According to the 2017-18 Book of Lists, British-based retailer Tesco was the second largest employer in Hungary with 18,447 employees at the time, just ahead of MÁV Magyar Államvasutak Zrt. We asked Barbara Szigeti, retail people director at Tesco Hungary, about the challenges of handling such a high head count.
BBJ: Tesco is one of the largest employers in Hungary. How badly affected by the labor crisis are you? What types of jobs are the hardest and easiest to fill? In which geographical areas in Hungary is it hardest to find staff?
Barbara Szigeti: At the moment, Tesco has around 16,000 employees. Of course, the company is affected by the challenges of the labor market, but the scale of the shortage is different in each store. Tesco stores in the northwestern part of Hungary, next to the border, are most affected.
Mainly we are looking for skilled workforce such as bakers and fresh food counter employees. The recruitment is continuous and we are using innovative recruitment tools to attract new colleagues. Right now, we are looking for seasonal employees in our stores at Lake Balaton to ensure that we can serve the increasing number of customers on holiday. BBJ: Do you offer your own staff “friends and family” bonuses for finding new employees? What do you do to try and ensure staff loyalty, and cut down on turnover or churn, beyond salaries? How creative does your HR department have to be?
Szigeti: Yes, we are offering salary supplements, Cafeteria (gross HUF 16,106/month) and other benefits to our colleagues such as a 10% employee discount for purchases in our stores, Christmas and Back to School vouchers. Tesco also tries to make employees’ monthly shifts as flexible as possible to keep work-life balance. The other focus point of our work is to provide training for our colleagues. In 2017, 2,473 people completed training, giving them professional qualifications acknowledged by the state (OKJ or other diplomas); among those, 1,675 colleagues graduated in retail and trade specification.
We have a recruitment bonus, which is available for our colleagues working in head offices, stores and distribution centers as well. Since January 2016 – the launch of the program – 1,082 employees have received the bonus. Colleagues get HUF 30,000 in Tesco vouchers if a new employee recommended by them stays at the company for at least three months. So far Tesco has paid HUF 32 million in recruiting bonuses to our colleagues.
We also have an extra recruitment bonus during the high seasons, like Christmas or summer at Lake Balaton, when new colleagues join Tesco only for a short period of time. In this case the recruitment bonus is a HUF 10,000 Tesco voucher, provided to colleagues if the newly hired employee works at least 80 hours for Tesco. If the new employee stays longer with Tesco, the referring colleague will receive the difference between the two bonuses as well.
I would also like to emphasize that, besides focusing on pay and reward, we are continuously listening to our colleagues’ needs in order to improve their working conditions. BBJ: There was strike action last year at several stores over salary increases. How are relations now with the unions and employees?
Szigeti: We have closed the negotiations with trade unions about wages for 2018 on December 5, 2017. Ever since there is a partnership, a continuous and open dialogue between the trade unions and Tesco is focusing on the interests of colleagues. Just recently we have developed together a new jubilee scheme to recognize the loyalty of our colleagues.BBJ: Now that the Fidesz-led government has been returned to power with a two-thirds majority, do you fear it will again turn its attention to the retail sector?
Szigeti: Tesco is a strategic partner of the government. Tesco is committed to supporting the growth of the Hungarian economy and Hungarian suppliers in particular, in order to boost their export opportunities.BBJ: Tesco is, famously, a British-based company. Do you have to deal with staff concerns regarding the effects of Brexit next year?
According to her LinkedIn profile, Barbara Szigeti, took up her current role at Tesco Global Áruházak Zrt in March 2017. From June 2015 she was the managing hours manager and prior to that program manager (from August 2013) and productivity manager (from March 2012). She was made a senior project manager in July 2007 and started at the company in May 1998 as cluster HR manager. She says in her profile: “The main challenge for 2018 is to introduce different working options to react to the labor market and provide new options, especially for women on maternity leave and pensioners.”