Grocery stores have some of the highest employee turnover rates among retail outlets. By some estimates, the annual price tag associated with attrition exceeds industry profits by 40 percent. That’s a hefty expense.
Luckily, experts say that by adopting smart management strategies, you can control turnover costs. Follow their tips for finding and keeping the best employees.
Natural products retailer
Start how you want to continue.
It’s better to be honest early than try to fix a train wreck later. Our employees’ first day includes reading the handbook and receiving a store orientation. After one month, we conduct a training checklist. Reviews happen every six months. Giving smaller raises more frequently is more motivating, and our evaluations are easy to complete so that managers don’t dread giving them.
Spot talent and develop it.
Think of people as jewels that can be polished. I often ask newbies in entry-level jobs what they want to grow into. This is why a cashier I hired 22 years ago is now our director of purchasing. It’s easier to teach a person with a great attitude how to do a job than to teach someone who knows the job how to have a good attitude.
We begin all of our staff and management meetings with appreciations, which are posted for future reading. We also offer free lunch vouchers, breakfast at our all-employee meetings, picnics, baseball games and a $50 bounty for bringing in a new employee who stays for at least three months. Gratitude can matter more than wages; it creates an atmosphere of belonging and a sense of mission.
Laurie Powers-Shamone, store director of Nature’s Food Patch in Clearwater, Fla.
Human resources specialist
Show employees their future.
On your website’s employment page, include pictures and testimonials from current staff who’ve gotten promoted—for example, the former cashier who is now the body care buyer or the former stocker who is now the scanning coordinator. Establish an ongoing staff education program featuring classes taught by your most knowledgeable employees.
Tell the truth about raises.
If you base pay increases on the results of performance evaluations, give your new hires the evaluation form. If certain criteria are more important than others, stress the key ones. If raises are uncertain, depending on the financial performance of the business, be upfront about that. A chart with all positions grouped into pay ranges can show potential internal applicants whether a new job would be a lateral move or a step up.
Give specific, personal feedback.
It’s fine to say “thank you” and “great job,” but it means more when the boss takes the time to notice and articulate the details of what an employee does well. And while employee-of-the-month-type programs are worthwhile, they don’t replace sincere, spontaneous personal appreciation from supervisors, general managers and owners.
Carolee Colter, owner of CDS Consulting Co-op in Nelson, B.C., Canada
Independent business specialist
Advertise job opportunities.
Alert your best employees (and perhaps some customers) to upcoming job openings. This might save you the time and expense of advertising and also decrease the number of less-desirable applicants—your staff probably knows what it takes to perform the job well and wants coworkers who will carry their weight.
Evaluate your progress.
Employees stay with a company for a variety of reasons: compensation, prestige, feeling valued, learning opportunities, flexibility, benefits, meaningful work and many more. Download the Independent Business Alliance chart to identify top factors impacting employee satisfaction in your store and to track progress for your staff.
Assume that every employee will gain insights to improve your business, and encourage them to share suggestions. If you reward suggestions, honor all that show real thought and potential value, not just the “best of the month,” which might discourage ideas. Also consider taking employees out for a meal or off-site to take advantage of group brainstorming and problem-solving potential. This will make employees feel like they are a part of a team.
Jeff Milchen, cofounder of the American Independent Business Alliance in Bozeman, Mont.