Steve Friesen has no shortage of employees at his Thornview Grocery site in Morden, MB. In fact, he employs around 24 people, the majority of which work part time. Ensuring part-time employees are engaged can be a challenge for small business owners. In the c-store industry, it’s not as simple as punching in, standing behind the counter, and punching out at the end of the shift; a great employee understands the products being sold and builds lasting relationships with regular customers. Friesen knows all about this level of engagement, and achieves it by keeping one simple adage in mind: treat others how you’d like to be treated. “As a kid, I remember thinking that my boss didn’t treat me fairly a lot of the time and thinking that I wouldn’t do that if I were ever a boss,” he says. “It all comes back to that simple golden rule.” From hiring to training and communication to weekly duties, Friesen ensures his employees are treated fairly and with respect, and they reward him by caring about his business. Now hiring If there’s one thing this retailer knows for sure, it’s that employee engagement begins during the hiring process. “It all starts with picking the right person, so you’ve got to sit down with them and ask them the right questions during an interview,” he says. Friesen looks to his current staff to help find potential hires. “For the most part, most of my hiring is done through friends of staff. That’s worked for three decades now so it’s been great,” he says. “You usually get the same type of people when you hire that way. You know they have an idea of the standards we have, and my staff members are able to make the decision on whether or not that person will fit in. It’s nice because they almost do the screening for me!” Once someone has been hired, Friesen stresses the importance of on-the-job training. “It’s so important to have new staff members up front behind the cash as soon as possible. It all depends on the person, but after three or four shifts of being there, doing everything, and learning where everything is, they should understand the job. It’s all about repetition.” Friesen admits that tobacco can be a difficult category to teach to a new employee, so he advises spending time going over the categories, brands, and their location behind the cash. Building relationships Many c-retailers use a communication book or emails to keep employees in the loop, but for Friesen it’s all about texting. “I text my employees, and they get the message when they get it. If they’re in school, they’ll get it at the end of the day or on one of their breaks, but it helps me get information across,” he says. Friesen tries to balance the positive and negative information relayed in text messages, explaining that his texts usually contain coaching or directional items. “We’re trying to pass on the positive, as well as the negative. It’s all about coaching to ensure they’re doing the things that have to be done. This way it’s not just a verbal thing. If they respond, I know they’ve read it.” Quick tips: 1. Interview with a purpose. Ask current staff members for employee recommendations and pay special attention during the interviewing process. 2. Remember the golden rule. Treat your employees fairly and with respect, and they’ll reward you with dedication and hard work. 3. Stay in touch. Develop a method of communication that works for you and your staff members, including texts, emails or phone calls.