Putting People First on the Job

Data show HR pros how to boost staff morale, promote exceptional experiences and reduce turnover.

March 16, 2020

By Sara Counihan

DALLAS—People are a company’s most valuable asset, and no leader knows that better than an HR professional. However, in today’s landscape, employers are facing unprecedented low unemployment rates, industry competition for labor—both within and outside of the convenience industry—and one of the highest turnover rates in retail.

Last week, Jayme Gough, an analyst at NACS, presented attendees at the 2020 NACS HR Forum with in-depth benchmarking data and insights from the newly released NACS Compensation Report, and she discussed how they could utilize data to improve their business.

“The number of global organizations that have implemented people analytics in the past three years has grown from 15% to 68%,” said Gough. People are taking their investment in employees seriously, as unemployment hits a 50-year low, and wages skyrocket, she added.

Wages made up 40% of direct store operating expenses in 2019—a 5% increase over 2018. Gough said the reason for the increase is that employers are choosing to invest in good employees and use them to generate profit.

Gough discussed health-care costs and showed that costs have remained relatively stable during the past 10 years. However, discretionary wellness benefits, such as flexible spending accounts and tuition reimbursement, have decreased, and Gough said that companies may be minimizing these expenses to keep health-care costs consistent year over year.

Recruitment is a hot topic in the HR industry, as the competition for employees remains fierce. Sixty-three percent of hourly workers said that higher wages were most important to them, followed closely by a predictable work schedule at 53%.

According to Gough, it’s now commonplace for an employer to offer competitive pay, so she encouraged attendees to think of other ways to attract and retain employees through benefits and a good work culture.

“Benefits will attract all people, but we want exceptional people. So what benefits are going to attract the right people?” she asked.

Turnover is a difficult aspect of the industry to manage, as turnover rates for c-store retailers remain high. The turnover rate for full-time store associates was 81.3% in 2019, while the rate for part-time store associates was 160.2%. The total average store associate turnover rate was 121% last year, slightly up from 2018’s 118%. The manager turnover rate in 2019 remained the same as 2018 at 22%.

This year, the NACS compensation report began tracking the employee “ghost” rate. “Ghosting,” a term from the dating world, refers to when an employer interviews, hires and receives an acceptance from a candidate, but the candidate does not come into work on her or his first day and never communicates with the employer. The ghost rate for full-time store associates in 2019 was 15%, and the rate was 18% for part-time store associates.

Lastly, Gough discussed employee retention in the c-store industry. Retention drivers, according to Gough, are good pay/benefits, employee engagement, career paths and, importantly, employee experience.

“Employee experience is a journey not a solution,” said Gough.

Gough used an example of a company that asks its candidates what their favorite under $20 indulgence is during the interview process. If the employee is hired, that favorite indulgence is on their desk on their first day. It’s about the little gestures to show employees you care that speak volumes, said Gough.

“How to expect them to give exceptional customer service if you don’t show them examples of how that could be?” asked Gough.

Sara Counihan is managing editor of NACS Magazine and content project manager at NACS.