By Jim Callahan
I am, if nothing else, an unabashed copier of good ideas.
Let me explain.
Early in my retail career, I was tasked to try and “turn around” an Exxon distributorship noted for its dwindling bulk plant operation and the five worst performing convenience stores I’ve ever come in contact with.
Short of resources and facing extremely poor cash flow problems, I turned to the great Pittsburgh Pirates Slugger and Hall of Famer Willie Stargell for inspiration. In a year that many thought the Pirates would struggle and fail, Stargell, who—in addition to leading the league in slugging, home runs and RBIs—took it upon himself to raise the performance of the rest of his teammates.
The team leader, known as Pops, began awarding his teammates small, yellow and black Pirate appliques—called “Stargell Stars” to adorn their batting helmets or baseball hats for every significant effort they made or good play they turned in. The fact that the Pirates won the World Series in 1979 was due in part to Stargell’s talent and extraordinary leadership.
With that vision in mind I got Exxon to donate a few sheets of their one-and-a-half-inch orange and black Tiger appliques and the “Royal Order of the Flying Tiger” was born. In a matter of mere months, the stores went from last to first in sales growth, inventory control, public perception—and equally important—productivity and morale.
In the c-store industry, the reason why we have to fill a vacancy is sometimes overlooked because, often, we’re too busy hiring replacement personnel to delve into what caused the job vacancy in the first place.
That’s where employee morale comes into play. And in evaluating workplace morale, an honest operator will ask the hard questions: Are my employees happy? If not, what’s the cause of their discontentment? If the cause is an adverse work environment, what am I going to do to improve the work climate?
There are a ton of successful companies that utilize various incentives to keep their employees engaged and invigorated. Take Google, for instance.
Sure we’ve heard the stories that every Google worker gets free food, gym memberships and even Wi-Fi-outfitted shuttle rides to work. Sure Google can do all of that because it can afford to. Then again, maybe it can afford to because it has gone the extra mile to ensure its employees are satisfied and motivated while on the job.
True, we’re in a different business than Google, but there are small things retailers can do to engage their employees and ensure their workplace experience isn’t dreadful.
Improving employee morale and providing more and better job satisfaction starts with a warm smile, an ‘Atta boy’ or just a pat on the back, not, just an anonymous $1-an-hour raise in pay.
I’ve often said that after food, clothing and shelter, man’s next basic need is appreciation. If you agree, then you possess the attitude to build better employee morale, which is indeed a critical key to long-term employee retention.
Tune in to next month’s issue (or call me) to discuss the real cost of employee turnover and examine a large store operation that I was involved with. The store has achieved double-digit growth 15 years later, with more than a dozen employees and 10 years of continued service to its customers.
Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CSDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at [email protected].