What’s the Secret to Hiring and Keeping Good Workers?

Make your pay and benefits package match the effort required and win big on the labor front!

What’s the Secret to Hiring and Keeping Good Workers?

It’s a story I’m hearing a lot lately from retailers. Well, I’ve been hearing it for years, frankly, but it’s becoming all too common.

“I can’t find anyone to work for me, so I’m manning the store myself,” one small-business owner told me in a recent phone call. “Unfortunately, that means I have to work more hours and I rarely get to see the family.”

So he’s exchanged one labor headache — finding and retaining workers; for another — 12-hour days and missing out on family time. 

For some guys, this is a fair trade. Maybe the kids are grown and out of the house and you might as well be working. Perhaps earlier experiences with employees proved such a nightmare that you’d rather be working nonstop than playing the role of supervisor and manager. Or it could be you are thinking of winding down anyway, so more customers and more money aren’t your highest priority. Still others take the term “mom and pop business” literally and really never wanted to expand.

But for most small-business entrepreneurs, the goal and the satisfaction comes from building a company up — to create something from nothing. The end game may be to hand a successful, growing company on to the next generation, or to build something of value that can be sold to support a retirement.

Either way, these stories about losing workers and jumping back in the shop 60 hours a week probably won’t get you any closer to fulfilling your hopes and dreams for starting a business in the first place. Instead of you controlling the business, the business starts controlling you. And honestly, doesn’t that seem a little too much like working for someone else, just the outcome you wanted to avoid by starting a business?

Help Wanted

So that gets us back to the root cause of the issue so many retailers face — finding and keeping good workers. The first thing to understand is that this problem isn’t hitting only the firearms industry. Employers everywhere have been putting out the “Help Wanted” signs and finding little interest. 

The main objective, it seems to me, is to make a job in the retail industry look more attractive. Focus on the reliability of this industry. There will always be a consistent and high demand for firearms, hunting gear and the related services you offer. Sales ebb and flow with the political winds, but the American appetite for firearms seems unabated. 

Don’t underestimate the power of a skill with this type of rock-solid job security. You should be able to easily compete with other blue-collar employers, such as construction contractors and the energy sector, who frequently deal with booms and busts, letdowns and layoffs. The stability of our industry should be the biggest selling tool you have to hiring new workers.

Tip Time

That said, many strategies can be employed to make the counter of your retail shop look like a great workplace:

Pay more: You’ve heard the phrase “money talks,” and that’s true. You may have to pay a higher wage up front and hope new workers build a passion for helping customers as they get into the job. I’ll bet you’ve had new employees walk out after a few days or a few weeks. But if you can get them to stick it out by paying competitive wages, as the paychecks come in, they realize they’ve chosen a successful career path and start to take on more responsibility. 

The bottom-line question is, how many career sales associates have you potentially scared away by not offering a wage commensurate with the challenge and skills of the job?

Foster career development: You don’t want your crew looking at retail as simply a job. You want them to consider the retail firearms industry as a worthy pursuit for them for the next 20 to 40 years. So focus on developing your most important assets — the human capital in your company. 

Offer tuition reimbursement for all certifications that will make employees more valuable — both in their future career choices and to your company. Consider paying for gunsmithing courses or other training for your employees. If you see management potential in workers, offer to help them to obtain an associate or bachelor’s degree in business or any curriculum related to the work your company performs. 

In the long run, you may not derive benefit from all of these financial investments in your crew. Someone might take advantage of all of the education benefits you offer and then leave for another job. But hopefully many of the employees you help will show their loyalty over the years and help you build the company. And the act of offering these benefits in the first place will show everyone on your team that you care not just about making money, but helping others grow.  

Share your profits: It’s nice when an employer gives a year-end bonus or surprises workers with a meal or an after-work party following a particularly challenging week on the job. No employee is going to scoff at a Thanksgiving turkey or an extra day off around the holidays. But real, organized sharing of the business profits is one important way to compete for the best people. 

It’s far too infrequent that I hear about a retail company offering a formal retirement package of some kind. And I’m not surprised, since many retailers and other small businesses are still behind other employers in offering a good vacation, personal time off or health insurance benefits. With today’s technology and investment options, it may be easier than you think to offer and financially support a 401(k) or other retirement vehicle for your workers. 

With generous contributions and a program that vests workers in the payout over several years, you may be able to build a more consistent workforce — and you’ll certainly be helping families save for a better future.

Make it a lifestyle choice: Just like you don’t want to be chained to your shop day and night, today’s workers place a tremendous value on preserving time for their families and leisure pursuits. It may be a foreign concept to many hard-driving retailers, but lots of folks want to cap their work week at 40 hours and look forward to weekends free. They won’t always choose extra pay over free time. Don’t confuse this lifestyle priority with laziness. 

If you find your team is putting in a lot of overtime, respond by hiring someone to lighten the load. Consider other ways to build an attractive work schedule, for example, having associates work four 10-hour days rather than five eight-hour days to create three-day weekends. Encourage flexible schedules, allowing workers to fashion their time on the job around transporting kids to school, their spouse’s employment hours and the like. Be clear that workers can take off for medical appointments or kids’ sports events during the day as long as they make up for the missed time. You can allow flexibility as long as the work gets done and the store is manned adequately during business hours.

Final Thoughts

Your associates work hard for a living. I would argue there are many ways to make the job and your company look attractive to new workers. And there are a good number of people ready and willing to put in the effort if the reward is equal.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.