Professional Jeweler Archive: Finding and Keeping Exceptional Employees

July 2001


Finding and Keeping Exceptional Employees

Part 2: Understanding the real problem

You really don’t mind interruptions on a Monday morning, especially when it’s one of your best employees. Darlene has been with you for almost two years and is bright, articulate, innovative, a great salesperson, and always looking for ways to improve her skills. This morning she probably has a new idea for display or some suggestions for a new line to carry.

But today is different. Darlene is in your office to tender her resignation. She likes her job and the people she works with. But she feels unfulfilled – there’s just something missing, and her only course of action is to accept a position with another jewelry store. In two weeks she’ll be gone.

Didn’t See it Coming, Did You?

Most jewelry-store owners and managers live through similar situations all too often. And in today’s economic climate, it’s happening more and more. Few would argue employee retention is one of our industry’s biggest problems – one that’s getting bigger every day. Yesterday’s remedies – higher pay or more benefits – just aren’t working. They may buy a little time, but in the end they cost you a lot of money and the employee usually leaves anyway.

Before you find yourself in this situation again, let’s take a look at the problem of employee retention from a modern perspective and examine some simple strategies to help minimize your employee turnover.

Sell Them on Selling for You

Employee retention is all about “fit.” Employees are looking for good places to work. Prospective employees are shopping for a place that needs them while giving them what they need.

Jewelry store owners and managers look for people with the aptitude and temperament to succeed in jewelry retailing. Everyone involved in hiring must face the harsh reality that the only way to attract top talent – employees who can offer you a true competitive advantage – is to create a carefully crafted “package” to sell.

Before you can build your package, take a look at what you’re trying to accomplish through improving employee recruitment and retention. What outcomes are you looking for? How can better hiring and retention help your store? Almost without exception, all desired outcomes can be summarized into three primary groups:

Asset Management – It’s not just about money. You must consider all your company’s assets – physical, monetary and human – if your decisions are to help the bottom line significantly. Good hiring combined with a well-thought-out retention strategy is one of the most powerful ways to maximize your store’s assets.

Increased Performance and Productivity – Most experienced owners and managers realize top performers are their store’s key to continued growth and positive performance. Your stars set the bar for less-experienced staffers. They also act as primary sources and supporters for new ideas and initiatives. They become a wellspring of increased productivity and profit.

Quality Environment – Employees tend to stay with a company that creates a good work environment and still strives to improve it. Happy employees are more productive and more enjoyable to be around. A good environment and satisfied employees work together to create and to improve each other.

What You Can Do

With these three desired outcomes in mind, it’s time to take a look at the most common causes of employee turnover and some of the preliminary steps you can take to build a successful hiring and retention strategy.

Everyone has his or her own idea of what contributes most to employee turnover. By examining some of the research compiled from different service industries nationwide, we can create a summary of items directly linked to job satisfaction. Consider each item carefully and ask yourself how successful you have been in ensuring these positive attributes are part of your store’s environment and employee-retention strategy. In other words, ask yourself whether you have created a workplace that offers every employee:

  • A supportive work environment.
  • Self-empowerment.
  • A sense of participation in deci-sionmaking.
  • Performance-based rewards.
  • Open sharing of information.
  • A supervisor who listens and acts on suggestions.
  • Opportunities for ongoing education.
  • A balanced and secure workplace.
  • Opportunities for increased responsibility.
  • Encouragement to try new things.
  • Encouragement to contribute to the greater good.
  • Appreciation.

Be Proactive

In examining several exemplary service organizations that have a strong track record in employee retention, some striking similarities emerge. These organizations – without fail – exhibit the following commonalities:

  • Valuing and rewarding their employees vocally and through reward programs.
  • Clearly understanding their company culture and using this information as a basis for hiring.
  • Recognizing the importance of employee growth and development.
  • Making training and education available and readily accessible.
  • Using standards of performance to measure employee competency.
  • Clearly communicating, tracking and evaluating employee goals, performance and expectations.

A careful self-examination of your organization’s attributes and structure will reveal whether these characteristics are alive and well. If your introspection reveals a missing or weak component, it might be time to rethink your business strategies as they relate to employee recruitment and retention.

Securing and retaining key employees demands a proactive and common-sense approach. Your biggest challenge is overcoming old assumptions about what motivates and gratifies employees. Your most valuable resource is your top performers. Finding and keeping them begins with being the best employer you can be. If you devote the time and attention necessary to making your employees feel they are successful and valuable, you may even overhear them say to their friends, “I’ve got the best job in the world!”

– by David Peters

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

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications