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Specsavers has always got an eye for talent - video

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright January 7, 2018
In this video interview, learn how the recruitment team at eyecare retailer Specsavers keeps an eye out for talent in a competitive market

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With 30,000 employees worldwide, high-street eyecare specialist Specsavers is a well-known brand in the UK as well as the Netherlands, across Scandinavia and in Australia and New Zealand. Still family run, the core of its £2.3 billion-a-year ($3bn) operation are the opticians and audiologists in its stores, and so an effective recruitment strategy for these professionals is key to enabling its continued growth.

At last year's HR Tech World show in Amsterdam, I caught up with Kenneth Renneberg, Head of Candidate Attraction for Northern Europe, to find out more about how Specsavers competes in the market for talent. Our video interview is embedded below.

Candidate supply

The supply of candidates for these professional roles is constrained by the numbers coming out of the education system, Renneberg tells me. At the same time, people are leaving the profession as they reach retirement age. That means it's a challenge to recruit enough people to sustain Specsavers' growth trend:

It's a huge problem because we also have a really aggressive growth strategy, so we at least have to grow by 10% every year. We've done so far, but that always means that we need more and more people in our stores.

In such a market, employers have to actively recruit — Specsavers has headhunters on its team — because candidates are always in demand:

Literally nobody applies in this business. It's not a Specsavers problem it's an industry problem. Because there are so few people and they all know each other, they are used to being tapped or being introduced to a company.

Staying front-of-mind

An important part of how Specsavers stays front-of-mind is through its Green Club, which provides free education, training and information to people in the industry — irrespective whether or not they're Specsavers employees. The company also targets courses at undergraduates while they're studying for professional qualifications. These are designed to supplement what students are learning at university with more commercially-oriented content, says Renneberg.

Universities are very focused on being clinical. But if you have to be in a store after you've been clinical for three years, sometimes it's different.
We try to give them some courses over the three years that actually address them a little bit better for coming out and being in the store — not necessarily in a Specsavers store, but still having that in mind, that this is how we operate.

Specsavers stores are effectively franchise businesses, operating under a joint venture partnership model. A typical store has two directors who buy a 50% equity share and share the profits with Specsavers. Therefore staff recruitment is one of the services Specsavers offers to its store partners. The recruitment team works like an agency and stores pay a fee and/or a commission when a recruit is found for them.

With operations in 10 different countries, there are some cultural differences across the group, which creates challenges in standardizing on common practices. The recruitment team holds quarterly global best practice meetings to share ideas and processes.

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