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Price (2004) suggests that recruitment and selection are the most important issues for HR specialists. HRM theories and literatures focus greatly on the area of selecting employees (Murphy, 1994). However, Sparrow (1994) and Salaman (1995) argue that those theories lead to improving efficiency but not the understanding and significance of those practices. Even though according to Marginson (1988) many managers cannot identify human resource strategies within its company the Container Store's every employee understands that the company is using the practice of "focused people strategy" which is "hire for fit, train comprehensively and pay and support for longevity". The company's commitment towards its employees made the company well known within the HR field (Leabs, 2001).
The Container Store is using the "right person" approach which is perceived to be objective. Before someone is hired the company wants to answer the questions (based on Price, 2004) to the following:
Is there a job to fill
What tasks and responsibilities are involved
What qualities, experience and skills are required to perform the task
What process will best identify these criteria?
Based on this, rather than filling positions as quickly as possible, the company would rather hold a position for a six weeks in order to make sure that the right person is hired (Leabs, 2001). However, this can be also a weak point as the company spends too much time on finding the perfect worker. The company's limiting factor for expansion is therefore lack of workforce who fit the quality of their employees (Berry, 1999). Nevertheless, Townley's study (1994) argues that the employees who are carefully chosen and matched to their job roles are more productive and stay satisfied for a longer period of time. Consequently, the Container Store's effort into recruitment process pays off by efficient and happy employees.
The company uses wide range of recruitment screening such as telephone interview, group interview, further individual three hours interviews.
The Container Store is not limited to the "right approach" within their selection and recruitment process. The company uses also "fit with the organization" approach which focuses on fitting an individual to the organizations (Schuler, 1990). This can be reflected by the fact that the company is open to hiring its own customers (Tindell and Boone, 2005). Positions are reshaped to make the best use of an individual's skills. The employees at the Container Store are able to even choose the area of their interest. The company creates positions not only to satisfy the needs of the market but also to satisfy the need s of its employees. For that reason, at the Container Store, the recruitment policy is very selective.
According to Boxall (1996; pp. 66-67) selection is a way to achieve 'human capital advantage by recruiting outstanding people and capturing a stock of exceptional human talent as a source of sustained competitive advantage' which will therefore help to achieve the Container Store's strategy, HR strategy and vision. The company is therefore very selective when it comes to recruitment process and hires only those who they consider to be the best.
The Container Store uses the following formula for hiring its employees (based on The Container Store, 2010b):
"1 Average Person = 3 Lousy People
1 Good Person = 3 Average People
1 Great Person = 3 Good People "
The company wants its employees to have the values and characteristics consistent with its corporate culture. The objectives of the company need to fit to the objective of an individual. This close relationship between employee and corporate values aid to ensure that staff is comfortable and the company uses the practices and polices accordingly. Consequently, employees remain with the company for a long period of time. Unsurprisingly, the container store has one of the lowest turnover numbers within the industry. While retail industry average is 73,6% of turnover, the Container Store's turnover is as low as 28%. (Leabs, 2001).
Marketing the Job
The company does not use recruitment advertisement to attract the potential employees. However, it would rather they are referred by the employees who are their friends, family etc. The company even pays $200 for each successful referral (Drickhamer, 2005). Even though this may result in receiving employees who have the right skills, the company limits itself with attractive highly skilled workers. Lewis (1985) suggests that recruitment should generate a pool of applicants, however, the company seems not to attract too many diverse candidates. Even though potential employees may come from internal recruitment which is often very effective, external job market seems to provide more potential for a successful company such as the Container Store.
Training is the process where people acquire skills to perform a particular job (Storey, 1995). It provides an individual with a specific knowledge that is useful for her or his present job. Even though it is a significant expenditure for each company, this can be viewed tactically rather than strategically. This is because training is a short term activity which has a long term effect on the organisation.
