Skip to main content

Companies are always on the lookout for talented people. In this interview series, we talk to seasoned HR professionals to pick their brains for ideas and insights on finding the right talent for our organizations.

Randy Tosch

Randy Tosch is Vice President of Talent for Grainger, a broad line distributor with operations in North America, Japan, and the United Kingdom.


He is responsible for building proactive, scalable talent management processes, solutions, and tools to improve the strength of the enterprise talent pipeline, enhance leadership and team member development programs and practices, drive team member engagement, and ensure Grainger has the talent needed to achieve its strategic growth objectives.

Hi Randy, welcome to the series! We'd love to get to know you a bit better, can you tell us the backstory about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been interested in identifying and developing talent. Even when I was a kid playing sports, I loved getting to know everyone’s strengths and figuring out how we could work together to win the game. 

Fast forward a few years, and that love quickly translated into a career in HR where I get to bring in and develop great people who make the entire Grainger team stronger and drive growth for the 96-year-old company. 

From attracting the best talent to helping people leaders build the skills needed to provide the right coaching, development, and experience for their teams—it’s all about creating great teams.

Can you please give us your favorite "Life Lesson Quote" and how that was relevant to you in your life? 

I was raised by two hard-working parents who were very involved. They always strove to treat everyone they came across with respect and I could see the positive impact it made in every situation. Those values were instilled in my siblings and me. So, as simple as it may be, “respect everyone” is my mantra. 

Are you working on any exciting new projects at your company? How is this helping people

We are focused on continuing to make progress in achieving our company purpose—We Keep the World Working®. At Grainger, we help customers keep their operations running and their people safe through our Maintenance, Repair, and Operations-focused product assortment.

A few years ago, we defined our purpose and have been working to ensure all team members understand our strategy, aspiration, and principles aligned to achieving that purpose each and every day. 

Wonderful. Now let's jump into the main focus of our series. Hiring can be very time-consuming and challenging. Can you share with our readers a bit about your experience with identifying and hiring talent? What's been your most successful recruitment-related initiative so far?  

Our team members keep saying we’re the “best-kept secret.” So, over the last couple of years, we've focused on getting the word out to prospective talent about what makes Grainger such a great place to work. 

By sharing our impactful work through our new recruitment marketing and employment branding efforts, we have attracted more candidates and brought great people into the organization, which has been helpful in this tight labor market. 

For example, in our Distribution Centers and Customer Service Centers, over 50% of applicants and 40% of hires are sourced from our new social media and advertising campaigns.

Once talent is engaged, what's your advice for creating a great candidate experience and ensuring the right people go through the process?

First, we strive to ensure our hiring leaders and talent acquisition team are aligned on the skills and experiences needed for the role. This includes the talent acquisition consultant holding an intake call with the hiring leader for each opening before we post it to understand the nice-to-haves and need-to-haves.

Our recruiters leverage external market data to confirm everyone is on the same page about the current talent marketplace. This proactive alignment upfront establishes a more qualified set of applicants and ultimately allows the rest of the hiring process to flow smoothly and unencumbered.  

The second step is to provide a candidate survey to both the candidate and the hiring manager. This step is critical as it allows us to better understand how the candidate experience was from start to finish so we can continue to improve our process, identify any successes or gaps, and provide coaching as needed. 

Based on your experience, how can HR and culture professionals work with the broader organization to identify talent needs?

Work with the business leaders to understand their talent needs and create a plan. Our HR and talent partners work with business leaders to understand their key priorities and then we build short and long-term strategies to address talent needs. 

Through these planning discussions, we work through the needs of different talent segments while also surfacing company-wide requirements that are better solved at the broadest levels. 

Over the last couple of years, we’ve worked with the leadership team to define a framework of what behaviors, experiences, and skills are needed for leaders that have the aspiration and potential to be future enterprise leaders. 

We have launched two cross-functional committees that work together with other leaders to develop emerging talent toward that framework. This will help ensure we have a more robust pipeline of talent to lead in the future.  

