Our Champs really value their staff. Here they explain how they keep their team motivated and maintain the welfare of their workers

Budgens Wixams_Kash Jaffar

Kash Jaffar, owner of eight Budgens stores across central England

Good communication ensures Kash’s team are well trained, happy and confident in their roles.

Paulette Xavier (Left) Manager

Paulette Xavier, manager of Central Convenience Store in Seaton, Devon

Paulette reports that her team work more effectively and are happier when they know she has their backs.

Nisa Fletton_Siva T

Siva Thievanayagam, owner of seven convenience stores across the east of England

Siva’s business benefits from the time he invests in training, and speaking to staff on a one-to-one basis.

Donna Morgan

Donna Morgan, Brownlies of Biggar (Best-one), South Lanarkshire

Supporting her team when they feel down and rewarding them when they do well works for Donna.

Staff Relationship With Customers

How do you ensure that staff are productive in the workplace?

Kash: When you have a number of staff working across multiple sites you have to keep them motivated and make sure they have the right attitude about work. Staff need to have a deep understanding of what their role is and this can be maximised with training. We encourage staff to get involved with weekly meetings and hold regular one-to-ones and appraisals to keep them up-to-date with what is going on. Through Budgens, we also have access to online training.

Paulette: All of the staff are well motivated. There is always something for them to do and we work well as a team. Everyone knows that if they don’t get the stock out on their shift then it is going to make it harder for the next person.

Siva: We make sure that staff feel safe and we also have a training programme in place that shows them what to do before they even start in the store. It’s a one-year process that covers everything from working on the tills, to dealing with stock and working in the back office. The programme is set up by Nisa and most things are done online so staff can track their progress.

Donna: Bruce and I are probably in the shop about 95% of the time and that means that staff can learn from us. We don’t advertise for staff anymore as we find people through those who are already working here. Some of our team have been with us for nearly 30 years and we try to look after everyone like a big family. Of course, we sometimes have our issues, but we work through them in the best way possible. We know most of team’s family, too, which is also really helpful.

What do you do to boost morale when staff are feeling low?

Kash: We are very close to our staff and we try to do things together. In some cases, we see some of the team more than our own loved ones. This is why we have to listen to their problems and find a solution that helps staff through their difficulties. Good appraisals and encouraging staff with rewards, such as a meal out, also helps, and we are always open about sharing sales data. In-store events also help to bring people together.

Paulette: As a team, we all get on really well. We recently got a lot of attention after a customer found a white creme egg in our store during Cadbury’s Easter competition. These kind of things help get the team excited and we are planning to share the vouchers we won. In terms of keeping them happy in general, I try to be flexible with the rota and put people on shifts that suit them.

Siva: We always say to staff if they are having an issue either in the store or in their personal life then they should tell us and we can sort something out and help them get through whatever they are going through. At every staff meeting we ask if anyone wants to speak to someone individually, we call it being ‘staff smart’. The staff know they can text me if they need to and we have a WhatsApp group, which also helps when people are off on holiday or need to communicate with the rest of the team.

Donna: Have a night-out – there is nothing better than that. When we win a reward or the store gets recognition for something we always try to celebrate as a one big team. Whether we invite all the staff round to our house for dinner or go out to a restaurant, it helps create a situation where people know they can relax and open up about their problems.

How do customers respond to staff who are productive in the workplace?

Kash: We employ staff from the local area, which is really important. People know each other’s families and can interact with customers in a more personal way. We regularly get letters and feedback with improvements and what we are doing really well. We always respond with a message or vouchers if needed.

Paulette: It’s difficult because people only tend to comment when there is something to complain about. I have had customers come up to me to say how lovely the staff are, but most people are reluctant to say anything unless it is negative.

Siva: We receive good feedback from customers and get comments from shoppers when the service is really good. We had a particularly good message from Nisa about one of the stores recently, with one customer saying this is what every Nisa Local should be like. Customers need to have that good experience so staff that are polite, helpful and productive will encourage them to come back. It is also true that good service makes price less of an issue, and most people are happy to pay more if the experience they get 
in-store goes above their expectations.

Donna: When staff are productive, it helps to create an atmosphere where people who come into the shop feel good. It is important, because staff need to respond to customers in different ways. Some like banter, whereas others just want to be served in a polite way. It’s like with our home deliveries. Some staff can be out for 20 minutes doing one drop-off because they are having a conversation and helping the shopper rather than just delivering and running.

How have rising wages affected staffing in your store?

Kash: It hasn’t really affected our team. If things are going well we look to give them a pay rise and we explain the situation to them when things are going less well. Sales have more than covered the costs of rising wages.

Paulette: I’ve been at the store for 18 months now and the staff costs are always rising. People are always asking for overtime and I think it can be hard for people to earn enough to cover their outgoings. I believe in paying people more than the minimum wage because what they do deserves better. However, it is difficult for small businesses to find extra money.

