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Recession Keeps Lid on Turnover

Likely owing to the economic recession, 40 percent of retailers responding to the Convenience Store News 2010 Human Resources (HR) & Labor Survey said store associate turnover decreased over the past two years.

Conducted earlier this year, the HR & Labor Survey queried convenience store industry HR and operations executives about the current state of employment and people issues.

In the survey, 51 percent of retailers said their turnover rate has remained static the past two years and just 9 percent said they have seen increased turnover among store associates.

Those responses are hardly surprising considering the national unemployment rate continues to hover near 10 percent and people would be expected to hold on to their jobs more rigorously now than in past years when there were ample alternative employment opportunities available.

Interestingly, store manager turnover was a bit more volatile than it was among store clerks. Only 10.2 percent of respondents said store manager turnover increased in the past two years.

In one of the most dramatic findings of the 2010 survey, store associate turnover was three times lower than it was 10 years ago. Turnover rates among other positions were also down across the board, with rates for store managers currently at 22 percent, assistant managers at 20 percent and field managers at only 5 percent.

Convenience store retailers employ an average of 9.2 associates per store, an increase from an average of 7.2 workers per store 10 years ago. And the average tenure per store associate has increased over the past 10 years from 1.6 years to 2.2 years. For store managers, the average length of stay also increased over the past decade, from 5.9 to 6.1 years.

Employee shrink/theft was still rated the most serious problem related to the quality and integrity of c-stores' work force. It was also the No. 1 problem for retailers in 2000.

However, in an apparent indictment of the nation's education system, basic skills/ competence has risen over the past decade to the second biggest problem, just slightly behind shrink/theft. Ten years ago, competency and basic skills was only the fourth biggest problem, according to the retailers answering the CSNews survey.

When it comes to holding on to employees, the fear of losing associates to other businesses has lessened greatly over the decade. What was the No. 1 impact on turnover 10 years ago is now just the 5th biggest cause of turnover, with wages being No. 1 now.

Among actions that retailers are taking to stem turnover, flex time and attractive scheduling was ranked No. 1 this year, with more than half of respondents utilizing this tactic; it only ranked third 10 years ago. Increasing salaries dropped from first in 2000 to third in the latest survey.

The rising costs of insurance certainly appears to have impacted benefit policies in the industry. About 60 percent of retailers provide medical insurance coverage for store managers, compared to more than 80 percent in 2000. Dental coverage for store managers also declined, from 47 percent to 35 percent, but vision coverage increased from 22 percent to 26 percent.

Roughly three-quarters of store managers are incentivized with cash bonuses for meeting goals, about the same percent as in 2000, and nearly a quarter of store managers are provided profit sharing by their company.

For store associates, 43 percent get medical insurance coverage, compared to 67 percent in 2000. Dental coverage declined from 35 percent in 2000 to 25 percent currently.

Over the past 10 years, the mean average starting salary for store associates increased from $6.23 per hour to $7.78. On average, store associates receive their first salary increase about 6 months after hiring.

In terms of measuring performance, more than half of retailers conduct formalized performance reviews with store associates and more than 80 percent tie wage increases to performance reviews.

The majority of retailers (68 percent) feel they pay wages that are competitive with other companies in their market, but about a quarter said they pay more. Also, the average length of training for store associates is about 44 hours and costs retailers about $519 per employee.

To train an assistant manager, it takes a mean average of 125 hours and costs about $1,949 per person.

And to train a store manager, retailers said it takes a mean average of 219 hours and costs roughly $3,145 per manager.

Most job training (98.6 percent) in the industry is done on the job, but almost 20 percent report utilizing computer-based/DVDs for training.

When it comes to cutting loose a problem employee, roughly 70 percent of retailers reported they have a standard process in place to handle dismissals.

Elements of this process (varying widely by company) include additional coaching, write-ups, suspensions, written and verbal warnings, all leading to termination.

The 2010 Convenience Store News Human Resources and Labor Study was conducted among convenience retail executives and those with human resources/personnel job functions. Responses a total of 165 companies are included in this report.

Single-store operators represent 49.1 percent of the total, with 50.9 percent of responses coming from chain operators (two or more stores). Overall, respondents operate an average of 53 convenience stores per company.

Regionally, a majority of respondents are headquartered in the South, at 41.1 percent, with 29 percent from the Midwest, 15.2 percent from the West and 14.7 percent from the Northeast.
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