How do you go about finding new members of staff?

Sunder Sandher: I put an ad in the shop window as I like to hire local people. It’s important to have someone who knows the area and the community. I also get staff from Remploy, which helps disabled people to find employment.

Simon Biddle: I try to hire local people. I usually find them through word of mouth. I can’t remember the last time I had to advertise – it must have been about 12 years ago!

Saqib Ghafoor: I usually go through the Jobcentre to find members of staff for my store.

What do you look for in an employee?

SS: I look for someone who’s a bit chatty so that they can talk to the customers.

SB: You want someone friendly. If they’re behind the till then it’s nice for them to have a yap with the customers.

SG: We look for someone with retail experience; it’s particularly useful if they have used the lottery machine before as it’s quite a complicated system to learn.

Should c-stores give new staff a trial period before hiring them on a permanent basis?

SS: It depends on whether you have good judgment. I received government-funded training from Warwick District Council where they taught me how to recruit people, so I don’t bother with trial periods. So far I’ve been lucky and had the right staff from day one.

SB: I don’t worry about trials because I usually know the people I’m hiring, but if you don’t then it’s a good idea to have a trial run.

SG: We tend to have trial periods of four weeks. It gives us an option to review the situation and also for the employee to decide whether or not they are happy in the job. Most of the time people stay on after the trial.

What types of training do you give new staff in their first few days?

SS: I have a checklist that I work through, which includes basic health and safety procedures. I show staff how to pick up stock safely and make sure they know to put up signs to warn customers of the wet floor when they are mopping.

SB: We usually get people to shadow someone on the tills. The younger staff are often ready to go on their own within a few hours, whereas older employees can take a little longer to pick it up as they’re not so used to computers.

SG: Training tends to be practical rather than theoretical. If an employee is training to go on the till then they can follow another cashier for a couple of days before they have a go on their own.

What is the most challenging aspect of employing a new member of staff?

SS: The biggest challenge is setting the ground rules. When new staff come on board they are told every day about underage sales and how important it is to look at the sell-by dates of products when re-stocking shelves.

SB: The only challenge is simply making sure that the employee is comfortable doing the job.

SG: The most challenging part is getting to know the person and learning to trust them. It’s usually a couple of months before I’ll be happy to leave them on their own in the store.

How do you manage to staff your store with the increasing amounts of holiday that employees are now entitled to?

SS: I tell employees that they can’t all go on holiday at once – there has to be a rotation of staff. They usually work it out between themselves and then run it past me.

SB: The staff usually sort out holidays among themselves – we don’t have any problems in that area.

SG: The holidays keep going up every year and that comes out of your profit, which isn’t increasing year on year. That’s why more owners are doing more hours themselves – covering those on holiday to keep the overheads down.

How do you plan an employee’s career development?

SS: I separate skills into four different levels. The first is basic duties; the second covers more advanced areas; the third is dealing with paperwork; and the fourth is management. Staff work their way up through different NVQ levels.

SB: To be honest, because the staff have all been here for so long, we haven’t really needed to do any training recently.

SG: Last year we ran training courses in conjunction with the local council. Staff had the chance to study for NVQ levels one, two and three. Hopefully, there will be the chance for them to do this again in the near future.

How do you keep your employees motivated and happy at work?
SS: You have to praise staff to keep them motivated. We also run the GAPbusters initiative whereby a mystery shopper grades the level of service they receive from a member of staff. Every time an employee gets 100%, they receive £50. It’s good for me because it means staff are always on best behaviour in case a mystery shopper visits.

SB: I’m in the store five-and-a-half days a week, so I generally get a feel for things. I’ll have a one-on-one chat with employees to make sure they’re happy with their work.

SG: You can’t keep everyone happy all of the time, but if anyone has a problem then I encourage them to come to see me and we try to find a solution. To motivate staff, we offer them vouchers when they do a good job, for example, if someone spots a shoplifter.

What say do employees have in the running of the business?
SS: We treat staff like family, so they have a lot of say in the business. If they suggest things need to be re-jigged I’ll listen to them, and if I disagree then we’ll talk it through and I’ll reason with them.

SB: All of the staff look after different sections of the store. For example, one lady takes care of the sausage orders, frozen food and cakes, while other people look after the fruit and veg area.

SG: We have a suggestion box and staff can also come straight to me and put their ideas forward.

What level of staff turnover do you have?
SS: Once I employ someone, they tend to stay for a long time. I have staff that have been here for eight, 10 and even 12 years. If you look after them, they look after you.

SB: We don’t have a very high staff turnover. We’ve got about 14 staff in total and nine or 10 have been here for 10 years-plus.

SG: We have some staff in their late teens and early 20s who tend to come and go every six months. Most of the long-term employees are middle-aged or older.