Managing the Risk of Hiring Staff in Retail

A few months ago I was asked to join the team of judges for this year’s Unison Fibre Hastings City Business Excellence Awards and interview sixteen large national chain Hastings retailers on their current and planned approaches to marketing, customer service, staff development and retention, and how they expected to perform in the next twelve months in far from ideal economic conditions.

The experience was thoroughly enjoyable and demonstrated over and over the considerable effort, drive and motivation our regions retailers put in to deliver the demands placed on them by head-office,  whilst not losing sight of the specific needs of their local customers.

However, amongst these positive themes, lurked a frequently heard common theme of the best efforts of managers and dedicated teams being eroded by poor selection decisions of staff who didn’t share the customer service ethos of their employer and took advantage of access to stock and cash through theft.

The impact on the business of these experiences was substantial and wide ranging, from the obvious loss of hard earned takings, to the less tangible impact of damaged moral to store managers doubting their capability to select and manage staff.  From my perspective as someone who specialises in reducing and managing the risks of staff selection, the most alarming observation was that most felt almost powerless to address the issue in future, which prompted me to compile the following solution from our bank of tried and tested staff selection tools:

A Retail Staff Candidate Selection Suite:

By concentrating on three core criteria for success in retail environments, employers can regain confidence that they are walking into every new employment agreement with their eyes open in terms of whether a preferred candidate has the basic essentials to perform in the role and what they are likely to need to do to get them from good to great performing staff:

  1. Honesty & Integrity
  2. Sales & Customer Service Focus
  3. Basic Abilities in Arithmetic, Attention to Detail & Understanding Communications


1. Honesty and integrity can be readily measured through a cost-effective online tool that teases out candidates most likely to value and adhere to company policies, procedures, and have the desired conscientiousness required of people handling cash and products.  The questionnaire equally identifies those with little or no regard for company policies, targets and processes, as well as those with an unhealthy view towards theft.  Click here for an overview of the questionnaire and a sample report

2.   Most retail managers will already know that some people are cut out for a job requiring customer service and sales skills, and some are not.  Unfortunately, many continue to only find out if a new recruit is will perform in these roles in the months after they have hired them, which frequently leads to reduced sales and expensive and time consuming dismissal.  Again, determining whether a preferred candidate has the sales and customer service skills before you hire them is easily achieved through sales-focused online candidate assessment tool.  Click here for an overview of how this tool teases out those who will hit 40% of target from those likely to hit 140% of target, then place those figures against your stores bottom line and wonder why you didn’t start using this approach years ago

3. Making some form of assessment in a candidates ability to make sense of the information that will come their way, the basic numbers that drive the stores performance and checking skills that demonstrate accurate attention to detail is the third and final stage of a strong thorough selection decision.  Again, these can be readily assessed through ability tests aimed at general admin and retail staff, such as this Clerical Test Battery

The online access and fast turnaround of results make the introduction of these assessments cost effective, without slowing up the recruitment process, especially when only applied to final stage candidates.

With the cost of replacing poor performing or fraudulent staff placed at between 140% and 200% of that staff members annual salary, addressing the risks of making a selection decision you will live to regret has never been so essential or easy to access.

At People Central Ltd, the core of our business is reducing risks in recruitment and selection, from front line staff to CEO’s.  Give us a call today on 0508 PEOPLE to reduce staff selection risks in your business.

About this article & author

Steve Evans is a Director at People Central Ltd, a Napier based consultancy that supports businesses across New Zealand in making strong selection decisions and making the most of their existing teams