Engage And Train Employees For Long-Term Success

Employees are the glue that holds businesses together, yet hiring and keeping excellent staff are the most challenging aspects of nearly every business. Natso members and human resources experts are getting creative to ensure their locations are filled with employees who care.


The Second Half of a Two-Part Series on Human Resources Best Practices
See Part One on Truckstop Operators Get Creative To Find, Hire And Keep Top Employees

Business owners nationwide know that finding and keep­ing top talent can be a chal­lenge. In industries with high turn­over, owners and managers often find themselves with open posi­tions, but sometimes the hiring process isn’t so much about finding new talent as much as retaining the current staff.

Ericka Schapekahm, director of human resources and special proj­ects for Coffee Cup Fuel Stops & Convenience Stores, Inc., often shares her expertise on hiring with fellow operators, many of whom come to her with questions about finding new hires.

“Before we start talking about re­cruiting, I say, ‘Why do you have so many open positions.’ Then we back track to why they left,” Scha­pekahm said. “It is less about not being able to find great people than about not being able to keep peo­ple or keep people with potential and make them great.”

Keeping Employees Happy
Employee engagement is key to retaining staff, and all employees like to feel appreciated. “You can burn a lot of energy recruiting somebody, but if we get them here and then do nothing to engage and retain them, they’re not going to stay,” Schapekahm said. 

One way Coffee Cup Fuel Stops does that is to have “huddles” two to three times a day where they talk about the goals of the business and each individual profit center. “In food, it may be Caribou’s goal is to do 20 buy one get one frees,” Scha­pekahm said.

Coffee Cup Fuel Stops also holds monthly team meetings to teach and train employees. “They get the agenda ahead of time. We treat them like their time is important,” Schapekahm said.

Coffee Cup Fuel Stops also gives visible recognition of their em­ployees’ efforts. Each location has small recipe cards that have an in­spirational quote and room for the name, date and a note. “We blow through 1,000 of those every cou­ple of months,” Schapekahm said. “From a morale and engagement standpoint, those are the things that people notice.”

Showing Your Appreciation
Schapekahm said money isn’t al­ways enough for employees. “We’re the highest paying retailer in this town, paying almost $10 an hour for some people, but that isn’t al­ways it. Everyone wants to feel like they’re valuable,” she explained.

Human resource expert Michelle Fenton who spoke during The NATSO Show 2013 in Savannah, Ga., suggested operators spend a good amount of time thinking about their employees’ needs.

During her session ‘Good People Equals Good Retail’ at The NATSO Show, Fenton said, “You’re giving service back to the employee who is giving service to your customers. There is a lot of work the management team has to carry out to make sure that smile is authentic.”

Fenton asked operators attending the session to think about charac­teristics that describe their perfect job. Responses includ­ed a fun environment, growth opportuni­ties and job security. “None of those char­acteristics necessar­ily have to do with where you work but more about the en­vironment,” she said. “Your perfect job is based on those soft benefits plus a work-life benefit.”

Simply being available and pres­ent can help engage employees. “Go in on off hours to find out what is going on. If you do this well, you can build relationships with your employees,” Fenton said.

Being personable helps create dialogue and keeps employees con­nected with both the owners and managers. “You need to make it painful for me to leave. We work for the company, but we also stay at work for our boss,” Fenton said. “People quit their boss.”

Training for Success
Once hired, new employees need the knowledge and tools to do their job well. “Success comes with proper training,” said hu­man resource expert Darren Bateman. “A champion doesn’t win from throwing a lucky punch.”

Training needs to be repetitive and takes time. “You aren’t going to be able to train someone in one to two days to be the caliber you want them to be,” Bateman said.

Coffee Cup Fuel Stops has de­veloped an in-depth training pro­gram, which pays off. “Our new hires can spend a month or more doing training. In their last shift with a trainer, the trainer does an honest assessment. If they aren’t ready for their work station, we will do more training or we may decide to move them into anoth­er area until their ready.”

Coffee Cup Fuel Stops relies on peer trainers to do the train­ing. “To become a peer trainer, our employees apply and they are usually our high-potential employees. We try to have more than one peer trainer for each area so they don’t get burned out,” Schapekahm said, adding that the fuel desk has four peer trainers.

Bateman said operators should designate trainers and make sure their trainer is someone they want the new hire to be like. He also recommends operators cre­ate their training in a way that will reach all employees.

“People learn in three different ways—audio, visual and tactile. Most people use a combination of all three,” Bateman said. “Be­fore an employee is left alone to perform the job they must prove that they can do it while still be­ing monitored. They have to see it, they have to say it and they have to do it.”

Training is not a one-time thing, Bateman said. “Continu­ous improvement is required for success,” he said. “If you want to keep employees motivated, keep training them.”

For example, training can take place on new products. “If they know what it is about, they sell it. If a customer is interested in a product and you can answer three questions on it, you’re probably going to sell it," Bate­man said.

Being Prepared
One challenge operators face is that they’re typically hiring at a time of need, which means they don’t always have the time to train them properly.

To help speed the hiring pro­cess and potentially buy more time for training, Klaus Kokott, a partner at Kokott, Wood & Associates, LLC, recommends operators keep a flow of resumes coming in. “It saves you a few days because you already have those files in,” he said, adding that employers need to make sure new hires understand the roles, responsibilities and objec­tives of their employees position.

With proper training, employ­ers are happier, customers are hap­pier and there is less stress on man­agement because they don’t have to worry that something is going to go wrong, Bateman said.



This article originally ran in Stop Watch magazineStop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their travel plaza business operations.

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