C-stores Move Beyond Help Wanted Signs to Staff for Peak Summer Selling Season

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C-stores Move Beyond Help Wanted Signs to Staff for Peak Summer Selling Season

By Melissa Kress - 06/04/2019
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NATIONAL REPORT — It isn't officially summer yet, but convenience store and travel stop operators throughout the United States are gearing up to serve the influx of customers that will pull onto their lots during the busy summer travel season.

Part of getting ready for the getaway season is boosting employee counts at each location. Spring hiring sprees have almost become a rite of passage in the U.S. convenience channel. Most recently, Pilot Flying J and TravelCenters of America LLC announced their first-ever hiring events, as Convenience Store News previously reported.

Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Flying J is hoping to hire more than 5,000 new team members across its network of more than 740 travel centers in the U.S. and Canada. Its first National Hiring Day was held May 2.

Westlake, Ohio-based TravelCenters held its first hiring event on April 24 for the quick-service restaurants within its TA, Petro and TA Express brand locations. The available jobs range from-entry level to managerial positions, according to the retailer.

In addition, Altoona, Pa.-based convenience store chain Sheetz Inc. and its cross-state rival, Wawa, Pa.-based Wawa Inc., also launched hiring initiatives this spring. Combined, the convenience retailers were seeking 6,500 new hires for their organizations.

So, are hiring events the new normal in a channel that, according to the 2019 Convenience Store News Industry Report, experienced a 132-percent turnover rate among store associates in 2018?

"Having a help wanted sign on the door, in some form or fashion, will still be one way to source talent from the traffic coming in and out of the store. I don’t think that is ever going to go away," said Joanne M. Loce, managing partner of Fortify Leadership Group. "But companies are getting much more creative around how they source potential employees."

Hiring events where job candidates can have an experience beyond a typical interview is one approach.

"That allows companies to reinforce what it means to work there and share, 'Here is our value proposition. Here is what it means. Here is why people are excited to work here.' You are seeing real people who work there and you can relate to that," Loce said.

Social media is also a key tool that c-store retailers can use in their hiring process.

"How do you use that platform to share your culture, promote jobs, tell a story about what it means to work at a convenience store and how that fits into your career path? That's really critical," she noted.

In today's low-unemployment environment, telling a company's story can go a long way in recruiting. People are not solely transactional in what they are looking for in a job.

Yes, they want to go to work and get paid but, as organizations truly begin to recognize the diverse workforce that can come work for them — from retirees, to moms with kids in school, to teenagers, to employees looking to grow into a career — they will find a different value proposition needed for each of those groups, Loce explained.

This is why many organizations are getting much savvier about how they use the various communication channels they have — their website, social media, print and more — to try and speak to all of those different potential team associates, she added. 

"A successful hiring process takes being clear about expectations, whether around work hours, policies or the work that needs to be done. Being clear about those, and who you are as an organization, up front then allows that candidate to self-select into the organization and its story," said Loce.

"The more skilled you are about being able to tell that story, the more effective you will be at hiring people who will be successful in your organization, will be more likely to stick around, grow their careers and deliver on business performance," she concluded.

For more on how convenience store operators can stem turnover in today’s tight labor market, click below to download our full report, "Turning Around Turnover."