Recruitment isn’t just about hiring, it’s about retention, and that means hiring the right person in the first place rather than someone who merely appears to be the right person.
It costs far more to hire and train a new employee – on any level, in any industry – than it does to retain them.
And this is certainly true in the retail industry which typically has a notoriously high rate of turnover.
So before you set out to expand your organization with additional bodies, you need to define what traits and personalities those bodies are going to exhibit.
Retail, obviously, isn’t the normal 9 to 5 job.
For store managers it includes weekends, nights, and holidays.
You’re on your feet much of the day (or you should be) and often dealing with cranky customers.
If you’re on the district level, you’re likely to be traveling, and you may be responsible for a significant amount of hiring – which will make or break your region and its profits.
Sounds like a dream job, doesn’t it?
As a former recruiter whose experience spans multiple industries, all too often I saw holes in the profile of the candidate my client company wanted me to find.
Questions – designed to go deeper than a basic job description – would bring thoughtful silences before the answers came.
When you consider this occurrence was mirrored by candidates I approached, it’s no wonder that many companies who handle their own hiring find that 6 to 12 months down the line one or both sides have become disillusioned and part ways.
So before you go recruiting, you need to know exactly what you are recruiting for.
It’s not enough to require previous successful experience working with a parallel product or merchandise cost level.
A big-box retailer doesn’t always need a big-box background.
Successful employees on any level share a number of common traits regardless of the industry in which they work.
If you’re a chain bookstore growing a region and plan to open up 15 new stores within a specific time period, does it matter if the person you hire has experience in media-related products?
Or is it more important that they have experience developing a successful region of multiple locations?
In this line, think outside the box and look at similar industries with some of the same characteristics: grocery stores, restaurants, and drugstores are some, all of which focus on profitable expansion, merchandising, long hours, and hands-on management.
If you’re hiring a store manager, you could even include call centers and cruise ships as well as retail operations outside your specialty.
Differentiate between what you can teach, and what you can’t.
You can’t teach passion, nor can you teach intelligence.
You can’t teach common sense and you can’t teach the willingness to do one’s job to the best of one’s ability.
Management either cares about its employees or it doesn’t, and is willing to be accessible and mentor, or not.
With that, managers – on any level – either realize that their success is based on the contentment and success of their employees, or they don’t.
In other words, it starts at the top.
There is no difference between successful organizations and those that are unsuccessful, except for the people they hire and the decisions those people make.
Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying.
I’m certainly not advising taking a manager from a manufacturing plant and hiring this person to run an upscale, men’s clothing store.
Although the literal job responsibilities are technically “trainable,” regional management has no time – and there’s no reason to – train an entirely new set of skills, lingo, principles, and wisdom.
We talked about the importance of having a good retention strategy in place before you begin hiring.
Without a plan for retention, any problems you have within your management configuration and employee structure will be readily apparent and continue to perpetuate.
The best way to find out what goes into a successful retention program is to ask your employees.
You’d be surprised how helpful, innovative, creative, and wise many of their suggestions are.
It’s the first rule of marketing: you can’t give the buyer what he wants if you don’t know what that is.
Additionally following this path actively demonstrates that you care about your employees.
When I was a recruiter, one of the reasons for leaving I heard most often was “It’s not anything like they told me it was.”
If you offer things to the candidate, you better be able to follow through.
Don’t say you hire from within if you don’t.
Don’t say it’s a fun place to work if your turnover in sales staff and management is consistently above average.
Don’t tell your new hires that you take them into consideration if you dictate, assign, and turn a deaf ear,
Here’s a fact: there are companies who are known as a terrible place to work and whose employees rarely stay very long.
These are the first companies recruiters raid.
In a large number of cases, amazingly enough, management never seems to realize that excessive turnover indicates there’s a problem…..with them, not the employees.
A big factor in retention is respect and rewards – whether you’re talking about your sales staff on the floor or district and regional managers for meeting their goals.
Are there generous performance incentives?
Do the earned percentages get smaller or larger as the achieved profitability goals get higher?
Or are there whispers among your employees that the company is cheap?
Remember, too, that employees at different levels have different needs.
So a one-method-fits-all retention program probably won’t go far in guaranteeing your employees stick around.
It’s much easier to hire employees through even the traditional methods when the buzz on the street is that you’re a great place to work.
Where to find new employees?
Of course there are the traditional methods: job boards, newspaper classifieds and word of mouth.
But there are innovative ways to approach the traditional methods, as well as some unusual methods that are successful.
Your corporate advertising team works hard to brand your store name as a great place to buy whatever it is you sell, and the same approach works very well in hiring.
Testimonials are the best way to do this because they’re objective.
As retailers, you know better than anyone that sales are built through relationships.
If that’s true for a service or a tangible product, wouldn’t it be even more applicable when the relationship asks the person to be part of that organization and interact with others as its representative day in and day out?
Survey your employees on different levels.
Why do they work there?
Why do they like it?
Why do they stay?
Instead of only running an ad advertising your sales, run a display ad for hiring purposes.
Thank your employees by name and in the same ad, run a testimonial from one of them with their picture.
Develop a campaign with several employee testimonials.
That gives you added credibility and keeps the ad from becoming too familiar.
Make sure each testimonial addresses a specific (and different) point that’s important to people who are looking for a job: pay scale, incentives, mentoring, consideration and respect, the family atmosphere, whatever.
But don’t make it generic and don’t engineer it.
You’ll completely undermine its effectiveness.
It has to be real, and it has to be in your employee’s own words.