Understanding Your Workforce

JohnNewWhen we finally come out on the other end of these economic doldrums, we’ll find—as in downturns past—that it will not be the big businesses that devour the small or even the fast who outdistance the slow. No, it will be the focused and flexible that outmaneuver and outlast the unfocused and inflexible.

While the latter will retrench and try to hang on to the status quo, the flexible and focused will take this rare opportunity to regroup and reenergize. And the really good ones will do it on all fronts—operations, technology, finance, foodservice, merchandise and, perhaps most importantly, human resources.

The opportunities to regroup, revamp and reenergize that are hidden in this downturn are unprecedented—and could be the key to not only surviving, but to emerging even stronger than before, according to human resources expert Mel Kleiman, president of Humetrics Inc.

In the world of convenience retailing, it’s not unusual for a direct competitor to be either directly across the street or no further than two blocks down. How then do you differentiate your store? How do you attract more customers than the other guy? Your competitor can often match or beat you on price. Let’s face it, when you really look at it, the only truly unique, factors you have any real control over are your culture and your people.

However, for most of the past 10 years, it has not been easy to find quality people to fill convenience retailing positions, especially at the store level. Industry-wide employee turnover has historically been sky high because it was hard to find enough good (or even average) employees, let alone many great ones.

Even now, while the labor pool is full to the brim, the great ones will still be hard to find. But find them you must because, in these tough times, average won’t cut it at all and good is no longer good enough. It’s down to survival of the fittest and every single employee matters more than ever.

Surviving and Thriving
To help convenience store retailers better manage their workforce and understand what employees are looking for in an employer, Convenience Store Decisions partnered with Humetrcis for our sixth annual human resources survey.

When it comes to attracting and maintaining top employees, the survey found that the top three staffing/human resources challenges cited for 2013 were recruiting, reducing turnover, and employee screening and selection. In 2014, respondents said they expect the biggest challenges for the next 12 months will be recruiting, reducing employee turnover, managing benefits (specifically Obamacare) and compensation.

The really good news is that turnover appears to be dropping to historic lows, and there is your biggest opportunity. After all those years of sometimes having to settle for the first warm body who walked in the door, you finally get a chance to be really picky about whom you hire.

You can also forget about looking for skills and experience and hire for what really matters: attitude and enthusiasm. Then, when you find an outstanding candidate with the attitudes, intelligence, physical capacities, skills, and personality needed, don’t bring them on-board with the idea in their head that they can go back to their “real” job once the economy picks up. To keep a person of this quality long-term, you have to let them know up front that while convenience retailing has never been an industry of choice, it is an industry of great opportunity. Tell them about your career path and other company success stories. Keep your hiring standards high, get the best people you can in the door, and then get them excited about the industry and the challenges to be met.

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