Finding and Keeping the Very Best Employees

Centurion Jewelry Show attendees learned how to attract, hire, and retain excellent employees during an early morning seminar titled, “Finding and Keeping the Very Best Employees.”

A panel of jewelry industry executives was moderated by Debbie Dern of DJP Executive Search in Virginia Beach, Va. Panelists were Craig Rottenberg, Long’s Jewelers; Lourdes Zeik-Chivi, Leonardo Jewelers; and Charlie Fieramosca, Bailey, Banks & Biddle. Tips and insights into 10 key areas of employment, including recruiting and retention, were discussed over the course of an hour. Highlights include:

1. Recruiting. Keep your eyes open all the time for customer-service-oriented employees. They can be serving food, selling televisions or cosmetics, or even parking cars. Get details on great prospects and keep them on file if you don’t immediately pursue them for employment. Product knowledge isn’t necessarily difficult to learn, but “it’s hard to train someone to have a personality,” observed Dern.

2. Interviewing. Pose open-ended questions to prospects to see if they’ll fit in your corporate culture. An example given by Rottenberg involves proposing a fictitious sales opportunity (a wife buying a watch for her spouse) to see how a prospect reacts. “If the person immediately starts the sale with Rolex and works his way down to other brands, we don’t want that person,” he said. “We want the person who spends two or three minutes asking about the husband’s taste, work, and preferences.” Also ask revealing questions that expose their true attitude and passion, such as “What do you like to do outside of work?”

3. A Culture of Retention. Define clear job descriptions and compensation plans for employees. According to Dern, “Successful companies base compensation on employee contribution to the bottom line.” But Fieramosca cautioned that pay isn’t always an employee priority. “People want to feel like they’re adding value to the company,” he said.

4. Environment. Satisfied staffers receive frequent praise and courtesies, such as hearing “please” and “thank you” for tasks accomplished. Understanding the motives for company behavior is also greatly appreciated. Be empathetic and helpful during times of difficulty. One jeweler even helped a star employee keep her house during a tragic period of a family member’s illness and job loss.

5. Opportunities for Advancement. “People want to succeed,” noted Fieramosca. Tell prospects up front that they can be successful at your store—and then deliver on the promise. For example, promotions from within are a widely used tactic among the panelists.

6. Training. Train frequently and encourage lifelong education by offering tuition reimbursement. Bailey, Banks & Biddle uses an annual training trip to Dallas to motivate top performers. And Rottenberg admitted that training is a weak area for his store and others. “As an industry, jewelers are terrible at training,” he said.

7. Authority. Set policies and then enforce them by correcting people in a candid but tactful manner. Alternatively, praise often to improve morale.

8. Spiffs and Perks. Offer discounts on jewelry, but also utilize nonjewelry incentives such as dry cleaning and pickup services, child care, bonuses, and special parking. Motivate groups of employees with team incentives.

9. What Employees Want. Conduct “stay interviews” to gauge how you, as an employer, are performing. Inquire about ways to make the employee happier (it’s not always about money) and what they’d like to see done differently. If someone is leaving, ask them why. Offer job satisfaction questionnaires to staff.