In the Know is a monthly partnership between LP Gas magazine and Propane Resources. Our focus this month is on employees, addressed by consultant Cooper Wilburn.
Q: Some propane companies tell us they have difficulty finding and retaining quality employees. What can retailers do to attract good employees to the propane industry and, as an employer, what can they offer to keep those good employees from leaving?
A: Finding good employees who want to stick around is always a challenge. With the propane industry not being a highly sought-out career path, it makes it even harder. Because of this, understanding the situation your employees are in will pay high dividends. Knowing the candidates and what is important to them before you hire them will pay even higher dividends. With this knowledge, you will be able to set employee expectations on why working for you is going to be better than working for the other business down the street.
Where do you find good employees? The first question should be: What do you need these employees to do and when do you really need them? Is the employee needed all year or only during those busy winter months? Knowing the other industries in your area could help you tremendously for finding seasonal employees. Landscaping companies are a great example. They are extremely busy during the summer months, but their workload decreases significantly during the winter months. Not only would this be a good place to find employees but also could offer you a way in the door with propane-powered lawn equipment.
Unfortunately not all retailers can benefit from seasonal employees. Be creative in attracting good quality employees to work for you full time. Maybe it’s time off. Most retail companies only allow time off in the summer, which is totally understandable, as about 80 percent of the business occurs between September and March. Use this to your advantage. If you don’t need a lot of people to run your business in the summer, rather than allowing the standard two weeks off, allow employees to take another week or two off in those lean summer months. You probably won’t miss them, and it can differentiate you from other companies in the area.
Compensate your people for good work. If the business has a good year, your employees probably worked their tails off to make it happen. Why not have a compensation plan in place for profits achieved over and above a set standard and share a portion of those profits with your staff? This will give your employees something extra to work for. Instead of your employees just coasting by doing the same thing day in and day out, you will likely see production and office morale pick up. They will know if they work hard and have a good attitude the company will make more money and, in turn, they will be compensated for their increased efforts. This will align the employees’ goals with your goals.
Most of all, tailor your benefits to fit your employees. Know what your employees want and what they would benefit from. This requires you to know your employees and what drives them. Increasing your benefits package and having a strong team environment are also important elements to attracting good employees. Keeping employees happy and challenging your staff are going to help you retain them, and, in turn, lower your turnover rate and training costs.
Cooper Wilburn is a consultant with Propane Resources. You can contact him at email@example.com or 913-262-0196.