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War for Talent: 'Do My People Win?'

Softer employment strategies can bear the most fruit

CHICAGO -- While it’s easier to focus on the tangible ways—whether wages or benefits—to attract and retain employees, sometimes the softer strategies can bear the most fruit.

“Being a great place to work isn’t something you do today and forget about tomorrow,” says Eric Chester, speaker and author of books such as “On Fire at Work.” “It’s an everyday problem. Let’s not race to the bottom when it comes to convenience [stores].”

But for many retailers, that race to the bottom has become a hustle for the top. At Atlanta-based RaceTrac, the upper-management team “[asks the employee] what they would like to see happen to improve retention and the overall engagement in the organization,” says Renzo Bassanini, director of field human resources for RaceTrac. And top of mind for the company’s workforce is work-life balance.

“Applicants are looking not only for a job that pays well, but also a job that has the flexibility necessary to take care of life after work,” Bassanini says.

But despite what many best-in-class operators are doing to put their employees first, the c-store PR stigma endures. Of the job seekers polled, only 17% said they wanted to work at a convenience store because they were specifically looking for a job there, or liked their products, compared to 29% of applicants looking for work in warehouse/club stores. And in terms of wages and benefits, c-stores are ranked at the bottom.

Things look a bit different for current employees of c-stores. While not yet ranking as high as grocery in terms of wages and benefits, convenience stores score higher than warehouse/club stores in both of these areas.

“Let’s not say, ‘We start people at minimum wage,’ ” Chester says. “Let’s not say, ‘I’m going to pay you as little as I can and not get in trouble by the government.’ Employees want to know, ‘Is there an opportunity for me while I work here to make more than the minimum? Especially if I meet some metrics, if I help this store perform?’

“It’s incumbent on retailers to ask themselves a simple question: ‘When I win, do my people win?’ ”

Source: Technomic’s Winning the War for Talent Report, sponsored by DirecTV  

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