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The Convenience Store News 2013 Human Resources & Labor Study revealed that 30.4 percent of employee turnover at single-store operator locations is attributed to lack of career enhancement, compared to 9.1 percent at chain-operated retailers. That is one big disparity.
It's hard to promote your employees into positions like store supervisor, category manager or training manager when those positions don't exist. Promoting career advancement opportunities in your recruiting and retention efforts is difficult, if not impossible, for a single-store operator. This area of the business represents an uneven playing field when it comes to competing against chain operators.
So, what's a single-store operator to do? Focus on skill development instead of advancement opportunities.
You hear people talk sometimes in a derogatory tone about young people who don't continue their education and because of their lack of ambition, will end up flipping burgers at McDonalds. My response to that is: "You should be so lucky!" What's wrong with flipping burgers at McDonald's? Today, you're flipping burgers. Tomorrow, you own and operate 20 McDonald's franchises making a ton of money.
Don't focus on the job, like flipping burgers at McDonald's or cashiering at your convenience store. Instead, focus on the opportunity that the job represents. Working at a convenience store provides an abundance of opportunities to develop skills that will serve your employees well in many industries outside the convenience industry. These skills are called transferable skills; skills that are transferrable to other jobs in other industries.
In my opinion, working in a c-store has more transferrable skill development opportunities than a whole host of other industries. Let's take, for example, multitasking. In a convenience store, single coverage happens quite a bit. An employee doesn't show up to work (and of course, fails to call in), or the operator is looking to squeeze expense out of the business. Whatever the reason, Amy is now working the shift alone.
Amy has to keep the dispensers authorized while watching for drive-offs, manage customer transactions inside the store, promote the two hot dog special, check in the vendors, make sure not to sell a restricted product to a minor, sell lottery tickets, all while smiling and being friendly to her customers. Piece of cake, right?
By comparison, how difficult is it to work at the Gap? The Gap has, on average, three to five employees on the floor at one time, all hanging out and saying hello to customers, while folding sweaters and reorganizing the belt rack. And look at the fast-food industry. Their employees only have to focus on one activity: fries, burgers, transaction counter, drive-up window, etc., vs. the multiple activities in a c-store. If your employees can succeed in the fast-paced, demanding c-store environment, they can succeed in just about any retail format.
In addition to multitasking, other transferable skills learned working in a c-store include: customer service, customer conflict, salesmanship, teamwork, merchandising and retailing, accounting, cash control, security procedures and, the biggest skill of all, interpersonal or people skills. I don't care if you have a college degree, masters or a doctorate, if you can't get along and successfully work with other people, you're not going to succeed in this world. What better place to develop interpersonal skills than working in a c-store? You literally have every walk of life coming into a c-store every day: young, old, rich, poor, male, female, Hispanic, African-American, Caucasian, Asian, Middle Eastern, etc.
Clearly communicate to job candidates (for recruiting) and your existing employees (for retention) the skills they are learning every day by working in your store. Skill development is particularly important to the younger Millennial generation, born between 1978 and 2001.
An additional benefit of focusing on skill development with your employees is that it takes the focus off of pay -- at least a little bit.
Terry McKenna is principal and co-founder of Convenience Store Coaches & Employee Performance Strategies Inc., where he helps convenience retailers achieve greater financial results by optimizing their workforce. McKenna can be reached at (910) 458-5227 or [email protected]. He also maintains a blog at www.terrymckenna.typepad.com.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner.