The Secret to Super King Markets’ Staffing Success

A human resources director talks beating the labor challenge odds
Grocery worker in mask
Photograph: Shutterstock

Super King Markets, an eight-store chain in Southern California recently revamped its hiring process and is now attracting skilled talent twice as fast as it used to, all while maintaining its goal of 100% positions filled.

“Finding people during the pandemic wasn’t a problem. As other industries started laying off people, candidates came to Super King for work,” says Sam Barrow, human resources director for Super King Markets. The bigger and ongoing challenge, he adds, is “keeping employees safe and finding the right employees for the job.”

Like many grocers, Super King experienced rapid growth throughout 2020. But as pandemic-driven demand for groceries surged, the grocer realized it needed a way to vet candidates and hire them more quickly in order to maintain the level of service it was accustomed to providing. In mid-2020, the grocer sought the help of Landed, a mobile app connecting hourly food and retail workers with local employers.

The average grocery store has a 60% turnover, says Landed. This meant that Super King’s hiring managers had to work around the clock to access a high volume of candidates to meet hiring needs, all while accounting for pandemic shopping. 

Landed has helped streamline the hiring process for Super King. “When looking for a specific skill set, we can go to Landed to narrow that applicant pool. That’s probably the most valuable part of the app for us—the ability to go in and pick a handful of candidates that actually fit what we’re looking for. The screening of candidates is where Landed helps us the most,” says Barrow. 

He points to a time when Super King needed to rapidly fill seven positions and was able to do so in one week using Landed. “We needed front-of-the-house help and back-of-the-house people who were ready to work. Our store director conducted all interviews in-person and used Landed to help with screening,” he said. 

One of the ways Landed homes in on quality job seekers and eliminates those who aren’t a good fit is by assessing more than 50 data points to match candidates to Super King. “We are easily saving our hiring managers more than five hours every week on the recruiting process,” adds Barrow.

Another benefit to starting with the right candidates has been a streamlining of the new hire training process. “One hundred percent of what we focus on in the first week is getting new employees acclimated to the new environment—training on customer relations, product, health, safety and codes. Finding high-quality candidates at the beginning of the process helped with this,” he says.

Competitive Hiring Edge

As economies continue to reopen and restaurant workers and other foodservice professionals return to their pre-pandemic posts, competition for labor in grocery is intensifying once again. Focusing on qualified candidates and getting to them first gives Super King an advantage.

Landed allows the grocer to view candidates’ profiles and ask them questions through the mobile app on the hiring manager’s phone, eliminating the need for a phone interview. “It is more efficient and reduces time needed to contact and schedule interviews,” says Barrow. “You can get the feel for a candidate then and there on Landed. This saves a ton of time.” 

Previously, Super King hiring managers were spending hours a week on multiple hiring platforms without success, he explains. “Candidates that were great on paper often didn’t reply or show up to interviews.

“Landed cut the manual work required to hire, starting from outreach, organizing the talent pipeline and interview scheduling. After Landed matches us talent, it handles the scheduling of the interviews by ensuring that calendars are synced, reducing interview no-shows by more than half,” continues Barrow, who says Landed helped each Super King location hire more than a dozen employees each month to keep staffing levels at a goal of 100%. It was also able to hire twice as fast using Landed’s hiring app.

Hiring managers can set certain blocks of time each week for when they like to hold candidate interviews through the Landed app. Candidates that pass Landed’s vetting criteria are then automatically scheduled for interviews. Candidates and hiring managers receive calendar invites with all the relevant interview information. Candidates also receive SMS text message reminders the day before and day of the interview. If schedules change, there’s two-way texting to reschedule. 

Having zeroed in on qualified talent, Super King has further strengthened its hiring position by offering full-time employment with benefits.

“Many other grocers are just offering part-time work, but we’re able to offer full-time positions with benefits,” says Barrow. “Landed allows us to customize and weed through the applicants to pinpoint who it is that we’re looking for. Now that we are attracting highly qualified candidates with Landed, we give them full-time work and as many hours as we can. [We also] give them flexible schedules so they can go to school, and we offer benefits like medical, dental, vision, life, indemnity, accident insurance and 401K with match.”

While Super King Markets has experienced an 80% increase in delivery and curbside to-go orders in the past year, it outsources these services to Instacart, eliminating the need to add employees specifically to meet the digital demand.

Vivian Wang of Landed

Vivian Wang

A Win-Win for Grocers and Job Seekers

Since the pandemic, grocery has adopted a host of contact-free technologies, so why should the hiring process be any different?

“Because of the risks that COVID bring, employers need to limit who they meet with in person for interviews,” says Landed founder and CEO Vivian Wang. “Landed brings them qualified, vetted candidates using our proprietary AI technology, and they can conduct these interviews remotely,” says Wang. “Our aim is to reduce manual processes for hiring managers and provide better-vetted candidates through our tech.”

Landed’s process of matching candidates with potential employers sounds a lot like a dating app.

“Landed has one app for candidates where they create a profile and then match with employers. Landed also has an employer app, and we match candidates to employers using AI-based technology. Landed evaluates candidates on 50-plus data points, such as communication skills, body language, work longevity, etc., to determine fit for specific jobs,” Wang explains. “Landed can then prioritize different attributes in candidates depending on each employer’s focus.”  

In just a month, Landed matched Super King to 154 pre-vetted, qualified candidates, with a hire rate of almost one in three candidates, says the tech company.

Hiring for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Super King Markets specializes in a variety of national and international grocery brands, with a localized product offering that caters to each store’s surrounding community. Because of this, the grocer attracts a diverse group of shoppers and employees.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are critically important to Super King Markets. How does Landed’s app, and what it calls “intelligent matching” address the need for a diverse and inclusive workplace? 

This was very important to me as a female founder and descendent of immigrants,” says Wang. “At the core of what we want to do is to make sure the industry improves and promote diversity, equity and inclusion. Our employers hire more people of color, more women and more people in the LGBTQ+ community.”

While Wang admits it’s challenging to ensure the fair use of a standardized scale in day-to-day hiring, with Landed, the interview process doesn’t stop with one hiring manager who could be influenced by a first impression. Landed allows for the creation of candidate videos that can be saved, shared with multiple people, and kept as documentation on hiring decisions.

“At Landed, we care deeply about giving our candidates the ability to put their best foot forward when applying for jobs,” says Wang. “We are proud to work closely with our employers to ensure DEI goals are set and successfully met. Landed also works with local non-profits representing historically disadvantaged populations (people of color, women, LGBTQ+) to source candidates for employers.”


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