Nov 1, 2019
Retaining good employees requires an investment

I regularly encounter retail farm market managers and owners who express frustration with not being able to find, much less keep, good employees. Also, they talk about training employees to represent or at least understand the products in the store.

When I reflect on my time in retail, I appreciate the skills I learned and have been able to use right up to the present day.

When I started working for this retail business the owner had two stores. When I left, he had 10. What was consistent was training of staff. We paid the most attention to customer service and training in the various departments. Each one of us had specialty in one or more departments but had crossover training on products in other departments particularly if it was a new and potentially popular product.

Being able to be a specialist in a department gave us a sense of ownership. We were responsible for displays, signage and creating package promotions, all with the manager’s oversight and guidance, of course. Managing a department gives a sense of pride and allows you to use your creativity.

John Stanley is a retail farm market guru who has worked with clients in 35 countries. “Companies that have an effective training program can reduce the leaving rate and save money,” Stanley said.

“Training should be a combination of in-house and external programs and each business will, inevitably, have a different training strategy,” Stanley said. “Personally, I like the approach that is used at Tesco’s (a large British retailer) as a training concept where they have three medals in the structure:

“Bronze Level Training: This covers core skills, health, safety and hygiene.

“Silver Level Training: Product knowledge and stock control. “Gold Level Training: Where you become an expert in your category.”

According to a 2018 LinkedIn Workforce Learning report, 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if they invested in their careers.

I’m not suggesting that we pay their college tuition. What I am suggesting is to consider investing in their time.

The same report found that 68% of employees prefer to learn at work. Perhaps for the first four months of their employment, 10% of that new employee’s time is spent on training. Create some milestones or goals to be completed over that time period. The added benefit is you may discover talents or skills you didn’t know that person had that may help your business. Allowing that person to use those talents might mean they stay under your employment longer.

Yes, this is a cost to your business, but I would argue that it costs more to replace that employee than it does to train them.

As John Stanley suggests, use a combination of in-house and external programs. Check with your local Extension office to see what programs they offer. An example is the retail farm market bus tour we offer at Penn State Extension. We regularly have market owners register an employee or two to attend. They are paying that employee to be away from the market for two days trusting that they will come back with some education and new insights.

Improving employee retention is also good customer retention. Customers will notice high employee turnover. An employee with good training means good customer service and customer retention as well.

— Brian Moyer, FGN columnist





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