ANAHEIM, Calif. — Former retailer Harold Lloyd is set to tell retailers what they need to do to keep reliable, qualified employees.
Lloyd, of Harold Lloyd Presents, will open the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association's Dairy-Deli-Bake 2007 here with a June 3 seminar that puts the responsibility for a very high rate of employee turnover squarely on the shoulders of retailers themselves.
Drawing from his decade of experience as chief executive officer of a convenience-store and supermarket chain, as well as impressions gathered from mystery shoppers and from his own daughter's recent employment experience at a supermarket, the Virginia Beach, Va.-based consultant said the vast majority of supermarket employees are given little or no recognition. Often, they not even greeted by anyone when they report for their first day of work, he said.
“They have to walk around looking for a person who hopefully knows they were supposed to show up. They feel like just a number.”
Indeed, retailers are apt to think of them that way. After all, lots and lots of students are just out of school and are looking for a summer job. So applicants are plentiful.
“But I tell retailers that in most markets I've been in, there are more job openings than there are qualified applicants,” Lloyd said, putting the emphasis on qualified.
He maintains that the retailer is responsible for losing good new hires.
“The applicant either wasn't interviewed properly, there was no background check or the store's orientation program stinks — if there is an orientation program,” Lloyd said.
A too-short orientation that includes no specific training is often the case, Lloyd and other sources have told SN.
Failing to take 30 seconds to say hello on an employee's first day it inexcusable, Lloyd said.
“Retailers always complain about turnover. They blame the employee. But tell me, who would give their career to you when they don't even get a handshake or a greeting on the first day of their relationship with you?”
As a bare minimum, Lloyd said, the store manager or other official should make sure he or she is there when the new hire arrives so they can be greeted and given some idea of what the first day holds for them. Then, at the end of the day, a short debriefing would be in line, just to find out what the new employee liked and/or didn't like about the first day on the job, Lloyd said.
“That's a total of no more than 10 minutes and 30 seconds of time, and doesn't cost anything. And I can guarantee you that after the debriefing, you'll know whether that employee is going to show up the next day. At least you'll know that.”
Recognition, especially of new summer hires, is practically an unknown at most supermarkets, he said.
“Too often, instead of some kind of training and orientation, the new hire doesn't even know who to report to, and often is just given a smock and told to get to work.”
Lloyd said he would recount for seminar attendees the experience his 16-year-old daughter had last summer when she went to a supermarket to apply for a summer job.
“We practiced with 10 questions we thought she might be asked at her interview. We had it all rehearsed. Then, at the interview, she was asked only two questions: ‘Are you 16 or older?’ and ‘When can you start?’ She was disappointed.”
Then, when his daughter reported to work the next morning, another associate handed her a smock that smelled of cigarette smoke and included a name tag that said “Brittany.” That, however, is not his daughter's name.
“They told her the tag machine wasn't working, but she'd better have a name tag on because the store manager gets really upset when an employee is not wearing a tag.”
Not only that, but she had been given a cashier's smock instead of a clerk's smock, which she should have been given. Sometime during her first week, the store manager spotted her — wearing the cashier smock — and said, “Open up register 3. The lines are getting long.”
When she said she didn't know how to run the register, the store manager said, “What the h--- do you know?”
Needless to say, Ms. Lloyd's impression of the grocery business became soured. As a matter of fact, she has been warning her friends ever since about supermarkets.
“My daughter, who's an honor roll student and certainly a qualified employee, is out there right now telling all her friends not to waste their time applying for a job at a grocery store,” Lloyd said last week.
In preparation for his presentation at IDDBA, Lloyd hired a mystery shopper this spring to shed light on the hiring procedure and the length and quality of orientation at at least one supermarket chain's stores. He said he'd report on the results.
Lloyd, who once worked as a store manager himself in his family's business, said he learned early on that qualified employees are valuable assets. He also realized it was his responsibility to find that employee and to give him or her the recognition and respect that would keep them working for him.
“You can't be treating employees like they're necessary evils,” Lloyd said. “They have to be nurtured.”
Lloyd told SN that in his IDDBA seminar, he will offer 30 tips for keeping good employees on the job. Some of the tips are applicable the first day, others for the first week, and others for the first 30 days. Most address recognition and respect.
“You have to pay a fair wage, but on top of that, recognition counts for a lot more than another dollar on the paycheck.”