Pet Store Employee Retention: 5 Steps to Finding and Keeping Quality Workers

This article was adapted from an episode of the Boss Your Business podcast by Candace D'Agnolo of Pet Boss Nation, a WPA partner. You can subscribe to the Boss Your Business podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Music.

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It’s no secret that employee retention has shifted to what’s being called “The Great Resignation.” 48.7M workers quit their jobs in 2021. All industries have been impacted, with retail and hospitality sectors being the hardest hit. For pet retailers, how do you find and keep good employees?

Natasha O’Banion – business coach, pet business owner, and founder of Automated CEO, a systems and leadership training agency – shared her insights.

Natasha O'Banion“People always ask me, how do you keep your staff so long? And I say, because it's a relationship. They don't work for me. We work together.”

Natasha O'Banion, Founder of Automated CEO


Check out these five tips on how to find and retain quality employees:


1. Create Your Ideal Employee Avatar

Part of the challenge for pet retail professionals is considering the shift in how they incentivize work culture. Rather than only looking for potential employees based on their experience in pet retail, instead focus on skills, habits and traits – and let learning about pet products and care follow.

According to Natasha, experience in certain areas can also mean fixed habits that aren’t part of your business model. “I’d rather have a clean slate. I’d rather train someone from scratch.”

Consider people who may fit the qualities you’re looking for. Natasha points out stay-at-home moms, yoga instructors, bartenders and other people who may have additional time in their day, and high schoolers entering the workforce, where they can grow those skills to help your business succeed.


2. Go on the Offensive With Recruiting

It’s good practice to always be actively looking to bring new people on board, because you don’t want to wait until someone puts in their two weeks’ notice or you have to terminate an employee and then have to scramble to fill a position.

Natasha recommends Jazz HR and Fountain as two tools to help pet retail professionals always keep the recruiting funnel open. She leaves her hiring ad on five different job boards, even when she isn’t actively looking to fill a position. Sometimes, an application comes through and a candidate is too good to pass up, and then you have another strong member of the team or a connection to reach out to later.

Keeping the funnel open keeps your options open.


3. Screen for the Right Candidates

When framing recruiting questions, consider the needs of your business. “If you need someone who's driving, works nights and weekends or holidays, if you need someone who’s bilingual ... make sure you have your non-negotiables in your knockout questions,” Natasha says.

Approach interviews from a position of mutual respect. As the employer, you have certain qualities you’re looking for in terms of the vision for your company, but prospective employees are doing the same, whether they have specific must-haves in terms of scheduling, wages and holidays.

Natasha O'Banion

“Treating people how you'd want to be treated is really the theme of it. And I think that's been the theme of the great recession and the great reshuffle for us.”

Natasha O'Banion, Founder of Automated CEO

Another approach is to hire for more than what you need, especially when employees are still in the onboarding process. You can ease people in with a couple shifts a week and ramp up the scheduling as they grow comfortable and as your business needs require.


4. Be Comprehensive in Your Onboarding

Some pet retail professionals may have success in hiring new candidates, but retaining them is a greater challenge. If that’s the case, the issue might be in the onboarding process. Examine your company culture to ensure you’re fostering an environment where employees are more likely to remain with the business.

“Look at the whole process. Are we communicating with them? Are we talking with them? Are we doing a 90-day check-in? Are we doing a training survey? Are we doing knockout questions before they even get in to make sure that we're on the same page?” Natasha asks.

This is another benefit to starting people on a few shifts, as it gives them the time to learn effectively without feeling overwhelmed.


5. Get Them Invested in the Success of the Business

Part of effectively retaining your employees is training them on other aspects of the business to increase their investment in the company’s success. You can empower your employees by bolstering their skills in social media, events, client meetings – giving them the opportunity to grow and learn something in an area they’re interested in.

“[You know what it’s like] at a job that's not going anywhere. You're like, I'm not growing here. I'm not doing anything else. They have me stocking the shelves full time. I think I got to move on. But if you start bringing them into different tasks and they start to feel more excited about it too, everybody wants to grow. You want to grow. You want to learn. You want to have skills to use in the future.”

When you start empowering employees to take on business activities, pet retail professionals can use a project management tool like Asana or ClickUp to delegate and manage tasks.

The key to keeping the employees you hire is to respect them and their needs. Any time there’s a monumental shift in our culture, people start reevaluating their lives and what really matters to them. Employees want to feel happy, fulfilled, impactful and appreciated. They want the work they do to matter, and they want to have a healthy balance between their life and work.

As the freelance environment booms with people looking to work three days a week instead of five, pet retail professionals have to adapt and consider ways to go above and beyond for their employees, just like they do for clients and customers.


candace dagnolo headshotAbout Candace D’Agnolo

Candace D’Agnolo is the founder & CEO of Pet Boss Nation, a business mentor company for independent pet business owners. Pet Boss offers marketing solutions, sales training and leadership development via their signature program the Pet Boss Club, now with 250 clients across the US + Canada. Candace is also a trade show speaker, magazine columnist, influencer and consultant.


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