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With Labor Issues, Innovate—Don’t Invent

At the NACS Human Resources Forum in Texas this week, HR professionals from across the country are sharing their best labor practices.
March 7, 2018

​By Diane Rusignola

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – As labor issues grow as a pain point for convenience retailers, HR professionals gathered in San Antonio, Texas, this week for the NACS HR Forum are concentrating on innovation as a solution.

“In many ways we’re demanding greater knowledge and agility in the employees we bring on,” said Joanne Loce of Fortify Leadership Group, the event’s moderator who kicked off the program yesterday. “Business and HR leaders are really being asked to reinvent how we deliver results.”

As your HR department switches its thinking toward being an innovator, it can start with something as simple as hiring people who are passionate about their work. But how can HR as a function contribute to innovation?

“When I work with leaders, I talk about innovation. They talk about invention,” Loce said. “Doing something that’s never been done before is invention. This is about making you think about things in a little bit of a different way.”

A Regulatory Environment
Before a company can innovate though, it must have the basics nailed down. That often begins in the human resources department, and involves understanding regulations and offering employee trainings. Pamela Williams, an HR attorney from Fisher Phillips, a labor and employment law firm with more than 30 offices across the country, said that HR departments should be offering harassment and discrimination training every 1 to 2 years, especially in today’s environment, making special note of the growing #MeToo movement.

“The law is ever-changing,” Williams said. “You need to review your policies regularly to keep up-to-date. The more avenues you provide to employees to report an incident, the stronger your defenses will be if [a case arises].”

Williams called out five best practices to keep in mind in today’s evolving harassment and discrimination landscape: up-to-date policies, dissemination of information, training for managers, prompt investigation, and enforcement.

Tabatha George, another associate at Fisher Phillips, talked about organizing payroll data and making sure eligibility is clear and concise. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but even if the ACA is repealed, the new [Republican] plan would still include reporting,” she said. “For now, the ACA is still law.”

Caroline Brown, also with Fisher Phillips, talked about the Department of Labor’s recent reevaluation of the so-called overtime rule. “It’s not a rule about getting people overtime. It is a rule about exempting them from it,” she said.

“The current administration is re-evaluating the overtime rule. There are a lot of tweaks that, on the one hand, would sound good [at one store],” Brown added. “At the same time, if you have more than one location … you kind of have an admin nightmare.”

Innovation in Compensation
To help stores avoid these admin problems, one invaluable resource available to the convenience industry is the NACS Compensation Survey; Jayme Gough, NACS research coordinator, explained to HR Forum attendees how they could use it as a tool in their daily work.

She also talked about how McDonald’s is innovating with the “selfie generation,” or millennials, and using Snapchat so potential employees can apply for jobs more easily. With social media leveraging becoming the norm for companies—Gough said that 70% of employers use social media to screen employees—the McDonald’s “Snapplication” is a lesson worth learning for c-stores.

Also pay attention to what your employees want. According to a Snagajob survey of hourly workers, health insurance, paid vacation and professional development are the three most desired benefits in a job, Gough said. “You want to be able to offer health insurance if you can, but you don’t want it to take up a huge chunk of your direct operating costs,” she added.

A Strong Culture
HR professionals need to understand the true meaning of the buzzwords “innovation” and “culture,” said Jamie Notter, partner and culture consultant at WorkXO Solutions. He said that innovation is change that unlocks new value. Culture is the collection of words, actions, thoughts and “stuff” that clarify and reinforce what is truly valued inside an organization.

A strong culture, though, aligns what is valued with what drives success, Notter said.

“We’re talking about it up here, but we’re not putting enough thought into it to make sure risks are being taken,” Notter said. “What if we wanted to try something new, and we did a prototype? We built something that we knew wasn’t going to work, but we put it out there anyway [to learn from it]? Why is it that we’re talking the talk, but not walking the walk?”

Notter detailed a model he uses called the “workplace genome,” a method through which a company can implement its culture: agility, collaboration, growth, inclusion, innovation, solutions, technologies and transparency. He also talked about honing a “culture playbook,” which includes rituals and artifacts, stewardship, talent/HR, process, structure and technology.

“I think organizations need to be as efficient about culture management as they are about financial management. I want people in your organization who have those [culture] answers or can get those answers,” Notter said. “To do that, you need a playbook. Run that play, and when it’s a complete failue, we need another play that you can run in its place.”

For more on HR Forum, follow the NACS Daily all this week.

Diane Rusignola is the NACS deputy editor. She can be reached at drusignola@convenience.org