Attracting and Retaining Top-Notch Talent

Hiring smart and communicating expectations effectively are two best practices that can reduce turnover.

By John Matthews and Carrie Luxem

Top quartile convenience store chains have recruiting and retention habits that give them a leg up on the competition. However, attracting and retaining top-notch talent does not happen overnight. It is critical for the manager of that team to set the stage and let people excel in their roles. The manager’s role isn’t to do the job of the team, but rather create an environment that enables each member to contribute to the overall success of the team. Attracting talent that can become vital contributors to the productivity of the convenience store organization should be paramount. Before a team can best be constructed though, several areas need to be addressed in advance:

First, Write Your Story. Think about the amount of time, energy, and money spent on marketing campaigns to attract new customers. What if you put that same effort —essentially building a marketing campaign—into finding c-store talent? Even just a percentage of similar effort would net you considerably more worthwhile prospects than just throwing another boring job ad up on Craigslist and hoping for the best.

You see, hiring top-notch talent comes down to brand storytelling. Telling your company’s story in your own voice. It’s finding your unique selling proposition—the characteristics that set you apart from your competitors—and then creating your story around that.

Maybe you’re a third generation c-store chain, proudly carrying on your family’s business. Or you’re dedicated to foodservice and locally source all of the herbs and vegetables used in your convenience store’s kitchen. Whatever it is, find that special “thing.” Then use it to tell your story. Work with your marketing department, or if you need to, hire a creative agency to help you roll out this project. It will be money well spent. Ultimately, the goal is to attract active and non-active job seekers by connecting on an emotional level.

Know Your Management Style. One of the most important abilities of a manager is to know their own management style. Knowing how you manage others will often dictate the personalities of the people you hire. Hiring smart, passionate candidates ensures that the team is constantly being fed new, fresh ideas. Hiring the smartest people enables your team to constantly challenge the status quo and combining that with a passion for excellence, fosters a team environment that is second-to-none. The key to success in that scenario, though, resides with the confidence and willingness of the manager to encourage continual strength of the team. Not all managers are that confident and insecure managers are a “governor” to the upside of the team.

A progressive manager will look beyond their own capacities and hire brilliant people to work on the team. The higher the echelon of the team (i.e., more senior), the more technical experts are required to fulfill the roles on the team. The manager becomes less of a content-driver and more of an administrator/coach helping the entire team guide their way through the corporate bureaucracy that permeates most organizations. Once the team is in place, the manager is charged with holding each of the team members accountable for delivering on their respective content.

Cultural Fit Vs. Qualifications. When you put too much weight on a candidate’s qualifications, you might overlook other key personality traits. And when you get right down to it, personality is the better indicator of whether an employee will mesh with the existing company culture, mission, core values and beliefs.

Qualifications are still important, though they may be more of the icing on the cake. Research has shown that employees are more satisfied and likely to stay with the company when their personality complements the job requirements and organizational and managerial style. It’s important to screen candidates for cultural fit from the start. Here are some questions to ask during the recruitment or interviewing process:

Describe the culture of your most recent employer. What did you appreciate most and least about that culture?

What is your ideal work environment?

Do you prefer to work independently or within a team?

What values are most important to you?

What attracted you to our company and this particular position?

Based on what you know so far about our company culture, how do you see yourself fitting into that culture?

The candidate’s responses will shine a light on their personality as well as the kind of work environment and culture in which they thrive. If most of those responses align with your own company’s culture, then the candidate is likely to be a good cultural fit.

Communicate Vision, Goals, Expectations and Time Lines. Once the team is in place, weaving together a well thought through strategic business plan is mission should be a top priority. The strategic plan should outline the vision, communicate goals, create expectations and choreograph the deliverables in a timely fashion. Every successful team has an effective leader at its helm that can outline the strategic plan and yet simultaneously hold his or her team accountable for its tactical execution.

The Cost of Hiring. Hiring smart and passionate people ensure that the company expectations will be met while excelling the upside of both the manager and high growth employees. The old adage clearly applies here—you are only as strong as your weakest link. Constantly re-evaluating the talent pool of the team is not only a good practice, but should be expected of its management. Hiring takes a lot of time, energy and resources. So when you find yourself needing to fill an open position, you might be inclined to quickly select the candidate with the most impressive resume and then move on. But in doing so, you may incur even greater expense.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) estimates that turnover may cost a company anywhere from 50-60% of an employee’s annual salary, on up to 90-200%. Clearly, choosing a candidate in haste—particularly one who doesn’t complement the company culture—can be costly. Plus, placing qualifications as the most important hiring criteria may mean you miss a whole treasure trove of talent.

Attracting and retaining a talented team requires the manager to be extremely confident in their leadership skills and a promoter of competitive collaboration. That may seem like an oxymoron, but if the manager can foster a peer-driven, collaborative team made up of smart and passionate thinkers, the upside of the team can be endless. Sometimes the best role of the manager is to hire smart and passionate people…and get the heck out of the way!

John Matthews and Carrie Luxem co-wrote this article.

John Matthews ( is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc., a strategic planning, operations and marketing services firm that specializes in the management of helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries. For more information, please visit:

Carrie Luxem ( is the founder and CEO of the Restaurant HR Group Inc., a human resources, payroll and benefits administrative support company. Carrie also specializes in designing and delivering customized HR and leadership training programs. For more information, please visit:




  1. Great read! I’m deeply interested in becoming an expert on this all-important topic of attracting, hiring and retaining great talent. Rest assured I’ll be following these two well-spoken entrepreneurs! Keep doing what your’e doing Carrie and John and know you’re appreciated for your contributions to the industries you’re serving.

    Happy Healthy New Year,


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