CSP Magazine

Opinion: Aspire to Become an Employer of Choice

It’s time for some self-reflection and serious debate about what kind of employer the c-store industry wants to be

It’s admittedly kinda freaky and alarming that most would-be worker bees have a low perception of our beloved convenience channel.

The exhaustive Winning the War for Talent Report, undertaken by our sister research group, Technomic, and sponsored by DirecTV, is an eye-opener.

Good—we need that.

No more self-congratulatory pats on the back. No more BSing that convenience retailers are employers of choice when, in truth, they rank lower than grocery, drugstores and QSRs when recruiting front-line talent.

It’s time for some self-reflection and serious debate about what kind of employer the c-store industry wants to be. My Technomic colleague Donna Hood Crecca and I met with nearly 20 executives in our operator advisory council to share some of the report’s findings on recruitment, retention and advancement. The dialogue was sobering.

Along with the insights shared by Alaina Lancaster and Abbey Lewis in the preceding pages, there are three areas of the conversation worthy of your consideration.

Part Time or Full Time?

When the Affordable Care Act became law, myriad retailers across channels scaled back employee schedules to less than 30 hours, converting them from full-time workers to part-time to circumvent the need to provide them with medical coverage. But a few had a different mindset, and they responded to the legislation by pursuing a full-time employment strategy.

“We are now talking to prospective hires about how they can build a career here, that being a store associate is just the beginning,” one council member said.

We also observed that most operators want a mix. Some are moving toward a 70-30 ratio of full time to part time; others are doing the opposite. Whatever the breakdown, it should be predicated on the next question.

The ‘Right’ Employee?

How often do you hear a retailer say, “We’re looking for the right kind of people”? Well, what does that mean for your business model? What does it really mean? Are you looking for customer-facing team members who are personable? Do you want multitaskers? What about diversity in terms of age, race and primary language?

Finding the right employees begins with developing a clear recruitment model. Surprisingly, many, if not most, c-store operators continue to hire via the age-old way—with little more than a “for hire” sign on the storefront. Few are using digital tools or participating in job fairs. And even fewer are employing psychographic strategies.

In short, too many retailers see themselves as merely a job, a quick stop along a professional path. Even the industry doesn’t view itself as a career destination.

Benefits or Wages?

2017 was an expensive year. The industry raised front-line hourly wages by $1 to $1.50. Yet, as we explore on p. 34, many retailers saw little appreciation on their investment. A few retailers actually saw turnover increase.

No surprise: Our research shows that while wages are important, other factors are high, too, including health coverage and schedule flexibility. Other benefits of value may include gym memberships, referral bonuses, education reimbursement, great company culture and, yes, career advancement opportunities.

One retailer said his company has successfully recruited talent for less than what the recruit had been earning. That’s because the recruits were sold on career advancement, superior benefits and a dynamic culture.

If we’re to be honest, our industry is not winning the war for talent. We are losing. But the ingredients for a c-store comeback are there, such as providing labor schedules in advance (minimum two to four weeks) and using technology to the employees’ advantage.

As we begin a new year, ask yourself this question: What is my narrative? Why would anyone want to work for me? You may be surprised by your answer.

Mitch Morrison is vice president of retailer relations for Winsight. Reach him at mmorrison@winsightmedia.com.

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