Dive Brief:

  • Kroger is holding a nationwide hiring event on Thursday in an effort to bring on 10,000 associates across its banners, the grocery chain announced in a press release Monday.
  • The company will interview candidates virtually and in-store for retail positions as well as roles in its e-commerce, pharmacy, manufacturing and logistics operations.
  • Kroger is looking to attract applicants as businesses in a wide variety of industries compete for workers against a backdrop of rising COVID-19 vaccination rates.

Dive Insight:

With pandemic-related restrictions disappearing rapidly, many employers are finding that the pool of job candidates they can draw from is also getting thinner.

Kroger — which brought on 100,000 employees during the early weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, when employers in other sectors were shedding workers in droves — is touting the pay and benefits it offers and pointing to its deep resources as it strives to convince people to join its payroll. The grocer pays wages that average $15.50 per hour nationally and plans to push that figure to $16 per hour this year through a $350 million investment, according to the press release.

The company is also looking to send the message that it is committed to improving opportunities for its workers and building an engaging culture.

“To continue advancing our inclusive culture where associates feel valued and can feed their future, we are embracing greater collaboration, technology, and innovation to attract, identify, and develop talent to help us deliver on our business goals, focusing on uplifting and rewarding associate and customer experiences and being consistently in-stock, fresh, and friendly,” Tim Massa, Kroger’s senior vice president and chief people officer, said in a statement.

Even as it seeks to position itself as a choice employer, however, Kroger could face lingering resentment among people turned off by its decision to stop providing hazard pay to workers last year when the pandemic was in full swing. Like Albertsons and other retailers that also dropped their hazard pay programs, Kroger drew howls of criticism from labor officials and politicians when it elected to end the $2 per hour in extra pay it began distributing in March. The grocer also drew criticism for its decision to close stores in areas that mandated hazard pay for workers.

Despite the controversy it created by eliminating hazard pay, Kroger is highlighting that program, along with the bonuses, store credits and fuel points it has distributed to its workers since the pandemic began, on its “Life at Kroger” webpage.

Kroger is also pointing to the $100 payment it has been providing since February to associates who get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as an incentive for potential job applicants.

Employment in food and beverage stores has declined during each of the past three months, and was off by 26,000 in May compared with the prior month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment in the sector last month was about the same as it was in May 2020.