Making sure you get the right employees for your store is essential in giving your customers the right impression. But how do you get the best people? And what do you do with them once you have them in place?

We’ve taken on three new staff in Londis and four in Budgens over the summer and I’ve found some great ways to recruit and train them.

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To make sure we get the right people, I concentrate on interviews and training, but I have also introduced trial shifts to weed out those who won’t cut it in the long run.

When I interview people they are judged more on their personality and conversation than their experience. I think I’m a good judge of character and most of the time I’ve made the right decisions about staff. I’ll take someone on with zero experience if needs be because I can bring out the best in people and train them up, but doing that means you need to be prepared to invest time in them. I look for common sense, drive and personality – that comes across quickly in an interview.

On trial shifts we set them the most challenging jobs – the deliveries and shifts at busy times – then leave them alone to see if they will use their initiative. It works. We chose five new staff originally at Londis, but two didn’t do well on the trial shifts so we didn’t keep them on. Our remaining recruits are so good that they could already cope with running the shop on their own if we needed to ask them to. They lack experience on order quantities, but that will come with training.

We’ve had a good system in place in Londis for some time, where the person we’ve employed most recently trains the latest recruit and I shadow them, so we’re doing this in Budgens, too. But because we’ve taken on a few people at once we’re trying group training instead.

Another benefit of working this way is that by watching an existing member of staff train a new one, I can also see where they need more training.

Another question is how to develop existing staff. There is one guy at Budgens who works part time for us and part time for Tesco, but wants to go full time here because he’d like more responsibility and is enjoying the job.

Another guy has been struggling a bit because he is timid and unconfident, but I think we can bring him up to standard. There are other staff members he could learn from and who could bring him out of his shell. I could swap him to Blean to develop him in a smaller store.

The training we do in each shop doesn’t differ too much because I set my standards high in both, but it’s been good to have the support of two symbol groups to back this up. Budgens head office offers more training options, such as online training and assessments, and a more corporate structure. They make it easier to monitor progress so I’m taking some of the things I’ve learnt from them back to Blean. I like to say it’s taking bigger-shop thinking to allow smaller-shop learning.