Is there anything you see that recruiters, internal or otherwise, do regularly that makes you think, "No, stop doing that!"?

Recruiting is very fast-paced. Having the talent acquisition team slow down, be curious and ask questions of hiring managers upfront on what is needed in prospective candidates, and then share insights about the talent market, is imperative. This allows the team to source the right talent for the role more efficiently.

We have found that candidates who are referred by current Grainger team members often end up doing well when they join the company. Current team members understand what is needed and are often great at spotting talent.  

With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven't already reached out to you?

At Grainger, one of our best recruitment tools is word-of-mouth endorsements from current team members. Grainger is a place where team members can do very impactful work and there is a sense of belonging that is unmatched anywhere from what we hear. 

This culture is welcoming, and team members, including our recruiters, are able to speak to how there is something different here that is unique.  

We are also sharing the story about Grainger through employment branding and recruitment marketing—focusing on meeting top talent where they are and through the media that matters to them.  

Lastly, leaders at Grainger recognize the responsibility of finding talent does not fall squarely on the talent acquisition team. We have developed tools and training to help leaders build their benches before they have an opening. 

We also encourage leaders to always be on the lookout for the next great Grainger talent and start the exploratory conversations before they even have an opening. 

In the current talent landscape, the more proactive we can be in our recruitment efforts, the better.

What are the three most effective strategies you use to retain employees?

First is development planning—whether that is building team members’ skills and capabilities for their current role or helping them prepare for their next role.

Second is listening. We gather feedback from team members through surveys and round tables to understand what they need and then act based on that feedback.

For example, we conduct an annual team member survey and a follow-up check-in survey, and we regularly see strong engagement close to 85% with strong participation across the business.

Third is frequent communication. It’s important that the team understands how their work supports our customers, what they can do to support the company’s continued growth, and the culture we are striving to create.

randy tosch authority magazine quote graphic

Here is the main question of our interview. Can you share five techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?

  1. Use principles-based interview guides: Our strategy is encapsulated in what we call the Grainger Edge, which includes our seven principles that guide how we work with each other, our customers, and our communities. We’ve built interview guides that are tied to these principles to ensure when we interview candidates, we can better assess how they’ve demonstrated what will eventually be important behaviors for them to succeed.
  1. Keep diversity at the forefront: It is critical to understand the current make-up of the team that the prospective candidates would be joining and seek to understand where we can continue to welcome new voices to the table. The recruiters share a toolkit with leaders that covers everything from how to identify new areas to source talent from, the importance of having a diverse interview team, and then process steps we can take to mitigate bias in everything from our job postings to the interview process.   
  1. Hiring Manager intake strategy sessions: Understanding the hiring managers’ needs enables our talent acquisition team to be more efficient in finding the right candidates. Leaders can share insights on the key skills and experiences, and, together, the leader and recruiter can build a plan to source talent, which at times includes attending hiring events, leveraging partnerships with local organizations, and posting on social media to reach a broader audience. 
  1. Referrals: We have found that candidates who are referred by current Grainger team members often end up doing well when they join the company. Current team members understand what is needed and are often great at spotting talent.  
  1. Employment Branding: We leverage marketing through social media, billboards, career fairs, and other venues to provide more insight to candidates on who Grainger is and the experience they would have if they decide to join us. Everyone featured in our adds are real team members so candidates get a true sense of who we are and what we do

Thank you for your insights, Randy! How can our readers continue to follow your work online?  

You can follow Grainger and Grainger Careers on social media and search #TeamGrainger for the latest on life at Grainger. Also visit Glassdoor and to learn about our culture and stay connected with our career opportunities.

More insights from the series

By Finn Bartram

Finn is an editor at People Managing People. He's passionate about growing organizations where people are empowered to continuously improve and genuinely enjoy coming to work. If not at his desk, you can find him playing sports or enjoying the great outdoors.