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Tackling Employee Concerns at the NACS HR Forum

Industry human resources professionals engage in an education deep-dive this week in Nashville, beginning with insights from RaceTrac Petroleum.
March 21, 2017

​NASHVILLE – At the NACS HR Forum in Nashville this week, attendees from across the convenience and fuel retailing human resources field are coming together to share HR concerns and learn up-to-date information on the ever-changing industry. When the two-and-a-half-day education sessions kicked off yesterday, Joanne Loce, president of Loce Consulting, LLC, was frank with the audience.

“People have issues. They’re real, they’re legitimate, and we need to address them,” said Loce, HR Forum moderator and co-presenter of the conference’s opening session, “Our Profession: How HR Impacts the Convenience Industry.”

“You need to be empathetic,” Loce added. “It doesn’t mean you personally have to handle [everything]. As we get larger, we start to build capabilities in the [company] managers.”

Lori Mullins, director of learning, talent and professional development at RaceTrac Petroleum, co-presented with Loce. She noted the importance of the HR role within a convenience or fuel retailing company to be forward-thinking.

“As that business partner, we want to be strategic and proactive. We are change agents. But you’ve got the other pull of the tactical and the reactive,” Mullins said.

Loce noted that recruiting is often on the minds of HR professionals because of the labor intensity of the c-store industry, adding that an aspect of their role is to attract new workers through those changes as quickly as possible. “We are being asked to simplify, streamline and customize our solutions and services. But we’re always weighing the investment with the payout,” Loce said.

Mullins added that HR is not a black and white industry, and instead, she is often dealing with gray areas that she has to mitigate, sometimes on the fly. “We have to focus on being more agile, more fluid. Something’s always going to happen in that gray area. Sometimes you’re going to figure it out as you go, and that’s okay because we’re dealing with people, and people are complicated,” Mullins said.

An HR Forum attendee noted that in her local area, different minimum wages were an issue, as many potential workers seemed to be easily drawn away by that factor alone. Mullins stressed the importance of offering an overall package to employees that was more extensive than simply salary and thus a more attractive package.

“It’s all about adding to that list of benefits,” Mullins said. “So when we get them, we can keep them.”

Loce added that one of the most important factors of c-stores providing benefits is that they are attractive to employees but also cost effective for the business.
“[Trendy] things that pop up (like pet insurance) aren’t necessarily that important, but it still takes time to talk through them [to decide your overall offer],” Loce said.

Loce and Mullins also discussed with attendees the reasons behind employee retention, stressing that employees will stay based on the overall impact and impression the company makes on them. They said HR professionals need to remember that they truly are a part of the bigger picture of what makes a satisfied employee, and that they need to look to them for feedback on what they want.

“We may sit in our corporate offices and think employees want [something], and then we go out to the stores and find out, ‘No, that’s not what they want,’” Mullins said. She added that at RaceTrac, the company individualizes milestone anniversaries. So instead of an employee simply picking an item out of a catalogue for their 10-year anniversary, the company will give them a gift that’s personal, like a cruise vacation for someone who likes to travel.

On the topic of employee training, Mullins told attendees that RaceTrac has a mock store lab that they use to train in a “safe environment.” They also provide all new employees with a “realistic job preview” at their store, adding that buy-in from the employee’s new manager is essential.

“We’re the gatekeepers of the people, of the organization,” Mullins said. “As things continue to get complicated, how can we take a step back and prioritize? The things that complicate our work, like compliance, are also the things that are going to move us forward.”

As NACS HR Forum continues today, attendees will learn about developing team members, innovative recruitment and how to accelerate adoption of new ideas. Stay tuned to NACS Daily this week and next for more coverage from the HR Forum.