Siva: Rising wages have an impact on business and everyone moans about them, but I think it is worth investing in staff. I always try to pay staff more when possible and think that the minimum and living wage is a good thing. It is part of business that wages rise and you have to deal with it in the right way.

Donna: We have probably taken on more ourselves to save on recruiting, but most of our staff are long-standing, which helps. We don’t have to worry about looking for new people, unless they are students, and sales have grown steadily which helps cover the extra costs. We try to pay staff more than the minimum wage because we feel they deserve it, but if you don’t have the right turnover it can be difficult. Taking on new staff is costly so it pays to keep those you have.

What are the main challenges when it comes to staffing?

Kash: Turnover of staff can be an issue for some stores, but we haven’t had any problems here. We recruit students and part-time staff only when we really need them.

Paulette: The main challenge is with people having to work unsociable hours and receiving a relatively low wage for what they do. We are open every day between 6am and 10pm. Sometimes we have to have women working on their own in the store late at night. We aren’t happy about it but we need to have people in the store who can cover the shift.

Siva: The initial training for a member of staff with no previous experience usually takes about three weeks, with 40 hours costing about £1,000 for each person. Once I have invested that money and they decide to leave then I can’t get that back, which makes it quite hard for me as a business owner.

Donna: When you have new staff it can be difficult to fit them into the rest of the team and train them up to the same level as the existing staff. This is another reason why we want to stick with our current members of staff. Bringing in new people kind of disrupts the equilibrium of the store. We have a good dynamic, which allows us to go on holiday and know that the staff can manage without us. In the first six years of running the business we only went on holiday for four days, but now we trust that the store is in safe hands when we go away.

What advice would you give to help other retailers dealing with their staff?

Kash: I think training is the biggest thing, and treating them with respect. Even if you can’t get all your team together for one meeting, it is important to split them into smaller groups and have a regular catch-up. Another crucial thing is to bring people together to improve the business, because they might have ideas that you hadn’t thought of. I think coaching is a big part of a retailer’s job because staff who know more about the business can pass on the right attitude to other members of the team.

Paulette: It is important to be fair, because people know when you aren’t treating them in the right way. If staff know that you will fight for them that helps. For example, we have one girl who is brilliant, but she is under 21 so doesn’t receive the same pay as the older members. I promoted her to supervisor as a reward for her hard work, but she still only got £6.40 an hour. That’s when I contacted our Central area manager and asked if she could go on the adult rate of pay. Now I have a really loyal member of staff.

Siva: The first thing to note is that you are liable for your staff and if you trust them and treat them properly then it will help you. If you support them they feel empowered about working in your business.

Donna: Get to know your staff. Learn about the issues that they have and work with them to find a way forward. We want those who work in our store to excel so you have to be there for them when they need you.

Who is given responsibilty for human resources and staffing issues in your business?

Kash: The managers of each of our stores work with staff and are the key people who see them on a daily basis. We are also there to support them from our head office. When you run a retail group you have to make sure everything is the same across all your stores and we give our staff the opportunity to progress. There are plenty of options if people want to take on more responsibility and we also try to maintain a family feel across the whole business that makes everyone feel welcome.

Paulette: We are part of a chain of Central Convenience Stores across the region, which is now part of the Bestway family, so I have the support of their HR team. On a day-to-day basis, it is me who supports the staff and follows the guidelines from head office.

Siva: The managers of the individual stores are responsible for their own team and we also have area managers who support the staff as well. We also have supervisors in the stores in the mornings and evenings so all the jobs are shared out equally. Of course, anyone from any of my seven sites can ask to speak me at any time.

Donna: Myself and Bruce share things between us. He does all the pay and I do the looking after. We both do some training, but I think most of the staff would come to me if they had any issues as I do all the front-of-house stuff.

 What are the key things that staff tell you make them feel motivated?

Kash: Meals out work well and staff like to be rewarded as a team as well as individually. The main thing that staff say keeps them motivated is wage rises, but some also appreciate the responsibility they have in the store. We’ve got one member of staff in her 80s who enjoys working a few hours. We don’t want to discriminate against someone because of their age and it is great having her because she is such a good worker. As long as we provide staff with the tools they need to do their job, then they will feel happy to work for us.

Paulette: I think some people like working certain hours and the atmosphere in the store is also good to work in. I think people feel better when they have a good team around them.

Siva: When we do something different then they get excited about it. Feedback from customers also helps and when we give targets to meet staff usually work better. It is also important for me to encourage them.

Donna: Treating staff with respect and doing new things helps to give motivated staff a new challenge. In any job if you do the same thing it can get boring and both staff and customers appreciate us trying to improve things.