Building a Business Case for Expanding your Dietitian Team

Building a Business Case for Expanding your Dietitian Team

September 2, 2015
Business Skills

By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

It’s clear there are a multitude of roles the dietitian nutritionist can play in the retail space. From public relations to employee wellness to media spokesperson to in-store shopper engagement to food safety, the opportunities for RDNs in this space continue to evolve and expand both in responsibility and breadth of reach in stores. If you’ve been mulling over how to expand your team to garner these opportunities into business benefit for your retailer, consider these tips for justifying added headcount:

  1. Strategize the additions. If you’re a corporate dietitian or team of one, your goal may be to add regional or store dietitians. Or it may be to add other RDN team members based on function, such as one to handle vendor partnerships, one to manage community outreach, or one for employee wellness. It’s essential in your proposal to detail what the team expansion looks like and why this approach makes sense for your program and retail company.
  2. Define the benefit. As you know, retailers care about the bottom line. As a low-margin industry, retailers are constantly seeking opportunities to improve profits. When defining your case for added headcount, clearly define the benefit the positions will bring in terms that matter to your retailer. For example, if your recommendation is for store level dietitians, provide insight on how this position will use advertising, marketing and persuasive selling techniques to increase sales of healthier products. Include tangible data on the impact on shopper loyalty. In another scenario, you may be recommended an added corporate headcount to manage vendor partnerships. Here, provide estimates of vendor funding that will be brought into your program by having a staffer focused specifically on these relationships.
  3. Think Short- and Long-Term. By doing so, you prove to your leadership that you have a strategic vision of the role of health and wellness in the company’s business model. It also provides you with an opportunity to run a test pilot (say of regional or store dietitians) and prove the model works in the short term, which then leads to additional headcount in the years ahead. Often, companies can stomach this type of growth more readily than large increments of head count additions all at one time.
  4. Frame the loss. An effective tactic can be to address what your retailer will lose if they don’t approve your recommended expansion.  Assessments of key competitors’ healthy living programs can be a part of this as can potential lost revenue by not meeting the shoppers’ needs for health and wellness.   
  5. Detail the details. A well thought out team expansion proposal will include the costs of the added headcount (remember to include benefits, office space, and technology in addition to salary and bonuses), paygrade, title, job description and hiring plan.
  6. Ask Questions. There is a time and a season for everything in retail, including headcount additions. Before trying to sell in your team expansion, have a clear understanding of your company’s fiscal year and budgeting process.  

Lately, I’ve heard from several leaders of dietitian teams who have gotten approval to expand their dietitian teams. It’s exciting to see this growth and the rapid expansion of our industry, and the insights presented here will hopefully help others garner this same success.