In January 2023, Convenience Store News published the results of their latest economic outlook survey. For the second year in a row, participants expressed their concerns about staffing as the biggest obstacle to achieving profitability this year. The labor shortage is a foundational problem that creates C-store staffing issues at almost every level of company operations.
The top concerns expressed by participants included the following:
- Finding skilled workers.
- Increased costs to attract highly-skilled employees.
- Excessive turnover.
- More resources are required to train new employees.
- Impact on customer service and inferior site quality (for example, reduced operating hours or long wait times.)
- A decline in employee morale.
Why do we have a labor shortage?
A lot of people target our labor shortage on the COVID-19 pandemic. While that’s the straw that broke the camel’s back, the pandemic itself is not the sole reason for our current situation.
Back in the 1990s, labor experts began predicting a shortage due to the aging of our population. The baby boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) got its name because of the high number of people born during a short time. Baby boomers made up a significant part of our trained workforce and rose to managerial positions by the end of the century. By 2013, the oldest of the boomers began to hit retirement age. By 2031, the youngest will be 67. So even if things had continued smoothly, we’d be experiencing significant retirements. When those at the top leave, everyone in layers below them has room to move up, leaving gaps at entry-level positions.
The pandemic did speed up the crisis. Many workers approaching retirement age chose early retirement rather than dealing with perceived health risks. Older employees also began to decline entry-level work they had filled as retirement-supplemental opportunities. This created a sudden shift throughout the workforce that we did not forecast and were unprepared for.
Another impact of the pandemic was the sudden rise in staying at home–including working from home, shopping from home, banking from home, etc. Suddenly, delivery drivers were in huge demand, and companies like Uber quickly jumped on the opportunity to promote flexible hours and “entrepreneurial” style work that allowed people to take care of home responsibilities and make an income. Other companies hired more work-from-home customer service staff and technology workers to support this new lifestyle. Today, we’re seeing some shifts to a more balanced reality, as seen with large-scale layoffs from several tech giants.
How can you overcome staffing issues and find the employees you need?
What you shouldn’t do is wait for things to get better. While shifts are happening, consumer behavior and lifestyle habits are unlikely to revert to pre-2020 levels. People found new conveniences, tightened their purse strings, and adjusted to new ways of living. The good news is that you can use many strategies to attract and hire the talent you need for a successful business.
Partner with local high schools or community colleges.
Students are looking for work to pay for current expenses, and finding a job with the potential for growth and promotion is a bonus. Most schools host job fairs or career presentations where you can present your business as a premier employer in your community looking for talented individuals who focus on customer service and critical thinking. Find ways to provide flexible scheduling to students so they can meet their academic demands in exchange for filling in for other employees on weekends and summer vacations.
Offer recruitment bonuses to current employees.
Some of the most valuable qualities of great employees include responsibility, friendliness, attention to detail, critical thinking, and integrity. People with those qualities often have friends or family members with the same. Be clear about what you’re looking for in a potential employee, and then offer your current team members an incentive to refer people they know who fit that criterion. A possible incentive program may work like this:
- $100 if your referral is hired.
- $400 upon the referral’s one-year anniversary.
Remember that referral incentives are taxable income, so follow advice from your payroll accountant.
Promote a whole-work experience.
It is expensive to offer higher wages or insurance and retirement benefits. But there are other things you can offer that doesn’t cost as much and may make up for some of the gaps. Promote the cleanliness and safety of the work environment, provide occasional lunches or dinners for employees and their plus-ones, provide grocery gift certificates to employees on holidays, give employees multiple free company shirts to wear on the job, have a night out at the ballgame to support a local high school team, etc. There are many relatively inexpensive ways to create an atmosphere at work that’s fun, supportive, and creates a social experience for employees.
Get involved in the community.
Getting people to apply to work for your business is easier when they’ve seen your company name supporting programs that are important to them. Find ways to support your local athletic teams, academic clubs, and after-school programs. Work with the Chamber of Commerce to identify social programs that need volunteers or donations. Be a title sponsor for an important event in the community. And don’t just give money–show up, so people know who you are and your values. You’ll be amazed at how many people want to work for you because they want to be a part of your contribution with their friends and neighbors.
Develop your supervisor and managers.
Nothing destroys a company faster than a bad manager; unfortunately, many bad managers don’t know their actions aren’t effective. Talk with other businesses and community colleges in your area to identify training and development opportunities. Good managers will keep employees motivated and deal with problems effectively. Employees talk with others about how much they like or hate their boss, which will make a difference in applications for new hires and the retention of your current team.
GP Energy is invested in your success.
At GP Energy, we know many elements are required for success in the convenience store industry. You need a prime location, professional branding, a reliable inventory of products, effective technology, and of course, great employees. Our team works with convenience store owners to analyze their businesses and understand the opportunities available to increase profitability and achieve their goals. Get on the road to success, and contact us today. We’ll be at your side to the finish line.