A blog on issues affecting Australia's newsagents, media and small business generally.

Tips for hiring and retaining employees in local small business retail

Talk to anyone in business and they will tell you that hiring and retaining employees is one of the biggest if not the biggest challenge they face.

Retail is finding it tougher because working in retail is tough. Besides the obvious of being on your feet all day and how working in retail is seen by many, there is the challenge of dealing with difficult customers. Abuse of staff in retail is common, and no matter how much we provide support in a shop, there are customers itching to take their anger out on someone.

There are ways we can make working in retail more appealing so as to attract good people, and retain them. Here are some of my thoughts on this.

Hire people who want to work with you and help the business thrive. People working to make money only will only focus on that. You need to try and find people looking beyond this week’s pay check. You need people wanting to build something for themselves long-term.

Give your people power. Let them make decisions about the business, encourage them to be personally invested in the business, and this this help develop their skills. The more their future is enhanced working in the business the more they will love working the business and contribute positively.

Support them. Everyone working in your business is on your team. Nurture them. Train them. Support them. have their back. The more they experience this, the more they will do it for you. This support is especially key in retail where customers may be abusing at the counter.

Cut the mundane as much as possible. If there are mundane tasks in the business that could be eliminated with better processes, do it. The less mundane work the more people enjoy their jobs and that helps them stay with you.

Open the books. Sometimes people look for work elsewhere because they think the business can afford to pay them more. By opening the books you might be able to show enough for them to respect and appreciate what they are paid. Opening the books also offers the opportunity for them to think and act more like an owner, to be more invested in the financial success of the business.

Offer a pathway. As much as you are able in your local retail; business, offer people working in the business a forward pathway, opportunities for them to personally advance.

This is not a complete list, of course. It is offered to get you thinking about your situation.

The only topic I have not canvassed is pay. Of course paying the award is inadequate as it is the bar, and plenty would say it is a low bar. What you pay depends on your circumstances and, considering them, how you view your staff. If your staff are adequate, pay the award. If you value them more, pay them more within your capacity and considering what else you offer, such as flexibility to their schedule.

It is easy to complain that finding and retaining employees is difficult. It is hardware to take steps to fix the problem / challenge for your business. complaining achieves nothing. It’s the forward steps, no matter how small, that matter.

The newsagents best placed to find and retain staff are those transitioning or that have transitioned away from the old-school agency model, or at least in part – for it is these forward-focussed businesses that are more interesting.

I have owned retail businesses, newsagencies, gift shops and online shops, since February 1996, and own 4 shops today. I’m not an expert, nor am I professionally trained in this. But, I have learnt from many situations, many mistakes. Good people are essential to any local retail business. Business size is not a factor in attracting and retaining good people.

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