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Confronting Retail’s Biggest Challenge: Labor

Tips to find, hire and retain convenience-store employees
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AUSTIN, Texas — Every industry and every channel of retailing is currently struggling to find, hire and retain quality talent. And it’s no different for convenience stores.

One of the most common complaints from business owners in the convenience retail industry is how hard it is to source quality applicants. Steve Seymour, director of personnel training and development at retailer Country Fair Inc.—one of our clients—tells me the biggest challenge is finding people to work when unemployment is low.

With 11.2 million job openings reported in July, that doesn’t come as a shock. Job seekers have an abundance of options, and for an employer, standing out from the crowd can be difficult.

Being flexible in your scheduling shows candidates that you don’t just see them as employees, but as people with responsibilities and lives outside of work.

On top of that, the cost of those vacant positions directly effects stores: Fewer employees mean store shelves may go unstocked, which means fewer units sold, which means lower average revenue and overworked employees.

Vacant positions cause stores to hemorrhage money, and it’s become increasingly difficult to fill those positions. So, what can you do to solve that?

Finding Quality Applicants

There are a few ways to make your job advertisements to stand out in a sea of options.

Offer Better Wages. One great way to stand out is to offer higher wages than other convenience stores in your region. If you’ve ever gone through the hiring process only to see great candidates take other opportunities, your pay rate may be too low in comparison for the positions you’re hiring for. Alternatively, if candidates feel like they’ll be able to comfortably survive on your wages, they’re more likely to give your store a chance and, if hired, stick around longer.

Take a look at what positions like the one you’re hiring for are offering, and see if your budget can accommodate a higher wage. You’re sure to snag applicants from your competition and see your positions filled that much faster.

Be Flexible. Another standout feature candidates look for is flexibility. With a flexible schedule, candidates know that they can easily fit your job into their lives without sacrificing much or making sure they can keep up with their other responsibilities. For example, maybe they have a child in school and a flexible schedule means they don’t have to pay for daycare or have to struggle to coordinate dropoff and pickup.

Being flexible in your scheduling shows candidates that you don’t just see them as employees, but as people with responsibilities and lives outside of work. It also opens you up to a wider network of applicants, such as students or people looking to pick up supplemental work.

Use the Right Advertising Solution. Maybe you’re getting a decent number of applicants to your convenience store, but they just don’t seem like the right fit. They might be over- or underqualified, they may be only looking for short-term employment, or their availability doesn’t match your needs. Are you sure the right people are seeing your jobs?

Enter, the technical side of hiring: job advertising. Just posting your open positions to job boards is no longer enough to make sure your company’s hiring needs are met; using a job advertising agency or platform will help better target the people you seek.

Consider giving the employees you’d like to keep on a small pay bump at the end of a trial period ... to incentivize their continued dedication to your store.

Traditional job advertising places your jobs on sites on which people have historically been looking for positions like yours, but doesn’t take into account whether or not the people on that site are actually looking for that right now. Instead, you should find a solution that finds the right candidates where they are, as they’re actively searching for a new job.

Even though one-time bonuses, better benefits and even safer working conditions are important in any industry, higher wages and flexibility offer long-term security and show dedication to the well-being of your employees. And using the right technology ensures your job ads are put in front of the right people, saving you time and money.

Keeping Quality Employees

Once you find and hire new employees, retention is incredibly important, otherwise you’ll be stuck in a cycle of constantly hiring and trying to fill vacant positions. And with the job market being what it is, you have to make sure that your employees are happy, fulfilled and productive members of your team. A good way to ensure that is to build an employee-development program.

An employee-development program offers learning opportunities to help your team advance in their careers. For example, if an employee shows interest in becoming a manager, offering to subsidize a management certificate can make them feel supported in their ambitions, giving you their loyalty and making sure they’ll continue to be great employees.

You can also consider giving the employees you’d like to keep on a small pay bump at the end of a trial period as a thank you for their hard work and to incentivize their continued dedication to your store. After all, it’s easier to retain good employees than to have to reenter the hiring process and retrain new workers.

The Bottom Line

As you’re filling positions and preparing for the holidays, keep these tips in mind to ensure you’re finding, hiring and retaining the best employees for your convenience store. Whether it’s offering higher wages, flexible schedules or even just using the right advertising technology, hiring and retaining great employees will be a little easier.

Thad Price is the CEO of Austin-based Talroo, a data-driven job and hiring event advertising platform that helps businesses reach the candidates they need to build their essential workforce.

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