CSD: You Don’t Have a Turnover Problem?
By Mel Kleiman, President, Humetrics, LP, a division of Kronos Corp.
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article from Convenience Store Decisions magazine.
Hiring strategies need to begin with a strong focus on retaining good frontline employees. Most employers in the convenience store industry think they have a frontline employee turnover problem and, heaven knows, the research surveys seem to confirm your thoughts.
According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey in February 2008, 78 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds and 54 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds had a tenure time of 12 months or less with their current employer. Employee turnover for all age groups continues to soar despite the shrinking job market.
Across industries, turnover is highest in the group that has the most customer contact: our hourly service workers. It’s no surprise then, as frontline turnover increases, customer expectations drop lower year by year.
So, how did we get ourselves into this sorry situation?
Less than 30 years ago, the U.S. economy was manufacturing-based. What we needed for the assembly lines and loading docks was strength, stamina and an ability to tolerate repetitive tasks. Because there were plenty of people who wanted those jobs and little training was required, management viewed those frontline, hourly employees as replaceable cogs in a wheel.
The problem is, as we shifted to a service-based economy, too many managers kept thinking this way. Frankly, management continued to think of frontline positions as menial tasks that anyone could do. They overlooked one crucial difference: manufacturing frontliners don’t interface with clients as service frontliners do.
While frontline turnover has always been monitored and analyzed, few firms have ever gotten a handle on how to control it. In many cases, when turnover wouldn’t be tamed by higher salaries or length-of-service bonuses, employers wrongly concluded that constant turnover in the rank and file was just “the nature of the beast” and reluctantly accepted it as an unavoidable cost of doing business.
Today, there aren’t enough entry-level workers to fill the jobs available and the problem is not going to go away. All of a sudden, everyone’s looking at ways to recruit the best of a shrinking labor pool while keeping the good people they’ve got from jumping ship. The focus for all companies is trying to “control turnover.” The thing is, this isn’t a turnover problem – it’s a retention problem. And if you’re treating it as a turnover problem, you’re finding that you’re getting nowhere fast.
When you look at this problem and call it “turnover,” you’re focused on facts and numbers and you come up with facts and numbers solutions – increased compensation, sweetened benefits packages and exit interviews.
When you call it a “retention” problem, however, your focus shifts to where it belongs – to the people involved. When you focus on people, you’re doing what magnetic companies do in order to attract, select and retain the best. Magnetic companies use hiring systems to identify the employees who best fit their jobs and their cultures. Magnetic companies conduct regular employee satisfaction surveys and act on them.
Discussion Questions: To what degree do you think chronic turnover is “the nature of the beast” for retail? Do you agree that shifting management’s thinking from “turnover” to “retention” would help? What are some smart and perhaps underutilized solutions for reducing retail turnover?