payback with interest

Are you boring your associates right out the door? Trim turnover by keeping employees stimulated.

Which item on the following list of job benefits is most important when it comes to keeping great convenience store employees on the payroll?

  1. Money
  2. Recognition
  3. Respect
  4. Interesting

Work If you answered money, recognition or respect, you’re dead wrong. Although all three are very important when it comes to retaining good employees, a recent survey of convenience store clerks and managers performed by Humetrics revealed that the No. 1 reason good workers stay with a c-store employer is that they get to do many different jobs, thereby making their work interesting.

After years of research, Jim Collins, author of Built to Last and Good to Great, found that varied, interesting work is one of the most important reasons people continue to perform any job. Studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor came to the same conclusion.

The best way to keep a job interesting is to vary the work involved, which gives c-stores a big edge over most other retail operations. With the exception of payroll, every c-store employee can learn how to do every job in the store. Multi-task training expands employees’ skills and increases their confidence levels, both of which improve job performance. It also decreases the amount of time and effort managers must spend managing.

Darin Averill, president of Holiday Cos. (Bloomington, MN), has found this to be true, provided that managers delegate responsibility and authority instead of merely assigning tasks, and follow through with coaching to improve job performance. He says c-stores are the perfect training ground for a successful career in merchandising. While employees learn various jobs, they’re also developing skills such as displaying and stocking merchandise, learning how demographics dictate merchandise orders, providing service with a smile and handling money correctly.

Some managers fear that training employees this thoroughly will make them seek “greener pastures.” Training doesn’t make employees leave, but performing the same limited tasks day after day will bore many of them right out the door.

Most well-trained employees will choose to stay put. But if they do move on, it might be because they’ve been taught so well that they’re leaving to become managers themselves. What’s more, training employees this well makes managers more valuable and can help them move up the corporate ladder, too.

When the good ones leave
When your employees go to work somewhere else, they often discover that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side after all. If only 20% of all the good employees who used to work for you came back, you’d have great “new” employees who needed little to no job training to work for your company.

To get them back you may only have to ask. A month or so after someone good has left—assuming it was an amicable split—call and ask if he/she is willing to come back. The worst that can happen is they’ll decline, and even if that happens, the former employee can still be a valuable source for referrals.

Every January, Bob Holcomb, vice president of Spectrum Stores (West Point, GA), which has 95 stores in Georgia and Alabama, prints a list of all employees who left during the previous year, then has managers call to invite the good ones back. Holcomb adds that his company is hiring more part-time employees as a way of meeting peak demand needs without paying costly benefits to full-timers. Many employees want cash more than benefits, Holcomb notes—a good point considering that benefits costs continue to swell.

Referrals stay longer
When you do need to hire a new employee, make a practice of first seeking to hire someone referred by a good person already on the payroll. On average, employee-referred candidates stay on the job three times longer than other applicants because they already have a friend at work and know what to expect going in. They’re also much more likely to be a good match for the job because your associates have already given them detailed information about the job requirements and workplace environment.

Averill says that about 28% of the employees in his 300-store chain come from referrals. Because referrals tend to have a lot in common with the people who refer them, he pursues referrals exclusively from his best employees. Averill also makes a point of rewarding employees who refer prospects his company hires— and you should consider doing the same.

Make your employee-referral program fun—create some excitement around it by running a contest to see which employee can provide the most referrals. Offer a cash bonus, paid time off, first choice of work shifts or other prizes for a successful referral, and give it to the referring employ-ees in the presence of their co-workers as soon as you hire the people they refer.

Mel Kleiman, president of recruiting/retention specialist Humetrics LLC and the author of four books, can be reached at 800-218-0930 ext. 119


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