Listen to Your Employees

The Hub Convenience Stores asked its store leaders how they would tackle the labor shortage.

March 24, 2022

HUB Convenience Store Exterior

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—It’s no secret that one of the biggest challenges facing the convenience retailing industry is labor shortage. When Jared Scheeler, CEO of The Hub Convenience Stores and NACS chairman, opened The Hub in 2015 in North Dakota, he didn’t have an issue hiring workers, and great workers for that matter, despite other businesses in the store’s region struggling to find labor, and he says he took his good fortune for granted.

“We don’t always acknowledge that—doing things how we’ve always done them may not necessarily be how we should do things tomorrow,” said Scheeler on this week’s Convenience Matters podcast episode. “I think we were a little bit slow to react to the changes in the labor market over the past two years.”

Scheeler says that convenience retailers need to get creative on how to solve labor challenges. One method he used was to ask his own employees for their ideas on how to get more workers through the door.

Scheeler held two days of half-day meetings to talk with leaders from each of The Hub’s locations on how to tackle the labor issue. He asked them what’s going well for them, what they are struggling with and how the company can reinvent the way they have been operating.

“It’s a challenge to get people to forget everything they’ve always known and start from scratch with a clean slate, but that was our attempt,” said Scheeler. “The beauty of it is we got a lot of ideas.”

The first area that the leaders analyzed was the culture at the company.

“As our company grew from one location to three and then to four and then to five, I think each step along the way during that path of growth we lost a little bit of ourselves,” said Scheeler.

The group concluded that the way the company communicates with its team members needed improvement, especially how it communicates with new employees. Training during the first week needs to be adjusted, including how they train, what standards to uphold and how to keep training consistent.

Next, the group discussed scheduling, hiring practices and task management. Scheeler challenged the leaders to think of ways to go about these tasks that they have not before.

“I think as a leader, when developing other leaders, it’s important to help them stretch their minds, stretch their level of thinking to be able to think beyond the norms or beyond the day-to-day,” said Scheeler.

Then they discussed automation and asked the leaders what the company is doing now that artificial intelligence could do for the organization to make their jobs easier.

The fourth topic they talked about was outsourcing, and Scheeler challenged the group to see if that was anything that could be outsourced to another company to take some weight off of their shoulders at the store level.

Scheeler admitted that there are obvious cost concerns surrounding that option, but he wanted to stretch their minds in places they have not gone before. An idea that a leader had was to build a team of older, retired workers to come into the stores and handle the baking once a week.

“I’m OK with trying some things that fail, but how are we going to figure out what our new path forward looks like when it comes to personnel? All I know is that it can’t look like it did yesterday,” he said.

Listen to this week’s podcast to hear more details on how c-store retailers can replicate a meeting like Scheeler’s in their own stores. In case you missed it, read NACS Magazine’s interview with Scheeler in “Thinking Big” in the January issue.