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It’s no secret to retailers that employee turnover is in a bad state. In 2016, Convenience Store News found the turnover rate for retail store associates was 54 percent. The same year, the Hay Group, a division of Korn Ferry, surveyed HR and compensation professionals from 66 retail organizations. Their findings indicated an upward trend of employee turnover within the industry, with hourly employees being the most likely to quit their jobs. That’s a real bummer in an industry where the average cost to replace an employee is around $3,000.

Yet, even among such dire findings, there is hope, says a recent study by QuickBooks Payroll. According to the survey, a business’s best and most loyal employees are their first employees. Statistically, 76 percent of these intrepid workers are still with their companies today. By looking at what motivates these employees to stay, retailers might glean insight into how they can retain employees who will stick around for the long haul.


It’s not ‘just a job’ — loyal employees feel connected to their work

Whether your first hire is still with you today or someone else takes the cake for “most loyal employee,” you likely know this individual for their easy way with others. They connect with your clientele. They engage with their fellow employees outside of work. For them, the job isn’t just a job. It’s personal.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM),

“Studies have suggested that employees become embedded in their jobs and their communities and as they participate in their professional and community life. They develop a web of connections and relationships, both on and off the job. Leaving a job would require severing or rearranging these social and value networks. Thus, the more embedded employees are in an organization, the more likely they are to stay.

The trick, then, is to hire people who immediately exhibit tendencies toward relationship building and encourage current employees to build stronger connections with the people around them. Not only will you reduce your own employee turnover, but you’ll also create a better customer service experience.


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6 relationship-based interview queries for retail applicants

The key to hiring an employee who will build personal connections with their peers and customers is asking the right questions during the interview stage. In between your typical hiring questions, insert a few relationship-based queries.

  1. Tell me about your relationship with your last manager.
  2. Tell me about a time you connected with a customer. What was your interaction like, and how did that connection help you serve them better?
  3. Say a customer came in and told you they were having a bad day. What might you do to make sure they left our store in a better mood?
  4. What are three words you’d use to describe your ideal co-worker?
  5. On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is it to you that you have good relationships with your co-workers?
  6. Describe a time when you put the good of a customer or co-worker ahead of yourself.

During the interview, listen for stories about genuine interactions between the interviewee and the people they’ve worked with or helped in the past. How they have gone out of their way to connect with others can say a lot about how their personality will mesh with your current employees and clientele.


How to encourage healthy workplace relationships

If you don’t plan on hiring any time soon, consider these tips for helping current employees build stronger connections.

  • Create a platform for employee recognition: Invite workers to share their praise of one another, so everyone has the chance to feel appreciated and give credit where it’s due.
  • Host a team event: If people at work aren’t building connections on their own, consider hosting an event for co-workers to get to know each other outside of work.
  • Maintain an open-door policy: While you want your employees to connect, it’s also important they connect with you. Make sure employees know your door is always open, and be genuine in how you respond to their requests or problems. It’s impossible to build a good connection without trust.
  • Encourage employees to contribute business ideas: What are some ways employees can build connections with customers at the register? Out on the floor? Every employee has a wealth of experience and ideas they can bring to the table. When people share, everyone benefits!
  • Reward employees who go out of their way for customers: Not every customer interaction is pure gold, but when someone goes above and beyond, that action deserves some recognition. Plus, bringing attention to examples of great customer service can inspire others to try something similar. This is a key move to retain employees.

Considering the connection a first employee makes with the business, it’s no wonder 3 out of 4 are likely to stick around for a long, long time. In many ways, it’s a unique experience — not unlike the feeling of accomplishing something together you never could have done alone.

Replicating that connection to retain employees you bring on is tough but worth the effort. By building connections, you increase retention. And nothing could be better for your business than a wiser, more experienced staff.

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