU partners work very closely with Spectrum throughout the hiring process in the build up to peak.
​2. Partnerships
  • Spectrum have built a strong partnership with Transline Resource Group over the last 3 years.
  • Transline Resource Group provide Spectrum with the necessary facilities for employee inductions and training through the use of E-learning and video recordings.
  • The key element with the partnership and how it works is that any problems arising with hiring or attrition rates are dealt with together.
  • Spectrum aren’t able to pay the top end wages in the sector so they build relationships with employees by other means such as guaranteed working hours and no zero-hour contracts.
  • Spectrum have very thorough training, ensuring that they work hand-in-hand with Transline Resource Group to hold regular focus groups, provide peak employees with ‘buddies’ from the core staff and offering full time contracts with the opportunity for permanent employment after the peak period.
3. Review and continuously improve

Spectrum use a continuous improvement cycle for their hiring activity:

  • Identify – opportunities in the process workflow.
  • Plan – how can the current process be improved.
  • Execute – implement necessary changes.
  • Review – how changes are working for the team.
4. Communication and engagement
  • Keeping people informed throughout the teams by use of email, videos, newsletters, intranet, posters and flyers, voicemails, texts and conference calls.
  • A sophisticated plan is in place for the year so that it is communicated clearly when employees need to flex in certain periods, what incentives will be offered in terms of bonus and discounts in Arcadia shops and what prizes are on offer for the best performers.
  • In terms of engagement the induction process is vital, Q+A sessions are held once a week, focus groups for every new in-take group, regular meetings, ‘Meet the GM sessions’ where employees can speak to the GM once a week with questions, a calendar of social events and fun activities during shifts.
5. Reward and retain

Spectrum for Arcadia are not at the high end or bottom end of the pay scale and therefore they have to reward, motivate and retain employees through other methods:

  • Arcadia provide funds to reward employees with retention bonuses linked to their performance and attendance.
  • Spectrum leverage their partnership with Arcadia so they are able to reward employees with 25% discount with all Arcadia stores
  • Spectrum are creative in working with their customers and partners to put other rewards in place.
6. Manage Talent
  • Career development paths are communicated very clearly to all peak employees.
  • Spectrum make career development available so that temporary employees know they have the chance to stay on with company post-peak if they perform well.

The 3 key takeaways:

  1. Getting the right number of people in to the operation to meet the targets.
  2. Ensuring employees are inducted and trained properly so that they are 100% productive within 4 weeks, effective and key to the operation.
  3. Ensuring that they are motivated and rewarded effectively to ensure that they are retained.