Guitar Center employees know their instruments; after all, many of them are musicians. But that means they get called for sessions, rehearsals and gigs – even tours. And that poses a conflict with a full-time job at the chain’s 200 stores.

So two years ago, the Westlake Village company started a program that includes “gig leave” and even allows the employees to promote their music via a store-sponsored Web site.

The program, called Gain, has proved such a success that the company is promoting it as a recruiting tool. Guitar Center wants a stable work force to compete on the volatile retail scene. And more musicians need jobs, giving the company opportunities to hire top talent. Jeremy Cole, the company’s Gain program manager, said former guitar players from the Steve Miller Band and other bygone groups now work in Guitar Center stores.

“A lot of musicians, even successful ones, have day jobs these days,” he said.

About 60 percent of Guitar Center’s work force participate in the program.

Eric Bradley, a 38-year-old guitarist who has worked at Guitar Center Hollywood since 2002, helped develop the program. He has played sporadically for a variety of rock bands, and he has his own group, the Young Royals. He believes his experience on stage makes him a better salesman in the store.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity when these gigs come along, but it brings fear of what happens when that opportunity is over,” he said. “With Gain I still have a job and I retain benefits, including health insurance.”

Marty Albertson, Guitar Center chief executive, said the Gain program is one of the legacies that he wants to be remembered for.

Cole thinks other companies can learn from the Guitar Center experience in HR management. “You can learn a lot from not just listening to your employees, but taking their ambitions into account,” he said.

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