Technology is changing the way convenience stores approach labor management, offering an automated way to onboard new employees, communicate with team members and track schedules and benefits.
CStore Decisions sat down with Melanie Wilson, human resources (HR) director at Weigel’s, to learn more about how the Powell, Tenn-based c-store chain is using technology as part of its labor management practices today.
A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Weigel’s, like most c-store chains today, lists staffing as the top HR challenge and priority across its 68 locations.
“Within our industry, about 70% of our workforce are women, and a lot of those folks had to go home to care for kids attending virtual school and so on, so staffing has been very challenging,” Wilson said.
In 2012, Weigel’s partnered with Paylocity, which provides cloud-based payroll and human capital management solutions. Today, it’s continuing to leverage new automated capabilities through the platform for recruiting and onboarding as well as for engagement and outreach to help retain employees.
“We recently added their learning management system (LMS) where we can create any kind of training we want to use. It’s pretty dynamic. We can add video feeds to it. We can add links. We can build out the training,” Wilson said.
For example, Wilson is able to create a training series on the topic of her choice and include PowerPoint slides and a video and include links to various policies, all of which can be sent to specific groups of employees. “We are building out training within the LMS by groups of individuals and tailoring the specific training toward them,” she said.
Employees find the automation easy to use and helpful. “With this generation, they are so familiar with micro-bite pieces of training and learning, and instant gratification on the backend of that, given their experience using TikTok, Facebook, Snapchat and so on,” she said. “This is the closest thing we can use that captures the way that they’re used to digesting information.”
Currently, the chain is testing the system’s onboarding capabilities at specific locations.
“Everything is already built out, and you can add to that,” Wilson said. “So as an example, you add the I-9 documents, your e-verification, and there are standard items Paylocity requires employees to add during the onboarding process.”
The onboarding process can also be personalized to a company’s specifications.
“We can add things for our culture, like a welcome video from the CEO, or in our case from Training and Recruiting Director Kurt Weigel,” she said. “I love that because I believe that marketing and branding is not just about the product, but also about showcasing the company and the culture.”
And that in turn can lead to better recruiting results for the HR department. Weigel’s also tracks paid time off, benefit details and timecards, offers direct deposit through the system and works to steer employees to the direct deposit option. When recent ice storms hit the area, those taking advantage of the direct deposit option received their payment in real time, despite mail delays that disrupted the arrival of paper checks.
“Today’s workforce engages with technology and wants and needs real-time communication and feedback,” Wilson said. Weigel’s has increased mobile capabilities each year, which has made it easier to relay information quickly to employees. “This is especially helpful in keeping consistent communication throughout multiple locations,” she said.
When Wilson started at Weigel’s three years ago, employees had access to view their pay cards on their mobile phone. Today, they can also access the LMS to do training right on their phone, as well as view schedules, and managers can see live changes made to the schedule.
Most recently, Weigel’s added Paylocity Community, which can also be accessed via mobile phone.
“It allowed us to stay connected with our teams through COVID-19 with real-time communications in an environment where things were changing almost daily,” Wilson said. “It also allowed us to stay engaged with our employees and have some fun in the process.”
Wilson described the Community feature as being similar to a Facebook feed, where employees can communicate, allowing Weigel’s to reach out to all locations and employees with information in real time. Employees get an alert when something has been posted.
Weigel’s also uses the platform to build employee engagement, including through contests.
“Employees can post pictures on there. They can give peer-to-peer awards to other employees. Store managers can give their employees awards. They can take pictures, and they can post all of that on the community feed. That’s live to all employees,” she explained.
But the platform was especially valuable in keeping team members updated on the changing requirements during the height of the pandemic, including evolving mask mandates in different areas, updated training modules and more.
Streamlining With Automation
One of the biggest benefits to automating the labor management process has been the ability to offer a ‘one-stop shop’ for HR-related tasks from onboarding, training and employee assessments to payroll and team communications.
“They have one ID, one password, and they know where to go for all of the information,” Wilson said.
Digitizing the labor management process also allows Weigel’s to track data to support company goals. For example, when using the recruiting tool, Wilson can see what platforms prospective employees are applying through. If 3,000 people viewed the chain’s employee recruitment ads, Wilson can see whether they’re coming from Indeed, Snagajob, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
“It shows me the percentage of candidates that actually viewed and applied to the positions through those different job boards,” she said. “We can see what’s working and what’s not working.”
The data helps Wilson determine which job boards and ads are resonating with prospective employees.
For convenience stores that aren’t yet automating their labor management system, she said finding a system that works for your chain can make a big difference.
“Having one human resource information system (HRIS) that works for your company is a very cost-effective way of doing business, especially when you look at what you’re trying to accomplish overall,” Wilson said. “I think you get a lot of buy-in and a lot of engagement from your employees out of it, which is huge in today’s climate.”