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Having the right staff recruitment and retention strategies in place is key to retail success.




In the pet retail industry, it is clear that we are in the business of pets. Really, though, we are also in the business of people—our loyal customers, our prospective clientele and, at the very foundation, our employees. A retail business (especially one in a feel-good industry like ours) can only succeed if supported by a staff of engaged employees who are enthusiastic about the products they sell and the people they serve. Once you find those people, it is of paramount importance to keep them.


Recruiting the Perfect Employee

“If business owners look at their annual budget, they’ll realize that the employees they hire touch at least 70 percent of everything that goes into their bottom line,” says Lori Kleiman, managing director of HR Topics, a human resources consultancy firm, and speaker at SuperZoo 2019. “It’s not just payroll. It’s the time and cost of posting a job opening; it’s the time spent interviewing; and it’s the energy, inefficiencies and costs of dealing with unemployment. If you hire the right people to begin with, you can alleviate many of those problems.”   


Hiring the right people begins with seeking out prospective job candidates that are passionate about your mission and products. If people believe in something, they’ll likely be better at selling it. It’s even better if they’re users of the products—in other words, customers themselves. Employees that are knowledgeable about and emotionally invested in your products will enjoy educating customers on those products and feel accountable for and proud of selling them. Searching for candidates that share the same values, ethics and goals as your company does, and that are passionate about your brand and your mission statement, will pay off in both the short and the long term. For that reason, Kleiman suggests that your best initial pool for potential employees is your customers.


“If you have a retail store, you should always be in a hiring mindset,” she says. “Always interact with customers, and if you see a loyal customer that is engaged in your business and interested in your market, think about reaching out to that person and inquiring about whether they’re looking for a job.”


Empowering Employees

The job isn’t done once you recruit those star employees. In fact, it’s just beginning. The effort business owners and store managers put in to onboarding, training and maintaining employee morale is key to retaining exceptional retail staff.


“Onboarding is one of the most critical components we know to keeping and/or losing employees,” Kleiman says. “Today’s employees want to do more on the first day than just come in and do paperwork. It is essential, during the onboarding process, that new employees meet other people—maybe through a buddy program or new-hire lunch—and that there is ongoing communication, as well as an effort to engage with them and let them know you want them to be successful. Another good way to do this is to engage your more experienced employees to be mentors. It allows more tenured employees to feel a sense of perceived leadership, which can encourage morale and employee retention, and it also shares the burden of training when you have a small organization that may not have abundant training resources.”


Maintaining employee morale is an ongoing process that should never fall by the wayside. Keep employees engaged in the business’s success by allowing them to feel part of decision making or problem solving. For example, create an employee competition for the best ideas to increase sales in struggling sections. Highlight monthly “staff picks” of your team’s favorite products, or enlist their creative eye in helping update your store’s layout. Allowing your staff to take part in creating the customer experience can increase engagement and boost employee morale.


Most of all, communicate with them as people first, not just as employees.


“Employees want to feel like their managers care about them and have their best interests at heart,” Kleiman adds. “It doesn’t cost anything to ask an employee how their weekend was, yet that goes a long way to help the employee feel engaged in your business.”


Efficient is Effective

Finally, successful HR practices also include efficient HR policies—with the keyword being efficient. There’s no need to create an HR policy just for the sake of having a policy—as long as your business is legally compliant.


“Policies should only exist when they answer questions for employees or are driven by compliance with the law,” Kleiman concludes. “At the end of the day, if it doesn’t add value to your staff or your business, you don’t need it.”


As the pet industry continues to grow, and more small businesses arise, it is up to retail owners to do everything they can to keep up with industry standards and maintain a competitive advantage. Ensuring your hiring practices are effective and your HR strategies are on target is essential to your business success.  PB


Jacinthe Moreau is president of the World Pet Association (WPA), an organization that brings the pet world together, so quality interaction and education between and among product suppliers and pet owners can create healthier, happier pets and a healthier, more productive pet industry. Join WPA at its flagship event, SuperZoo, the world’s leading conference for pet retailer professionals, Aug. 20-22, in Las Vegas, Nev., where you can hear Lori Kleinman speak on “Employee Engagement” and “Employee Onboarding: Feedback and Training Initiatives That Drive Results.” For more information, or to register, visit


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