Sheetz Inc. is a dynamic and growing family-owned and -operated restaurant and convenience chain. The Altoona, Pa.-based company operates 621 stores Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and North Carolina and has more than 20,000 employees.
The company is focused on continuing to deliver on its mission to provide total customer focus across all the communities it serves with the safety of all who walk through its doors as the top priority.
Since the start of the pandemic, Sheetz has established several safety measures to protect the health and wellness of its employees and customers. This includes conducting employee wellness checks before every shift and implementing enhanced routine daily cleaning procedures with a focus on high-touch surface areas such as pumps, order points, countertops, checkout lines, door handles and more.
All of its hard work has not gone unnoticed. Sheetz is a two-time CStore Decisions Chain of the Year (1994 and 2017) and was named 2020 Best Regional Fast Food Chain by USA Today’s “10Best Readers’ Choice” travel awards. Its role in the com- munity extends far beyond the food counter and gas pumps. Sheetz is deeply committed to supporting the local communities it calls home and has been a national supporter of Special Olympics for over 25 years. The company also makes a positive impact in communities through its Made-to-Share food donation program and the Sheetz for the Kidz holiday donation campaign for children in need.
A company this busy, and which serves more than 1.5 million customers every day, needs to have the right people in the right places. This is especially challenging now as recruiting and retaining good people has become a complicated process. Heading the charge to acquire great talent at Sheetz is James Colino, head of talent acquisition, whose job it is to help extraordinary people find a home at Sheetz.
Colino sat down with CStore Decisions to discuss talent acquisition and how the labor market will evolve over the next few years.
CStore Decisions (CSD): How do you develop a sound talent acquisition strategy when the labor, technology and business environment is changing so rapidly?
James Colino (JC): When I work on strategy, I don’t place my big bets on trying to predict changes that will happen in the future. Instead, I focus on the things that will always be true no matter what is happening inside or outside of the company. That means observing what people are doing today and extrapolating on the behaviors or preferences that will remain constant three, five or even 10 years into the future. For example, a few years ago, people became dependent on their mobile phones to the point where almost no one will answer a call or read their email. I have strategic bets that this will continue. So we’re working hard at Sheetz to create more ways to engage with talent (and hiring managers) via their mobile device and make our process more convenient using human-assisted technology.
CSD: What do you mean by human-assisted technology?
JC: Well, there are recruiting processes today that are fully automated. You don’t even need to speak to a human to apply, interview or get a job offer.
While that is incredibly efficient, it’s not built for a company like Sheetz where we care deeply about the human-to-human connection that we have with each other as coworkers and with our customers. So even in places where we have automation or technology, there’s a friendly recruiter somewhere behind the scenes waiting to lend a hand. It’s hard to do this at scale (and it costs more), but in the end, we think a human experience will be a differentiator when the rest of the world leans into the opposite approach.
CSD: How would you assess the current market for labor, and how do you think it will change over the next few years?
JC: In the last 12 months, we’ve seen four distinct labor markets: pre-pandemic, pandemic uncertainty, lockdown and, now, I’m not even sure what to call our current situation! I’ve never seen a market where there are so many jobs available but so little labor market participation. How long this lasts and what happens on the other side of this recent trend is unknown. I think what we’re seeing is the uncoiling of a pent-up desire for people to have more ﬂexibility at work, get paid more, have better beneﬁts and so on. What person wouldn’t want that? So I would expect this to continue as a labor market trend, but not indeﬁnitely.
CSD: Do you see more people returning to the ofﬁce sooner rather than later?
JC: Not everyone wants to sit on Zoom calls all day, isolated from their coworkers. And not all business models work with remote employees or indeﬁnite wage increases. Something has to give. In the long term, I think if companies focus on a win-win solution between business model and labor preferences, everyone will be in a better place.
CSD: Why should people come to work for Sheetz?
JC: Whenever I get a question that has so many possible (great) answers, I always revert to ﬁrst-principle thinking. This just means getting down to a basic truth. From that perspective, I believe that all companies compete on just one thing — how they treat their employees. Put excellent pay, beneﬁts, brand, growth, location or whatever you want on the table, but people generally will not stay at a company if they’re not treated well or feel valued.
At Sheetz, our competitive advantage is something that my recruiting team calls our “work family” or “work fam” for short. It’s a term that captures how the Sheetz family takes care of its employees and how our employees take care of each other. It’s a culture unlike anything I’ve seen before.
Fortunately, we have all of the other components, too. So we like to say that people come for the perks and stay for the culture.