Retailers Offer Great Benefits to Compete for Top Talent
Dot-com companies aren't the only ones offering more money and other incentives to attract and retain top talent. In this tight labor market where unemployment in the United States is at an all-time low, employers in many industries -- including retail -- are stepping up recruiting efforts and putting more emphasis on retention.
Wal-Mart -- Get, Keep, Grow
Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, for example, which has more than 2,500 stores and nearly a million employees, grew its work force by 20 percent last year using what it calls the "keep, grow, get" philosophy. At the company, which says its focus is on retention, 65 percent of managers started their careers as hourly associates.
"The rallying cry used to be, 'get' people, then 'keep' them and 'grow' them," says Coleman Peterson, senior vice president of Wal-Mart's People Division (that's what they call human resources). "We've turned that philosophy on its head and it's become a core business strategy with tangible results." Fortune magazine recently recognized Wal-Mart as one of the most admired companies in America.
In addition to competitive wages and typical benefits, such as vacation, personal leave time and health insurance, Wal-Mart offers additional perks to help attract and retain employees, including:
- Sharing individual store sales and performance information with employees each morning, as well as keeping them informed of corporate performance.
- Awarding more than $500 million in bonuses last year to over 500,000 employees.
- Contributing $325 million to 401(k) and profit sharing programs.
- Encouraging employees to bring problems to their supervisors. Each year, the company passes out a "Grassroots Survey" that gives employees a way to raise concerns confidentially.
- Offering stock ownership programs, access to private counseling, scholarship programs and child-care discounts.
The company also has more than 100 trainers who help teach new and existing employees. Wal-Mart uses a combination of technology and instructors to offer career development courses, including:
- Computer-based learning (CBL) teaches employees everything from using the cash registers to stocking the shelves.
- Distance learning, or the Wal-Mart Television Network, delivers 25 hours of satellite video broadcast each week to store locations around the United States, allowing the corporate office to show employees new procedures or new merchandise.
- Field training has been decentralized, allowing 30 trainers to teach technical and supervisory skills to 16,000 managers in their local cities.
The Container Store Beats the Odds
Other retailers also have to be extremely creative and generous in order to attract and retain a staff of good people.
The Container Store, a relatively small retailer of storage and organization products, made the number one spot on this year's list of Fortune magazine's 100 best companies to work for. Besides paying well, this Dallas-based company does something unique to attract and retain workers: After 10 years of service, employees are granted sabbaticals.
The 21-year-old company, which experienced a job growth of 44 percent over the last two years, now has more than 1,500 employees. In addition, they offer 135 hours of professional training to their employees each year.
Other benefits to attract and retain employees include:
- Paying 50 to 100 percent higher than retail industry averages.
- Giving full-time employees 185 hours of formal training in their first year (135 hours per year after that). Super Sales Trainers are devoted to training full-time in all of the company's 20 stores.
- Placing high importance on communication within the company -- daily sales, company goals and expansion plans are shared with all employees.
- Having a set of business philosophies they call "Foundation Principles," allowing employees to use their own intuition and creativity when solving problems and making decisions -- instead of a big rule and policy book.
Believe it or not, the retail industry employs more than 20 million workers and has created more than 700,000 jobs since the beginning of the 1990s -- 13 percent of all new jobs in the United States. There are a variety of career paths in retail -- including logistics, management, purchasing and even information technology. So, explore all your options before thinking that flashy dot-coms are the only companies making the good offers.