From Recruiting to Retention to the Big Picture

Attendees at NACS HR Forum learned how to recruit top talent, onboard successfully, retain employees and tell a better story about c-store jobs.

March 25, 2019

Charleston, S.C. – Employing the best person to fill a job at a convenience store can be challenging, but it’s vital to the success of a business, according to a panel of HR professionals at the NACS HR Forum, which took place in Charleston, South Carolina, last week.

“We look for three things in candidates: attitude, personability and motivation,” said panelist Renzo Bassanini, director of field HR at Racetrac, who utilizes job platforms such as CareerBuilder, Indeed and Talentify to find potential employees. Bassanini also spoke highly of hiring minors to work in c-stores, saying they are “very dependable” and a “quality employee.”

Another panelist Laurie Quinn, human resource director for Campbell Oil Company & BellStores, agreed with Bassanini.

“It’s the minors that keep the place ticking during the afternoon and evening hours,” she said. “We’re their footprint of how they can be successful in their journey forward.”

When it comes to recruiting, panelist Fran Krainas, corporate recruiter for The Spinx Company Inc., says their company looks for its core values in a potential hire, such as accountability and being team-oriented.

“Core values are who you are, and they can’t be taught. I can’t teach someone to be community-centric or passionate about their job,” she said.

Panelists also advised the attendees to get creative around the staffing process. Think hiring a senior citizen to work the morning shift to greet the regulars and sell coffee, or instead of standard shifts, accommodating the schedule of individuals who want to work.

Now that you’ve hired the right fit for your role, it’s time to onboard them. Valerie Kostecka, who is the director of human resources at Loop Neighborhood Markets, spearheaded an overhaul to her company’s onboarding process to free up managers’ time, accelerate employee onboarding and increase compliance adherence.

“Sixty-nine percent of employees who have a great onboarding experience are inclined to stay with their company three-plus years,” said Kostecka.

One key to a successful onboarding process is to automate all training that is assigned at the time of onboarding, so training is consistent and in compliance across the company.

Kostecka also says to set expectations for the employee from the start with great communication and early access to handbooks and job descriptions. Explaining how job-related goals align with those of the company is also important.

“Every single role is an important part of our organization, so you need to let the onboarding employee know that,” she said.

Companies also should start communicating through technology to show that their company supports technology and the growth of technology in their organization. App-based onboarding processes would also show progressive standards within the company and ease the process for the new hire, says Kostecka.

Overall, there is not a one-size-fits-all onboarding process, and companies must review their options and see what fits, says Kostecka.

“Although the cost to establish a good onboarding system can be expensive, it’s worth the benefits,” she says.

Retaining staff
After the successful onboarding of an employee, keeping them is a c-store’s next challenge. Kim Lazerus, vice president of human resources at Maverik Inc., encouraged attendees to rethink the way organizations design and develop benefits to meet the needs of their diverse workforce. The bolstering economy has left companies with a talent shortage due to low unemployment rates, and the rules have changed, according to Lazerus.

“We have five generations in the workplace now. All the unique challenges we experience is because of that,” she said.

Lazerus took attendees through the revamping of Maverik’s own benefits program to reduce turnover and boost retention and employee satisfaction rates. Maverik looked at their own company culture, established a purpose statement and implemented this purpose throughout new employee training and existing employee programs. The company looked at its values and created leadership standards.

“What matters [to us] is that we’re a great place to work,” said Lazerus. She also emphasized that you can’t simply hire an employee and leave it there. “You have to continue to recruit your employees,” she said.

And when it comes to the millennial generation, Lazerus advised attendees to work with them and remind them of the promotional opportunities at their current employer.

“Millennials want to jump jobs? That’s ok. There’s probably a lot of jobs at your company that they can jump to.”

Big picture
Shifting the focus to a broader view of the industry, Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives at NACS, shared with attendees how jobs at c-stores can allow workers to gain valuable business and people skills, but stereotypes and misperceptions about c-store jobs tend to cloud this realization for those outside the industry. In order to better tell the story of the industry, NACS conducted several in-depth quantitative and qualitative studies to understand how best to reframe perceptions on c-store jobs.

A focus group study by NACS showed that former c-store employees reflected positively on their experience, allowing them to develop people skills. Interacting with customers was the most common top-of-mind recollection about the job, and “the customers” tended to be the most common enjoyable thing they recalled. One-third of respondents said convenient location or hours factored into their decision to take the job.

Convenience stores are among the last to close during a disaster and the first open, which is a great storyteller, says Lenard.

“[Convenience stores are] the first responders to the first responders,” said Lenard. Similarly, 53% of EMTs and police work the second and third shifts, says Lenard, and a better way to tell the c-store story is to remind the public the industry is serving them.

“We’re the ones helping to fuel them so they can help others,” said Lenard.