Rodney McMullen, CEO of Kroger, said Tuesday that one of his biggest challenges is staff shortages.
McMullen said that, in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” the current one has about 20,000 jobs.
“We work aggressively wherever we can,” he said. “One of the biggest limitations we have now is finding talented people.”
Kroger is the country’s largest supermarket operator with more than 2,700 stores under more banners, including its name and other brands such as Ralphs, Harris Teeter and Fry’s. It had about 460,000 employees at the end of the last fiscal year, which ended on January 30th. Food competes for workers at a time when there are more jobs than people – and some have chosen to be part of the workforce because of other factors, such as the lack of childcare.
Other large retailers and restaurant chains have also talked about the struggle to occupy positions in a tight labor market. This has encouraged companies like Amazon and Target to launch new benefits, such as covering the cost of college, and others like Walmart and CVS Health to increase hourly pay.
McMullen said the store has tried to stay competitive by gradually increasing wages and increasing productivity by using technology and changing work processes.
On Tuesday, Kroger announced a new strategy to grow its business without the need to expand its own staff. It is has made an agreement with Instacart to transmit online food orders to customers ’homes in just 30 minutes. Deliveries will be completed by workers in gig economy for the third-party delivery service who will snatch food items off Kroger’s shelves.
“It leverages both of our existing assets in a way and offers something new to the customer,” McMullen said.