How Mobile and VR Are Changing Food Retail Hiring

How Mobile and VR Are Changing Food Retail Hiring
Hiring and onboarding challenges will be a part of food retail life in 2021.

Hiring continues to get more digital in the food retail world, with the pandemic adding some fresh complexities. But a new funding round for a mobile tech firm — along with a recent deployment of virtual reality technology — shows how some companies are rising to the challenge, and what’s coming next for hiring and onboarding.

Landed, which has created a mobile app connecting hourly food and retail workers with local employers, recently announced the official launch of its platform. It uses engaging video profiles to help candidates stand out, leverages artificial technology for matching candidates to jobs, and automates much of the hiring process for employers.

The company also announced the close of a seed funding round: $1.4 million led by Javelin Venture Partners, which has backed the likes of MasterClass and Thumbtack, with participation from Y Combinator, Palm Drive Capital, and key angels.

Vivian Wang founded Landed after working in the retail industry where she saw the extremely high employee turnover of 130% on average. That meant managers had to be constantly recruiting. 

Landed — which is designed for retail and food businesses, including grocery stores — automates much of the hiring process by matching candidates, scheduling interviews, and following up with candidates. It also provides hiring accountability, by tracking each hiring manager’s activity and progress towards hiring goals, the company said.

For candidates, Landed helps them stand out through engaging video profiles that are much more compelling than paper applications and resumes.

Landed launched its beta solution just as COVID-19 hit the United States last year. The pandemic fueled the need to do more hiring virtually, and Landed’s focus on mobile and video has been a big advantage, enabling the company to continue growing throughout 2020.

“Vivian and the team at Landed have developed a sophisticated AI platform to help the food, retail, and hospitality industries find and hire high quality candidates with less effort,” said Vivian Cheng of Javelin Venture Partners. “Landed is also well positioned to help businesses tackle their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts by sourcing a larger number of diverse candidates, helping more people land the right job during these difficult times. Vivian is exactly the type of founder we like to back — she has incredible drive and a far-reaching mission of improving the lives of the 90+ million hourly workers across the US.”

How Landed Works

Job seekers download the Landed Jobs mobile app, and are guided through setting up their Landed candidate profile, which includes short videos plus details on their work experience, location, and shift availability. Candidates can then browse jobs available near them. Landed’s AI-based intelligent matching technology matches candidates with employers for whom they might be a fit.

Hiring managers download the Landed Employer mobile app, and input hiring goals such as role titles, headcount, pay rate and locations. Landed then presents the employer with candidates who are the best matches for their open positions based on its intelligent matching algorithm, driven by AI tech. Hiring managers can see matched candidates, organize their candidate pipeline into different folders, and communicate with candidates all from within the app. Employers pay Landed a monthly subscription to access candidates to meet their hiring goals.

Landed matches candidates with employers using a proprietary, intelligent matching system driven by AI, machine learning, and natural language processing. The system evaluates each candidate on 50+ data points, such as communication skills, body language, work longevity, etc. to determine fit for specific jobs. Landed can then prioritize different attributes in candidates depending on each employer’s focus. 

Grocery Outlet Ventura is an early customer of the Landed app.

“My time spent on scheduling and performing interviews has been cut in half by utilizing the Landed app for most of my communications,” said Eric Sawyer, owner/operator. “I receive a continual flow of new potential candidates and stay up to date with notifications on the app, which seamlessly integrates with how I am already using my phone with emails, text, and social media. I’m at a ratio of 1 hire for every 3 interviews versus 1 hire for every 10 interviews before Landed. I am saving dozens of hours while finding more qualified hires for my business.”

Currently, Landed serves seven major metro areas: Northern California; Southern California; Virginia Beach/Chesapeake Virginia; Phoenix/Scottsdale; Atlanta; Reno and Dallas-Ft. Worth. That number will likely triple by the end of 2021.

Sprouts VR Push

Meanwhile, Sprouts Farmers Market — which, like other grocers has needed to rapidly hire to deal with increased consumer demand during the pandemic — has turned to virtual reality to help with employee onboarding.

More specifically, Sprouts is now using Strivr, an immersive learning company, in 364 stores across the U.S. to engage new employees in its “customer first” culture and initiate key customer service training modules. 

Initial results are promising, according to Cindy Chikahisa, the food retailer’s VP for store operations field capability. “VR learning shows higher retention rates, sometimes as high as 16x more than the group of team members not using the VR,” she told Progressive Grocer. 
The need for VR has been acute during the pandemic hiring process.

“At Sprouts, we needed to onboard new employees safely and quickly, and found that using VR helped us immensely in delivering memorable and game-changing onboarding at scale,” she said.  As we launched VR across the stores, new team members self-paced through the Sprouts values modules as part of their onboarding.  We eliminated the need to travel to other stores for group orientations. We discovered an unexpected benefit — our tenured team members completed the VR trainings, too.  Having the latest technology available to our team members creates curiosity and excitement in our stores.”

According to Chikahisa, VR also offers faster speed-to-proficiency and higher time/cost savings than other onboarding tools.

“One of my favorite parts of deploying VR across Sprouts has been seeing our team members' reactions to such a fun, new, and engaging way of training” she said. “Investing in our team members so they can grow and excel at Sprouts is a top priority for my team. We are excited to continue to build our library of training modules.”

Phoenix-based Sprouts, which employs more than 35,000 team members at 340-plus stores in 23 states, is No. 45 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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