X, Y and You

Much is made these days of the exigencies of hiring and managing young employees, those under 36 years old that make up Generation X and Generation Y. In fact, one of the most enthusiastically received presentations at Convenience Store News' recent annual Top 50 Forum, held in Charleston, S.C., was by Gen X guru Bruce Tulgan, author of several books on managing today's work force, including Winning the Talent Wars and Managing Generation X. Tulgan told Top 50 Forum attendees, "The oldtime loyalty defined by an internal hierarchy … is dead. Now you get as much loyalty as you can buy in the marketplace." (For more coverage of the CSNews Top 50 Forum, turn to Page 18.)

Tulgan's ideas are exciting because they are challenging to many employers and they represent a whole new way of operating a business. For example, he advises extreme flexibility in staffing. Create custom deals to keep better employees on board, he said.

In Winning the Talent Wars, Tulgan says, "The answer is not to offer employees whatever they want whenever they want it. The solution is to finish the business revolution you started 10 years ago. Abandon the one-size-fits-all career path. Adjust your expectations, systems and competencies so you can thrive with a fluid work force."

Convenience store operators should take heed and, indeed, some have done so. C-stores are small, nimble operations, the perfect organizations to offer flexibility in store staffing. Why not let some employees work unorthodox hours? Chances are, those hours are when stores need workers the most, as many operators have already told us. Convenience store companies could become undisputed leaders in successful new-style personnel management, marrying the agility of the small store with the kind of creative solutions Tulgan says are necessary today.

C-stores are ideal places for immediate feedback on performance, another of Tulgan's musts for managing young people. After all, the manager is there; the store associates are there. Why not train managers in successful techniques for productive feedback? And as for abandoning the one-size-fits-all career path, aren't c-stores the perfect kind of business to customize an employee's job to fit career goals, personal needs and individual character traits, and still the get the job done, and done well?

For example, some people just want to go to work, do the job with an acceptable degree of competency, and go home at the end of the day. Nothing wrong with that, and c-store operators presumably welcome this "job-well-done" type. Others want to know everything about the job they are doing, the company they work for, the equipment they use, the operational procedures they participate in and more. Why not attract these big-picture employees the way Enterprise Rent-a-Car does? As Tulgan pointed out, Enterprise recruits college graduates and puts them through an intense, six-week training program. At the end, the young employees graduate knowing how to operate not only a rental-car location, but also any kind of business. Enterprise addresses the whole businessperson inside the young college kid and, as a result, enjoys phenomenal success as an employer.

This is just the kind of thing the convenience store industry, with its energy, flexibility and numerous small locations, is perfectly poised to do. It's a step-by-step procedure; by doing A, B and C, retailers can win over Generations X, Y and — eventually
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