Professional Jeweler Archive: Finding and Keeping Exceptional Employees, Part 3

August 2001


Finding and Keeping Exceptional Employees, Part 3

Take proactive approach

Today’s employees seem to come and go for no apparent reason. You pay as well as other jewelry stores and offer the same benefits, so why do you have a hard time attracting and keeping top-level performers?

Perhaps the first thing you need to do is change the way you think about motivating today’s work force. It’s no longer only about money or benefits – it’s also about job satisfaction. Your efforts and strategies to find and keep good employees must focus on creating a culture within your store that gives your employees the benefits they want: A supportive work environment and a clear sense they are valued.

The First Step

A proactive approach to hiring and retention is made up of deliberate and well-thought-out steps that result in increased job satisfaction and a lower turnover rate. These two outcomes will have a tremendous impact on profitability – by making money and saving money. This will allow you to move toward realizing your ultimate strategic and financial goals.

Consider the reality of the marketplace and the assumptions associated with this reality. Some assumptions we can confidently make about the jewelry industry for the next several years:

  • Competition for high-quality employees will continue to escalate.
  • Continual and increasingly rapid changes in the jewelry industry will require a higher-caliber employee.
  • Economics will likely force you to do more with less regarding human resources.

Now focus on what your real business needs are as they relate to staffing. Where do you want your store to be in one year? Three years? Five years? What kind of employees do you need to reach your short- and long-term goals? Without thoughtfully considering your goals as they relate to staffing, your hiring decisions will likely continue to be reactive instead of proactive.

On the Road

Moving your store toward a culture of retention is a journey. Even with a map, you need to know where you are before you can determine where you need to go. To find out how satisfied your employees are, gather information.

Use an anonymous job-satisfaction questionnaire to find out why some stay. Do this at least annually. Find the sample on page 109.

Find out why people leave by conducting an exit interview. If you’re not comfortable asking these questions, give your exiting employee a questionnaire with a postage-paid envelope. See the sample exit interview on page 109.

After you’ve processed this information, create a comprehensive plan you can easily communicate to current and prospective employees. The plan should summarize your competitive advantage as an employer. Some things to consider including in the plan:

  • How your organization differs from others.
  • How your store’s mission and culture include employees in the function and planning processes.
  • Compensation packages.
  • Benefits.
  • Flexibility in work schedules.
  • Opportunities for continuing education and training.
  • Opportunities for advancement.
  • Your commitment to employee participation and job satisfaction.

Perhaps the most critical step is getting the word out to employees and prospective employees about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Nobody will know what a great employment package you offer unless you tell them. This can get tricky if you target certain employees for retention more than others. Prevent the appearance of favoritism by creating an open environment of communication. Also build systems that fairly recognize top performers based on established impartial goals and objectives. This means creating performance descriptions that articulate skills and competencies and how they will be measured.

Being proactive means taking control of several functions: Recruitment, selection, orientation and ongoing motivation and training. Use the following checklist as a guide.


  • Identify candidates with the potential to become “key” employees.
  • Encourage employees to look for other qualified individuals on an ongoing basis and reward them for it.
  • Know your needs exactly and advertise to match them.
  • Conduct ongoing and proactive recruiting. Don’t think about hiring only when you lose someone.


  • Take your time. Haste makes waste.
  • Be prepared to answer questions about your organization. You want to know their weaknesses – it’s only fair they know yours.
  • Tell the truth about your store and environment. Don’t paint pictures of a workplace that don’t match reality.
  • Focus on “fit.” No matter how good candidates are, they won’t do you any good if they don’t have the skills the job requires.
  • Consider culture. The right job skills don’t always ensure a good fit. New employees must be able to function and thrive in your store’s culture.


  • A clear and articulated orientation program is critical. Using tools such as Jewelers of America’s Learning Center will ensure your new employee knows what’s expected and where to turn for help and support. For more information on the Learning Center, call JA at (800) 223-0673.
  • Become involved enough in the orientation process to ensure you’ll have enough information to make the right decision at the end of each employee’s probationary period.

Ongoing Motivation and Training

  • Offer opportunities for self-directed, formal and informal training and development.
  • Encourage your staff to think of education as an ongoing activity by using tools such as JA’s Learning Center.
  • Challenge and stretch your employees’ abilities with realistic and measurable goals and objectives.
  • Share your company goals in a manner that allows workers to make them their own.
  • Ensure your compensation packages are attractive and tied to performance.

If you focus on the reality of today’s jewelry marketplace and the quality of the employees you’ll need to meet your goals, you’ll be motivated to seek and retain top-performing individuals. The benefits associated with improving your store’s retention rate are tremendous. Without a doubt, your hard work will result in profound improvements to every aspect of your organization.

– by David Peters

David Peters is director of education for Jewelers of America Inc.

Job Satisfaction Questionnaire

Please reply to the following statements and questions by checking the appropriate box. Do not write your name on the questionnaire. All answers will remain confidential.

Our store has a good employee evaluation system
My work is rewarding and challenging
My job makes use of my skills and abilities
The company has a clear set of values to guide my conduct
I receive sufficient opportunities and tools to improve my skills
My boss considers most mistakes an opportunity to learn and not as a chance to reprimand
I receive ongoing feedback that helps me improve
I understand the expected performance levels
Communication between supervisor and employee is honest and open
My ideas and suggestions are listened to and considered seriously
I am valued by my employer
I am valued by my coworkers
I can voice my opinions without fear
I understand our company goals and objectives
I look forward to coming to work each day
I am paid what I am worth
My job is secure

Exit Interview

Help us determine why good employees choose to leave. Any information you provide will remain confidential. On a separate sheet of paper, answer these questions in as much detail as possible. Number your answers with the appropriate question numbers.

  1. What did you enjoy most about your job?
  2. What did you enjoy most about working for our store?
  3. What did you enjoy least about your job?
  4. What did you enjoy least about our store?
  5. How would you describe your performance measured against standards set by your job description?
  6. How would you describe your performance measured against standards set by other employees?
  7. How did your job fail to meet your goals or expectations?
  8. What factors led you to accept a job with our store?
  9. How has your perception of those factors changed during the time you’ve been here?
  10. How do you feel about the level of training you received?
  11. What training should/could have been provided?
  12. How do you feel about the amount and quality of the supervision you received?
  13. What motivated you to begin looking for another job?
  14. How would you rate the morale in the store? Why?
  15. What part did pay or benefits play in your decision to leave?
  16. What changes would make the store a better place to work?

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications