Convenience Store Industry Looks to UD Professor to Improve Employee Engagement

Blake FrankApplying Human Behavior to Business

For nearly two decades before joining the faculty associate professor of management, Blake Frank, Ph.D., was already living the scholar-practitioner vision of the Gupta College of Business.

"As an industrial and organizational psychologist, my work with the Southland Corporation was focused on applying the principles of human behavior to a real organizational setting," explained Frank. The Southland Corporation, known today as 7-Eleven Inc., used Frank's employee research to make decisions ranging from selecting new employees, developing current employees and even to improving the entire organization.

The High Cost of Low Employee Retention

Several years after joining the University of Dallas faculty, Frank was contacted by the National Association of Convenience Stores/Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (NACS/CCRRC) to conduct the first employee retention research study for the supermarket industry.

"The NACS/CCRRC produces studies that influence how retail stores around the world operate. Across all businesses one of the most costly issues is employee retention. In the supermarket industry, however, it is especially expensive," said Frank. His original study found that the cost of employee turnover within the supermarket industry far exceeds the profits made by the entire retail industry.

Today, employee retention continues to be an issue across the retailing industry. The focus now has shifted to developing employee engagement. "Although the term 'employee engagement' has only been around since the early 1990s, creating a work environment that fosters employee commitment and dedication, allows employees to derive greater personal satisfaction, and provides the resources necessary for employees to become highly productive has always been the goal for many organizations," said Frank.

Identifying Tested Solutions

Seeing a growing interest in developing employee engagement practices among retailers, the NACS/CCRRC once again reached out to Frank in 2014. Rather than creating a benchmark of best practices, it was decided that identifying tested solutions would be more useful to businesses.

"Each company is different. Each organization has it's own culture and structure so you can't expect one employee engagement approach to work across the board. We felt it would be more useful to look at the research available and find what was proven to work in the field."

Frank's work is part of a three-part series, "Power Up Your People," to be released by the NACS/CCRRC over several months. Part two of the series includes Frank's research including video summaries and the full employee engagement practices paper.

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