At the Container Store strategic training is used in order to help the company to accomplish its goals. This is essential element of the company's HR strategy as it allows its employees to deliver personalised service. However, iob performance, training, and learning in order to be effective needs to be integrated. In order to achieve this the Container Store uses extensive training programmes to meet the quality of customer service. The company uses what is called "super sales trainer" who is assigned to each of the stores. The purpose of this position is to train employees within sales techniques. The company devotes 235 hours for training their full time staff in the first year and 100 hours for part time employees in their first year. Afterward, full time employees have 100 hours of training each year. The company's strong commitment to training is one of the best practice within the retail industry. In comparison with other retailers, employee training is less than 7 hours per year. Furthermore, the company does not limits itself to formal training. Informal training is a part of a daily work in order to generate employees enthusiasm, recognize their initiative or produce product knowledge.
Pride, et al. (2004) defines motivation as individual internal process that energises, directs and sustain behaviour. It makes people behave in a particular way. Maslow (2002) suggests that people work in order to satisfy their psychological needs first , then safety needs up to self esteem and self actualization needs. Furthermore, Herzberg (1987) established that factors that lead to motivation are associated with achievement, satisfaction, recognition, responsibility, advancement, growth and work itself. The motivation at the container store is reflected by the company's employees. The managers understand that the low turnover of the company is because of the satifaciton of the employees. Work itself is benefitial as well as the company reflects strong organisational performance by the overall team. Furthermore, management forsters development of motivation by recognising its employees and giving them resopnsibility. Part of The Container Store's unique management style is to give human resources managers responsibility for other areas of the company, such as store operations. The theories of Herzberg and Maslow are effectively combined within the Container Store in order to build and maintain a strong corporate culture which leads to hiring and recognizing exceptional workers. Consequently, employees at the Container Store use the ooportunity provided by the company to expand their potential by remaing with the company and work they way up the corporate ladder.
Teamwork and Leadership
Purcell (2001, p. 59) suggests that the integration with strategy is "central to all models of HRM and virtually all authors are agreed that this is the distinctive feature of HRM"
The company's focus is on customer service. The Container Store uses extensive training programmes to meet the quality of customer service. The company understands that in order to satisfy the customers they need to satisfy their employees first (Leabs, 2001). This is done twofold by strong leadership and great teamwork. The company is able to lead the storage niche by creating great solutions to its customers. The leadership of the company is reflected by satisfying the customers' needs and the exceptional interaction between the company's sales people and their customers.
Another reason why the company is successful in achieving exceptional customer service is teamwork. There is an open communication between managers and employees which allows to understand the goal and that teamwork is the way to accomplish it.
Teamwork is encouraged at the Container store by sharing the knowledge with one another regardless of the position. According to literature Pride et al. (2004) teamwork is accredited to reducing turnover and increasing customer service quality. The Container Store benefits therefore from this by making their staff satisfied and skilled enough to respond to customer quireies. The harmonious work environment at Container Store is also enhanced by everyday "huddle" by a store manager and the employees. This allows for creative solutions to customer requests. The evidence (Jones , 1998) also suggests that teamwork leads to job satisfaction. Because the Container Store do not distinguish between managers and employees during their team working activities and open communication, this leads to creating harmonious work environment and consequently leads to job satisfaction.
Finally according to Price (2004) the use of language has critical applications. For instance, appraisal or feedback meetings must address the issues accordingly without trying to hurt anyone. Similarly, at the Container Store language plays important role. Part Time workers are called "Prime Timers" in order to highlight their importance. They are working at the busiest times of the day and therefore are particularly important to the company. This is why the Container Store unlike other companies recognizes part time workers and persuase teams to show respect to every member of staff.
The paper critically analysed the philosophies, policies and practices that relate to the management of human resources at the Container Store. Based on the analysis it is shown that the company uses various principles to best take advantage of Human Resource policies. The company is not only limited to "the right approach" within their recruitment process but uses also "fit with the organization which ensures that the company supports its corporate objectives and founding principles. Similarly, the Container Store's extensive training programmes is designed in order to accomplish the company's goal and in the end deliver personalized service to its customers.
Furthermore, motivation plays an important role in job satisfaction of the Container Store's employees. It has been shown that the company is effectively using theories of Herzber and Maslow in order to maintain strong corporate culture with satisfied employees. Finally, the company's leadership and teamwork abilities accredits to low turnover and customer service quality.