How ReStockIt Finds (And Keeps) Top eCommerce Talent

The one thing we never want to have to restock is good people

Did you see the interview? MarketingSherpa’s Daniel Burstein caught up with me at IRCE, and he asked me to talk to him about how we get and keep talent at ReStockIt.

I gave Daniel more than he bargained for. Here’s what we talked about.

The importance and challenge of finding the fun in what you do

News flash: eCommerce is a big opportunity for retail business. Forrester says it’ll account for 9% of all retail sales this year and that figure breaks out to about $1,740 per person. But despite its importance, solid ecommerce talent is getting harder to find to power your brand.

At ReStockIt, we make sure our customers don’t run out of about 200,000 different items, ranging from toilet paper to martini glasses. And while marketing and selling toilet paper may not seem all that sexy – and eCommerce overall can be a little dry and transactional – I’m looking to bring the fun back to the business. And a big part of doing that is finding, keeping, and developing employees who love their jobs.

Your business and your talent are as boring as you want them to be

Daniel was interested in how we can find and keep good eCommerce and marketing talent. I have an answer, but here’s some advance warning. It works for more than these two groups of employees.

Developing good team members starts with how you view your own company. If it’s “just” an eCommerce company, you really should just go ahead and yawn. At ReStockIt, we make the commitment to bring fun into what we do every single day.

And why shouldn’t we? We work too hard at creating success not to enjoy it along the way.

A novel solution

Where do you find the talent that understands how to go beyond just transactions?

I’m not going to pretend we’re Disneyland. Yes, it’s eCommerce. Does that mean it’s just pay-per-click and SEO? Unless you are the geekiest geek in the world, that kind of job outlook is going to kill you with boredom before the next quarter’s sales figures come out.

Life is about laughing. And fun. That’s what we aim to bring back into business at ReStockIt. Here’s how we do it.

The C-word

Actually, it’s the c-word times 2. “Company Culture.”

But here’s the thing, you don’t create it. You culture it. And it’s based on what your employees enjoy. If you don’t as a leader every day ask yourself, “What lights up my people?” you’re already losing the best ones.

You need to ask the same thing about how you interact with your potential business partners and vendors, too. Meeting? Lunch? Boring and expected. Do you both like to shoot hoops? Why not engage that way? If you’re wondering how you’re supposed to know what they like or don’t like, here’s a critical question for you:

Have you ever looked at your vendors as people instead of business opportunities? If you have, you’d know some of their likes and dislikes – beyond their financial and operational preferences.

Apply that same philosophy with your employees. They’re not just spokes in your ecommerce wheel. They’re people, with history. The more you know about them, the more you can understand how to motivate them.

It starts at the interview stage. If the only thing you learn from a potential employee you plan to hire during their interviews is their skill set, you’re missing an opportunity to build a powerful and supportive foundation. Are there things you’re legally prohibited from asking potential employees? Yes. But you are allowed to ask questions that help you understand someone as a person and not as a business asset.

“What do you do for fun?”

Questions like this do more than help you get an idea of this human being who’ll become a part of your organization. They also make a simple, but powerful statement:

“You matter”

Invest in your employees the very first day they start. These investments don’t require you to go rob a bank. What’s the actual cost to have people write “WELCOME STEVE!” on a sign in their office lobby? Think about the impact on Steve on his first day.

Steve comes home after his first day at ReStockIt. We don’t want his spouse or significant other to wonder how the day went. So ReStockIt sends a gift basket to the house. We’ve told Steve that he matters. Now the people important to him know that he matters to us, too.

Powerful stuff.

But we don’t do this to indoctrinate or play mind games with our people. We’re investing in them. We want our people to feel a sense of ownership. That’s important. People who “just work here” are transactional. People who own their jobs are transformational.

A different point of view

People who “just work here” seldom care about what’s happening in other areas of your organization. At ReStockIt, we start off with a daily huddle. We communicate.

What’s the result?

We collaborate. The reason this happens is because we’ve all taken the time to understand what’s happening outside our own sphere of influence. We create a context.

When you have context, you understand what’s important. You also understand that if something’s broken, you’re not a scapegoat. You’ve got people who want to help you fix it.

The fallacy of “purely business”

Sorry to burst your bubble, but you can and should mix business with pleasure. In this case, pleasure means enjoyment. We all want to do business with people we enjoy.

And whether it’s someone who works for us, or it’s one of our valuable vendors, we want to do business with people we care about. And, we want people we care about to be healthy.

That’s why if you were to give Health a position on your company org chart, I’d push it all the way to the top. Make health your CEO. We’ve found at ReStockIt that when we encourage our people to put health and wellbeing first, they come back stronger and better for us. The reason is simple. They’re enjoying themselves.

People just like you

I won’t mince words. It’s difficult to find good people. But, we can and do find great people to join our team at ReStockIt. It’s no closely guarded secret. Our source is the people who already work for us.

If you don’t already have a referral program at your company, start one right away. Let’s take the gloves off for a minute and talk about some realities. Your employees are not going to recommend that you hire their friend for a position unless that person is qualified. Especially if you have instituted some of the things I’ve shared so far.

You’re creating a culture of ownership, empowerment, and collaboration. You’re rewarding people for putting their health and wellbeing first. Why would they jeopardize all of this by recommending an unqualified person because they’re a friend?

Don’t insult your people with a stingy referral bonus. Everybody knows how to use Google. Why should somebody on your team get a fraction of what you’d pay a professional recruiter? Again, it gets back to what builds up your organization.

Focus on the individual

Deciding you want to work for a company is like entering into a relationship. The recruitment process is a lot like dating. Either side might hold back a few relevant things while they weigh options. But, why isn’t it also okay to show a little vulnerability?

Computers and websites transact. People do business. You get to decide your own importance and your ability to make a difference. If your people decide they “just work here,” it’s because you made them feel that way.

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