Put Me In, Boss

SOI education session focuses on employees as a c-store team's best asset

Linda McKenna-Welch

CHICAGO -- Linda McKenna-Welch, principal and co-founder of Convenience Store Coaches Inc., shared with attendees at the NACS State of the Industry Summit educational session, "Human Capital: Driving Business Through Results, what performance-driven organizations do to achieve success.

Employees say the number one motivational factor is receiving support for making progress. McKenna-Welch said the secret to motivation is progress and achievement. "People drive performance, not processes," she said, adding the three Ps that drive the business: Products, Pricing and People.

One of the c-store industry's human resource challenges begin with waiting to search for talent until talent is needed--to interview only when there are positions open. "The greatest teams are always looking for new talent. You need bench strength at the associate level to allow you to develop a bench at the supervisor level." McKenna-Welch implored attendees to "always be interviewing. … Imaging how employees at a fully staffed store will react when they see your managers interviewing every week. You will see an increase in productivity of your employees."

Great employees also need to understand their role. McKenna-Welch asked the audience to understand what the number-one priority of an employee is, then saying that it is "to build the business by developing long-term relationships with customers and in term increase sales. You also need to understand the role of supervisors as coaches--not bosses or babysitters."

McKenna-Welch shared a common misconception that executives have: "Only the best employees are our greatest assets and assets need care and feeding to keep them motivated and performing at a high level."

She added, "Just as your car requires periodic service to keep it running at peak performance, so does your employees' need for progress and achievement updates, as well as training to keep them motivated."

The concept of being a boss versus a coach ties into this philosophy of motivating employees by providing support for making progress. "Bosses beat people into compliance," McKenna-Welch said, noting that coaches actually coach people into commitment.

McKenna-Welch also discussed the need to provide goals that motivate performance rather than pit employees against each other. "If given the opportunity, our people will shine," she said.

She also described the benefits of frequent performance reviews, which eliminates the anxiety of the annual raise process and focuses the conversation on providing support for making and reaching attainable goals. McKenna-Welch equated an annual review process as "a football coach sitting in the locker room all game and telling players what they did wrong after the game." She added, "You get what you expect and you get what you accept. … Be sure you don't have low standards, especially if you are fearful that constructive criticism will make them quit. …Properly done, frequent performance appraisals will greatly reduce this fear."

At the end of the day, there are two metrics that performance-driven organizations use:

1. Would your employees recommend your company to someone as a place to work?

2. Would your employees recommend their manager to someone as a person to work for?

McKenna-Welch added a question she likes to ask employees when she mystery shops stores and suggested the audience do the same. "I ask the employee if they like working there. If they tell me Home Depot is hiring, I know that retailer has a problem."