How High (or Low) Have You Set the Bar?

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How High (or Low) Have You Set the Bar?

By Terry McKenna, Convenience Store Coaches - 08/06/2013

Are your expectations for your children low or high? You’re probably thinking to yourself, "What kind of stupid question is that. Of course, I have high expectations for my children. I want to see them grow up to lead happy, successful lives." If that’s the case, you no doubt are doing everything within your power to help them achieve those expectations, right?

After all, it would be somewhat immoral, don’t you think, to establish high expectations and then not provide the education, advice, guidance and encouragement to help our children meet those expectations. By now, you’re probably thinking that you know where I'm going with this, so let's shift gears.

Do you have high or low job performance expectations for your employees? For the most part, it seems the top three job performance expectations for convenience store employees are to: show up, be in proper uniform and don’t steal. Does that sound about right? Be honest. Many operators are afraid to raise the already low job performance expectations bar for fear of employees quitting. Funny thing about expectations, though, we always seem to get what we expect.

So, where have you set the job performance expectations bar for your employees?

Low Expectations, Low Engagement

The Gallup Organization estimates that disengaged employees are costing American businesses $420 billion annually. A few years ago, the consulting firm of Towers-Watson (then Towers-Perrins) surveyed more than 86,000 U.S. employees and found that 14 percent were highly engaged in their jobs, 24 percent were disengaged and 62 percent were somewhere in the middle.

A whopping 86 percent of employees are giving less of themselves than they could. This is a scandalous waste of human capability and helps explain why so many organizations are less capable than the people who work there.

Millions of convenience store employees show up for work every day and way too many of them are sleepwalking through their shifts. The result is that c-stores are systematically underperforming their potential. Need evidence? A convenience industry survey a few years ago revealed that 79 percent of customers are leaving a c-store without anyone in the store mentioning the monthly promotion or suggesting a related tie-in sale that would complement their purchase. That’s a lot of potential sales walking out the door every day.

This is happening because employees opening their months to suggestive sell and/or try to get to know their customers is not one of their job expectations. Sadly, store employees are seen more as cash-register ringers than profit centers. Imagine the potential increase in sales if the paradigm for store employees was to shift from expensive cash-register ringers to profit centers.

On average, 32 cents of every sales dollar goes toward payroll, payroll taxes, workers compensation and benefits. What’s your return on investment on that 32 cents -- show up for work? It’s time to raise the job performance expectations bar.

Condition of Employment

Store employees are given pay raises based not on performance, but on endurance. A new hire consistently shows up for work for their first 90 days and bam, they receive a 25-cent-per-hour pay raise.

I know one company who incents their employees with $25 gift cards to control drive-offs. Excuse me, but isn’t controlling drive-offs a key job responsibility and therefore, a condition of employment? What’s next, gift cards for doing a good job cleaning the restrooms or restocking the coolers.

Raise your employee job performance expectations and then hardwire them into your company’s DNA by incorporating them into your job descriptions, performance evaluations and interview process. Provide the required training, skill development, coaching and recognition for your employees to achieve these new job performance expectations and then watch them soar.

Store employees are capable of achieving so much more than we give them credit for. Raise the bar, help them to clear it and then celebrate their success. You’ll soon be celebrating your own success as your stores jump to the next level.

Terry McKenna is principal and co-founder of Convenience Store Coaches & Employee Performance Strategies Inc., where he helps convenience retailers achieve greater financial results by optimizing their workforce. McKenna can be reached at (910) 458-5227 or [email protected] He also maintains a blog at

Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner.