Help Wanted sign

If you’re like a lot of convenience store owners today, you’re struggling to find employees.

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • Longtime workers quit to take jobs with better hours or more money, leaving you short staffed.
  • New hires quit after a couple days because they got another offer.
  • The person who accepts your offer Friday doesn’t show up Monday — and you never hear from her again.
  • The “Help wanted” sign in your window has turned into a permanent display.

It’s not just you. Almost every business, in every industry, is having trouble finding workers. Whatever the causes of the labor shortage, many business owners haven’t accepted the realities of today’s job market.

Meanwhile, business owners are complaining that people don’t want to work. However, many haven’t accepted the realities of today’s job market. The job seekers are in charge. Pay is up. Flexible schedules aren’t a job perk; they’re a requirement.

People still want (and need) to work. However, they aren’t willing to take a job they don’t like or doesn’t fit their lifestyle. If you want to attract good employees to your store, you need to make an offer they can’t refuse. That doesn’t mean just higher pay. Workers want to feel like they’re getting more than just a paycheck. They’re looking for more training, learning opportunities and a great environment.

If you’re finding it extraordinarily difficult to find convenience store employees, it may be time to look at your business from the perspective of job seekers. What do you offer? Why would someone want to work at your store? Is there any reason they would choose you instead of a competitor? If you weren’t the owner, would you want to work at your store?

Here are five questions to ask yourself about what you offer potential employees. Be honest about the answers.

Is the pay I’m offering competitive?

The wages that attracted workers before the pandemic won’t have the same impact today. If you want
good employees (and who doesn’t?), you’ll likely have to pay more to get them.

Not sure how much to offer new employees? You need to do some market research. Find out the average hourly pay of similar businesses in your community. In many cases, stores and fast-food restaurants are including the starting pay on their help wanted signs. Or call businesses looking for workers and ask.

If what you’re offering isn’t in line with what employees can make at other stores, expect a long wait to fill any open positions.

Check and cash payments
Employees having fun
Employees enjoying their jobs.

Is my store a fun place to work?

Working at a convenience store can be stressful, with early mornings, late nights and erratic hours.Employees can get burned out, and burnout increases turnover.

The best way to fight burnout is ensuring employees enjoy their jobs. Making your store a fun place to be will help keep employees engaged. One way to accomplish that goal is by holding sales contests. Sales contests can foster a team spirit while moving merchandise out the door.

The key is to create employee contests with reasonable sales goals and prizes that are desirable — a catered lunch, gift cards, cash or a day off with pay. Keep everyone updated on the contest and remind your workers about the prizes often.

Before holding any contests, remember to check with your attorney to ensure any promotions comply with state or local regulations.

Are my management policies employee-friendly?

With unemployment rates near record lows, potential employees have lots of options when deciding where to work — or whether to apply.

Do you currently offer a flexible schedule, paid sick time or a discount on employee purchases? You think you can’t afford it? In this environment, you may not be able to afford not to. Workers know they have more leverage than at any time in recent history when it comes to getting a job. If you’re not offering those types of benefits, you can’t expect people to have interest in working for you.

Am I actively working to find employees?

The latest government statistics show there are millions more job openings than people being hired to fill them.

Instead of waiting for people to drop off job applications, be proactive. Many states run job banks to help unemployed people find work. Register with them. Reach out to local high schools, community colleges or universities. Many have online job boards for students. All have lots of people who would appreciate a flexible schedule. Your early morning shift could be perfect for a college student looking to earn extra money before afternoon classes.

Another option: Ask your current employees for referrals. Unless you’re the only person who works at your store, you have at least one employee. Likely more. Have you considered asking if they know anyone who would be interested in working at your business?

Reliable people know other reliable people. Encourage good employees to give you the names and numbers of friends who they think would be a good fit. Sweeten the offer by paying employees a referral fee or incentive. A gift card or small cash bonus can be a big motivator.

Employees reviewing shifts
Store owners reviewing job applicants and job posts.
Retail store owner
A good boss understands employees needs.

Am I a good boss?

Almost everyone has worked for someone who wasn’t good at managing other people. Maybe the person was too disorganized or distracted to keep a store running. Or maybe the person’s personality wasn’t suited to being a supervisor. The worst are managers who yell or criticize their staff.

Don’t be that person. No one wants to work for a bad boss. In this economy, with plenty of jobs available, many workers would rather quit than stay somewhere they don’t feel appreciated.

Show your employees that you care about them. Publicly praise workers who do a good job, and gently criticize workers who don’t in private. Remember that it’ll take a while to replace a worker who quits. And with wages going up along with everything else, it’ll be expensive, too.

The worker shortage isn’t expected to let up anytime soon. Stressing that you offer good pay, a fun environment and flexible scheduling will remind people that your store is more than just a great place to shop. It’s a great place to work, too.