CSD: Managing Today’s Retail Workforce

Discussion
Aug 18, 2009

By John Lofstock

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of an article from Convenience Store Decisions magazine.

Because major shifts in the economy have created unparalleled effects on the labor market, Convenience Store Decisions and Humetrics Inc. collaborated on our first ever human resources study. The summarized survey results include some interesting surprises, as well as some insights gleaned from reading between the lines.

Given the level of concern about the floundering economy of late, the survey results paint a very different picture for the convenience store industry. Looking at the next 12 months, more than half (56.6 percent) of the respondents expect staffing levels to remain the same and another one-third (35.5 percent) expect to actually increase staffing. Only 7.9 percent predicted staffing levels would decrease.

Of the respondents who are in a hiring mode, most are looking to add part-time hourly associates (83.9 percent), while 58.1 percent are adding full-time hourly workers and 32.3 percent and 16.1 percent need frontline managers and multi-unit level managers respectively.

"So, we see between the lines that, while ours might not be an industry of choice for most job seekers, for those of you in a recruiting mode, it would be wise to capitalize on the industry’s stability in the face of nationwide layoffs in other industries," said Mel Kleiman, president of Humetrics, which tallied the survey results.

And there’s another recruiting trump card many c-store chains easily overlook, Mr. Kleiman said. When it comes to recruiting store managers, most c-store organizations report the best results come from internal promotions (32.4 percent).

"How many people know what a great industry of opportunity ours is?" Mr. Kleiman said. "What kind of recruits would you attract if you changed that sign from ‘Help Wanted’ to ‘We Grow Store Managers’?"

If more employees thought they might have a shot at a management position, what effect might that have on the industry’s extraordinarily high employee turnover levels?

"We can’t help but ask because, even though this economy is causing most employees to cling to their jobs for dear life, most of our respondents reported that turnover is staying at about the same traditionally high levels for both hourly employees and salaried positions even during the downturn," Mr. Kleiman said.

Referrals are the second best source of managers at 22.5 percent and, surprisingly, newspaper want ads are third at 16.9 percent.

Among other findings in the survey:

  • In spite of all the attention given to job boards, websites, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, the best recruiting sources for new frontline, hourly employees continues to come from traditional sources: employee referrals, in-store advertisements and walk-ins;
  • 97.3 percent are increasing their training activities and budget or remaining at the same expenditure levels;
  • Of those who have increased their investment in training, the greatest emphasis (80 percent) is on customer service skills, while foodservice safety/sanitation and manager/district manager training came in at 57.8 percent each.

Discussion Questions: What do you think of c-stores as training grounds for retail careers? Should c-stores be touting their managerial promotion potential more in their recruiting efforts? Overall, what should be particularly stressed when recruiting for c-stores versus other retail channels?

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5 Comments on "CSD: Managing Today’s Retail Workforce"

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Kevin Graff
BrainTrust

Lots to consider in this posting. First, c-stores are great places to work, provided that management is running the business professionally at every level. Assuming that’s the case, any employee can learn transferable skills in a c-store that will serve them well wherever their career takes them.

Second, every retailer, including c-stores, should be promoting the career potential that exists. Back that up with proper succession training programs and you’ll not only grow your own managers more consistently, you’ll also drive down turnover rates.

C-stores might not always be the most glamorous of jobs to consider for some, but the best operators can easily hold their heads high and confidently promote their business as a great place to work.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Many entry-level retail jobs do not expose the individual to a wide variety of skills–working in a c-store does especially as a store manager. C-store managers (depending on the organization they work for) have the opportunity to virtually run their own $5,000,000 a year business that is involved in fuel, grocery/snack/beverages, foodservice, services, entertainment, and gaming (lottery).

They get to recruit, hire, train, and manage a workforce of anywhere from three to five people to 10 or more. As a manager they directly influence the customer service levels in their store. While their control over item selection is usually limited, they do get to order, receive and display merchandise.

Again, depending on the chain they get exposure to the results they generate when they review the monthly P&L. Being a c-store manager exposes the individual to most of the elements they need to master to be successful in any retail career. This should be definitely emphasized when recruiting personnel.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

As long as you can deal with customers on a regular basis, anywhere in retail is a good place to start. Having said that, I’d put C-stores on the bottom of the list as the customer type is limited, the interaction is limited, the product is limited and the amount of knowledge you’d gain from other associates would also be limited. The top of the list, to me, would be to start in an Apple store for exactly the opposite scenario you’d face in a C-store. I believe you’d come out of that experience with incredible knowledge on all fronts mentioned above, and maybe a Mac or two.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

C-stores are not the most attractive environment to cultivate a long-term retail career for most people getting into the business. That’s not to say that they aren’t a hotbed of retail education, however, the lifestyle isn’t attractive to younger people today for the reasons mentioned above. That said, Retail as an industry is struggling to attract top talent for long-term careers.

Specific recruiting tactics need to be employed to attract the individuals who would find this work rewarding. Also, as stated above, internal nurturing and promotion are the best ways to secure a future for the business.

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
8 years 1 month ago
Some interesting findings for the c-store segment. They’d be more interesting if we could compare them to other industry segments, e.g., drug stores, supermarkets, etc. That said, I think the larger story/issue (i.e., that a retail career is a viable option) is pertinent to the entire retail industry, not just c-stores. Unfortunately, retail careers are still viewed by the general public as either a dead-end job, a low-wage job or just a job to keep money coming in until they find “something better.” True, not every store associate will move up the career ladder, but plenty of chains are missing the opportunity to better communicate to potential employees that retailing can be a rewarding career. Two additional things need to also happen. One, retail chains need to ensure that retailing is viewed as a career choice internally, i.e., the view of retailing as a viable career must be a core principle within the company. If the company only pays it lip service, then new employees will soon discover the truth and make tracks for greener pastures. Two, I also think the industry should undertake an ongoing consumer education campaign with the goal of changing the public’s perception of retail careers.… Read more »
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