How do you help staff climb a career ladder when there isn’t one?
Wednesday, September 04, 2019
One of the issues that concerns small retailers is staff turnover. Human resources is the largest expenditure a retailer has to contend with, and when you add the cost of training and a less-efficient employee during training, you want to do everything you can to reduce turnover.
But turnover is especially problematic when your staff consists mostly of entry-level employees earning minimum wage or close to that: cashiers, stockers, floor clerks, etc. What career ladder is there to motivate a cashier to stay cashiering at one store? The prospect of one day possibly getting promoted to head cashier, if there is such a position? And then what?
It doesn’t seem like much of a future or hope for a better job.
I think that’s why I’ve seen cashiers move about from one store to another, but always in a cashier position. Some retailer dangles a carrot of $0.25 more per hour, and it seems like a promotion, like you’ve somehow climbed another rung on the success ladder.
But of course, that’s not the case. It’s the same job at a different place, and that’s where that person stays until a "better offer" comes along for 10 or 20 cents more per hour. Unhappy staffer and unhappy employer in a string of entry-level jobs.
There is a way out of this endless cycle for your entry-level employees. You might not have the kind of business structure that allows you to promote them on an actual career path, but perhaps you know another business colleague that does.
Remind these entry-level employees that their dedication to a job well done will further their career if they have aspirational ambitions. Perhaps their dream is cashiering today, veterinarian tomorrow. Let them know that you could recommend them to your colleagues for their work attributes, such as punctuality, dependability, initiative, collegiality, customer service, ethics, attention to details, stick-to-itness.
Those kinds of attributes are not task-dependent and are transferable to any career. Their work ethic in being the best cashier, for example, speaks volumes about their commitment to excellence, regardless of the industry that is their end goal.
Lest you think it sounds contradictory to help your employees realize a career path as a way of reducing turnover, accept that you will have turnover one way or another. But you can help determine whether that person stays one month or one year.
By and large, humans have an innate restlessness to find something better. By letting these employees know that their time with you will fulfill that longing in a productive way, you’ve elicited a better employee experience while that person is in your employ — and at the same time, you can feel a sense of gratification that you’ve touched someone’s life in a meaningful way and set them on the path of a better future.
I know one retailer who has hired plenty of young people and who is sincerely proud when they quit to attend higher learning, whether in a technical school or college. He honestly takes joy in their accomplishments.
What about the employees who have no end goal — the ones whose idea of a future career is which store they’re stocking on the midnight shift? Those are possibly the employees you can mentor, relating from your own experiences how one mundane job, well done, led to another and another.
Your life can be the example that when you’re serious about work, a career ladder is yours for the asking, waiting for you to create it, not have it handed to you.
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