The Times Are Still A-Changin
by Mel Kleiman, CSP

"You better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin" sang Bob Dylan in 1964. That was four years before the U.S. Department of Defense first linked two computers over a phone line-and 20 years before the first computer network linked to the Internet and technology began changing the way we find information, buy the things we need, communicate with each other and hire the people who work for us.

Dylan didn't know the half of it.

Technology has caused the biggest changes in the C-store industry, which began using technology by offering customers the option to pay at the pump. Paying at the pump simultaneously increased customer convenience and decreased the number of employees stores needed to hire.

Technology pushes us to do more with less and lower operating costs, if for no other reason than that our competitors are using it to cut their operating costs. The result is that competition in the C-store industry is fiercer than it's ever been. Mega-marketer Wal-Mart now sells gas, as do many large grocery chains. Home Depot is considering opening convenience stores in its parking lots.

Technology has also made hiring the best quality employees imperative because as the number of interactions between employees and customers drop, the quality of the remaining interactions becomes ever more critical. Customers who want only to be able to pay at the pump can go anywhere. Those who want more will go elsewhere unless the store's employees make them feel welcome and valuable.

Finding great people to work in convenience stores has always been difficult because the industry has never been an industry of choice. Many people set career goals of working in the restaurant, retail and hospitality industries. Virtually none-initially, at least-pursue careers in the C-store industry. Even people who apply for work at convenience store companies with high pay and excellent benefits are applying to work at a company, not seeking to work in an industry.

Any list of leading C-store companies reveals that the companies at the top make choosing top quality employees their number one priority. They recognize that the biggest factor in their success today is putting great people in their stores, that recruiting and hiring skills are a necessary competency and that as technology continues to evolve, not only will employees need to keep up with it, they will have to deliver a true positive customer service experience.

The best advice I can give is, follow the leaders. Hire people who can change. Put hiring quality people first. And get ready for the changes that surely are a-comin.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally recognized consultant, author, and speaker on strategies for hiring and retaining the best hourly employees. He is the President of Humetrics, a leading developer of systems, training, processes, and tools for recruiting, selecting, and retaining the best hourly workforce. Mel is also the author of four books, including the best selling "Hire Tough Manage Easy." You can reach Mel at (800) 218-0930 or (713)