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Nadine Roberts and her husband Conn both have full-time jobs outside of their roles as c-store owners, but they still find time to make staff appreciation and engagement a focal point of their business.
Nadine is a nurse practitioner and Conn is a school principal, which perhaps helps explain why they don’t seem to have trouble connecting with their employees at Suri’s Convenience in Springdale, a small community in central Newfoundland.
When you run a convenience store in a small town, there aren’t always a whole host of candidates beating down your door for jobs. But based on the Roberts’ experience, you can still find staff members who want to work hard and pay it forward.
Here are four tips from Nadine Roberts for creating a positive work environment for your employees:
Look for someone who wants to put in that extra effort.
“Being from a small town, it’s sometimes difficult to recruit employees. You don’t have many options, as there are job wanted ads throughout our small town. For me, I’m looking for somebody who’s friendly with the customers and other people on staff, and reliable with a good work ethic, means a lot,” says Roberts, who has 15 employees on staff, two of whom are part-time, while the rest work full-time hours.
“We’re a small business in a small community, so our staff, for the most part, will go above and beyond. Sometimes our grocery stores are closed and customers will come in at night and say, ‘do you have this here?’ We might not sell it on our shelf, but we might have it out back for use in our bakery, and we’ll always try to package it for them.”
Take the time to let new hires get comfortable.
At Suri’s Convenience, all new hires are initiated into the business during a session with either Roberts, Conn, or their manager, Nikki.
“We usually take the employee around on the first day and tell them what our expectations are,” says Roberts. “It’s never too stressful; it’s kind of laid-back, and we tell them what we want and what we’re looking for.”
From there, employees are paired with senior employees for the rest of the training process to help them learn the ropes in their area of focus.
With a full in-store bakery, deli bar, pizzeria, and eat-in café, Roberts requires employees with the right food service training. She says they either come to her with the appropriate background, or they’ve worked in other parts of the store and are ready to venture into this new territory.
Give them the chance to try something new.
“Cross-training is proven to be very great for this business, because if they can work in different areas, it’s more satisfying for them, and they’re not always in the same role all the time. We try to do that whenever possible.”
Roberts says this approach helps ensure her employees are always engaged, because not every staff member is perfectly suited for every task.
Take the opportunity to show them you care.
Roberts doesn’t have a specific incentive or rewards program in place, but she’s always eager to demonstrate to her employees how much they matter to her business.
“If any of our employees are having concerns or questions, we just try to help them out as much as possible. We give them raises based on how well we feel they’re doing, and sometimes I’ll go to the store and pick up a card to give as a thank you,” says Roberts.