4 Modern Employee-Retention Drivers
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Two retailers said they would accept pretty massive demotions at Winsight's Outlook Leadership conference this year. When asked if they would work as store associates in their chains, Alex Olympidis, president of operations for Family Express Corp., and John Strickland Jr., president of Wayne Oil Co. Inc., returned a resounding yes. “I suspect I would get a little less email,” Olympidis said. But beyond overflowing inboxes, here’s why the convenience-store operators wouldn’t mind spending some time in their forecourts.
1. Highly selective recruiting processes
Joining the Wayne Oil Co. Inc. team is about a six-week process. Applicants don’t make it to the first interview without an employee referral. “You’re in the family, or you’re not in the family,” Strickland said. After that, candidates go through five interviews at multiple levels, including store and district managers, before they are hired. The chain doesn’t just look for one type of person, and oftentimes they find the most success with people who don’t look like a typical ideal candidate on paper. “We want the weirdos,” he said. “They just look at the world a little bit differently and find a way to make it a good time.” Those weirdos seem to be a good fit for Goldston, N.C.-based Wayne Oil, which boasts a 24% store associate turnover rate.
Only about 3% of applicants make it into Family Express’ 68 stores in Indiana. The chain usually hires about one in 50 candidates. To determine if candidates have hiring managers’ trust, Family Express deploys the “kitchen table test.” “Would I invite this person to my home to have breakfast with my family at my kitchen table?” he asked. “If I wouldn’t trust you in my home with my own family, why would I trust you to build relationships in our stores.” Olympidis himself actually gives final approval on potential hires, but that doesn’t mean they are guaranteed a position. The new hires have to stick it out through a three-day, pass-or-fail orientation process.
2. Predictable scheduling
Family Express workers often have their schedules more than a month ahead of time. Using time-motion analytics and customer traffic count, the Valparaiso, Ind.-based chain is able to isolate when extra labor is needed. The advantages are many. To start, Family Express is able to cross-reference if candidates’ availability matches with their scheduling template. Through the process, the chain learned that most employees would prefer a stable schedule to an increase in pay, Olympidis said.
3. Promoting from within
Both Wayne Oil and Family Express promote from within. “If you want to be a store manager or associate manager, you have to come through as a cashier,” Strickland said.
A fast-track to management is a major recruiting tool for Family Express. The chain’s primary recruiting strategy is over-the-counter through associates, Olympidis said. “We say to the person making $13, $14, $15, come take a chance with us, because we promote almost exclusively from within” he said. And managers start at $50,000 a year, which is more than many teachers, firemen and police officers in the area.
4. A piece of the pie
Store employees at Wayne Oil are now profit generators. The chain coaches team members on how to upsell and gives them a percentage of the profits. In fact, high-performers can increase wages by 30%. Eventually, the chain could move toward the “Nordstrom format,” greet customers with a tablet and walk them in and out the store with everything they didn’t know you needed,” Strickland said.