Q: What are your biggest hiring challenges?
“I’ve been in business for 30 years and hiring challenges have remained pretty consistent throughout that time – finding a sales associate that has an understanding and love of jewelry. One of the most common questions I ask a potential sales associate in a job interview is ‘what is it you think we do here at a jewelry store?’ If the candidate provides an answer that is purely product related, chances are that person would not be a good jewelry sales associate. Understanding jewelry is appreciating its value and having the ability to convey jewelry’s artistic qualities, its abilities to communicate an emotion or desire, and that jewelry has great symbolism – especially in the context of a relationship. The love of jewelry is understanding the value of the jewelry being sold and how it will be valued by the person who wears it. If the person places a greater value on the relationship than the value of the jewelry, then it’s a great sale. Listening is another key quality. The motivations for buying jewelry are as wide and varied as people’s personalities. A really good sales associate will listen and determine exactly what the customer is after, which is usually an expression of personal style, pride or desire. Listening for, identifying and tailoring a sales presentation to these customer goals sells jewelry pretty much every time. Extolling the virtues of the jewelry as a product doesn’t. These are the qualities I look for in a jewelry sales associate.”
Ken Shelton, owner
Kenneth Edwards Fine Jewelers
Little Rock, AR
“The biggest hiring challenge we face are younger generations, be it Gen X, Y, Z or Millennials, is their willingness to work traditional ‘retail’ hours. Even my own daughter, who grew up in a retail jewelry family and is now working in the family store, resents having to work on Saturdays. This is part of the work ethic challenges business owners face in contemporary American society these days. Political and social issues are so intertwined in the minds of younger generations, this segment of the work pool are making poor job choices. They either accept or reject a job based on unrealistic criteria or they bring unrealistic expectations to a job hiring proposition. One of the big issues is a certain concept of the lifestyle a young person wants while working in a job that doesn’t allow them to live a capricious, subjective manner. Health care cost are another big issue for us. We no longer provide directed ‘health care’ coverage for our employees. We compensate for that by providing a very competitive commission rate – by all measures the best in our market and neighboring towns. This allows our employees to pay into a health care cost-sharing program at their choice. The one my household uses is Samaritan Ministries. The upside of hiring today’s young generations of workers is the technology. I’ve purchased just about every CAD product from Gemvision’s product line since 1999, our company’s inception. With custom work on the uptick over the last four to six years and the engagement customer interested in customization options making the process more personal, we find having these technological capabilities is a value-added for most young people when hiring and a great value for our customers.”
Sterling VanDerwerker, owner
Royal Diadem Jewelers
“Being a millennial, I seek out a lot of millennials to be part of my team so I can sell to one of the largest consumer groups out there. I think a lot of younger sales associates and jewelry professionals quit their jobs after two to three years because they are working for old-school retailers who don’t know how to work with the younger generations. Millennials don’t like to work weekends so I do my best to offer flexible scheduling by allowing remote access to inventory, POS systems, and marketing platforms. I’m the kind of business owner that will hire for sales skills and other work experience and teach them product knowledge: from the basics on up, teaching them everything, even jargon as simple as the differences between a cathedral and a halo setting. Where I differ from other jewelers is I’m more transparent about the business I run. If you educate your people on jewelry, your business operations and offer them a piece of the pie by eventually profit sharing a percentage of the business or at least cast out a line of hope for them and communicate about future benefits and promotions, millennials will stick with you for the long haul because they see a light at the end of the tunnel. Most jewelers aren’t transparent and simply offer an hourly wage or salary positions with minimal commission. People feel used as this isn’t the best exchange of labor and skill for salary and benefits. Employees will only work as hard as they are required to earn their check but they won’t put the extra effort to go above and beyond with an hourly or salary position. But if you hold someone’s hand through the whole process, open your business to them and invite them to be part of something, then you’ll hold on to good employees that will grow with your business. Again, the key is to be open and transparent with your staff, show them the ropes and give them the tools and incentive to stay with you.”
Adam Bitton, owner
“Fortunately for Linnea’s we have very little turnover. Most of our hires are almost – adoptive. Part of my secret to hiring smart is hosting big events and watching how temp employees work with customers and handle the stress of the event. I look at this as a dry run. If they pass, I approach them about the possibility of something more permanent or for part time. We’re just a bunch of friendly professional goldsmiths, that have outlasted the competition in our market. When I started this business there were five other jewelry store owners, one was with a three-store chain. Today I’m the last woman standing tall. I credit part of that success to finding like-minded, able-bodied, and intellectually open candidates. In addition to hiring help from events, we’ve even had excellent luck hiring off of Craig’s List. I think our retention comes from empowering my staff by taking them to the trade shows, learning ‘the story’ first hand and allowing them to be involved/invested in the buying. With my girls having 5 and even 10-plus years of industry experience, I get a pretty good cross section of opinions. They force me to look at goods I might have otherwise ignored! Often it is the combination of my creative genius and their individual gifts that has enabled us to succeed and prosper. Now all I need is more new temps to help with the events coming up!”
Denise Oros, owner
“Part of the secret to our success isn’t about hiring practices but employee retention. We have employees that have been with us for 10-, 15- and 20-plus years. The key to the retail jewelry business is trust. Trust in our relationship with vendors, customers and employees. If you can’t trust the people you deal with you won’t have much of a business. That’s been our biggest blessing is trust. Sure you get burned once in a while. That’s human nature. But for the most part we’ve had very good luck with our hiring, as recent as a few weeks ago when we brought on a new part-timer. Part of the benefit of working here is we do our best to make this a pleasant place to work. Everybody has busy lives and commitments outside of the store, so we offer some flexibility in scheduling. My employees also write their own paycheck – literally and figuratively. I pay them an hourly wage plus 5 percent commission. Every pay period they open the store checkbook and write their own paycheck. That kind of trust keeps them here for many, many years.”
Jerry Burrus, president
Mt. Vernon, MO
SJN wants your opinion for our Retailer Roundtable. To participate simply e-mail your name, store name and location, and a picture of yourself to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll e-mail you a question and you e-mail us your response.