Seventeen years ago, I walked into the New York City office of Convenience Store News looking for a job that would buy me some time until I could land a position at a popular consumer magazine, one preferably focused on fashion, fitness or pop culture.
A few months in, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed learning about, and reporting on, the happenings of the U.S. convenience store industry. I was also pleasantly surprised by the opportunities available to me for professional development — whether that meant taking on a new category beat, trying my hand at profiles and feature articles rather than just news stories, or being the lead editor for a special section in the magazine.
Because of those opportunities, I was able to advance over the years from my starting position as a staff writer to my current-day position as CSNews' editor-in-chief. And I never dusted off my resume again to try to get that position at the popular consumer magazine.
Anyone who works in the convenience channel these days knows labor is a major challenge. According to the findings of our 2023 Forecast Study, published last month, c-store operators anticipate that turnover and hiring difficulties will have the greatest impact on their sales and profitability in the year ahead. It was ranked the No. 1 concern for the second straight year.
According to respondents, the labor problem is multifaceted and encompasses difficulty in finding workers with the necessary skillset; increased costs to attract high-quality candidates; high turnover; increased resources needed to constantly train new employees; poor customer service; inferior site quality; and low team morale.
For our February issue, we put together a special feature on "Conquering Labor Challenges." The story discusses how companies are turning to technology to do more with less, while increasing incentives to entice new workers and retain current employees.
A top request among recent job candidates is working for a company that promotes from within and shows proof of that. This is "a huge attraction and selling point," says Chloe Rosenthal, vice president at Millman Search Group, a Baltimore-based recruiting firm.
At Pilot Co., the Knoxville, Tenn.-based operator of more than 800 travel centers, employees are offered a variety of developmental opportunities, and there's a blend of in-person, virtual and e-learning, so it's accessible to all. "One of the most important and effective ways we retain current team members is by supporting their professional development in deliberate and tangible ways," Jamie Landis, vice president of team member experience at Pilot, tells CSNews.
Especially now, ongoing opportunities for growth and advancement are vital not only at the corporate level, but also at the store level. Who knows, that student who joins your team as a customer service associate looking to simply earn some spending money or save for college could very well be your next CEO one day if given the right training, opportunities and encouragement.