Happiness is­ an asset There has been a great deal of talk about how we can get outstanding people to consider the food and grocery industry as the first choice career path. The skills shortage continues to deepen and the media portrayal of our industry is laced with negative messages. We must, therefore, promote the positive aspects of a career in the industry and better understand the challenges. The best staff are always at a premium and the smartest bosses know that it can be tough to attract, and most importantly, retain such talent. So how do we recruit the right people for our business needs? If the recruitment process is too long ­ as with some City jobs ­ candidates see it as too many hoops to jump through before a decision is made. Shaun McCarthy, group managing director of recruitment consultancy Jonathan Wren, said: "Interviewers need to concentrate on what graduates are looking for in a business. The days when employers declared they had a job on offer and all interested candidates should stand in a queue and they would decide who got it, are over." He added: "Interviews are a two-way process and just offering benefit packages is not enough. Job offers need to be made quickly because candidates won't hang around." Once recruited, though, how do we hold on to this priceless asset? It takes more than perks to make the workforce contented ­ it needs the right attitude, said Nigel Nicholson, professor at the London School of Business. He believes that successful businesses work like mini villages. He applies the evolutionary principle to businesses and claims that benevolent paternalism is the key to a happy workforce. An unhappy atmosphere may not deter graduates from joining a prestigious company, but they will stay only long enough to notch up some CV points. A study by the Economic & Social Research Council and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) found a correlation between employee satisfaction, productivity and profit. Angela Baron, adviser in employee resourcing for the CIPD, said: "There is a clear link between happiness and business success, and companies are keen to build a reputation for being good employers. As part of the war for talent, more companies are spending substantial amounts on making themselves more attractive to staff and becoming employers of choice." She said this included taking staff seriously, creating well-defined career paths and exposing them to new skills and training. Managers will need to develop and use new skills to master the people side of their roles. As many are already involved in selecting their own staff, all managers need to be effective at building positive and performance based relationships with them. The company accountants will be pleased to hear that raising salaries is not necessarily the answer ­ not that anyone else would complain though! Pay is still important but share options and bonuses are popular too. Companies seen as caring and which trust their workforce can reap dividends too. Many companies have flexible working hours or let staff work from home ­ they trust them to work in the way that suits them best. Employers must work to keep a good reputation. People are determined to balance work and life. They are also looking to increase their skills and develop their careers and may be the most valuable resource in a business. IGD is holding a discussion on September 10, at the Royal College of Surgeons, on these themes and their implications and it will provide an opportunity for leaders in all aspects of the food and grocery industry to discuss and share best practice. {{LEADING EDGE }}