What is your business’ most valuable resource?
Its location? Its size? Its technology? Hardly. Despite the value of all of these factors, the resource with the most potential to elevate and drive your business is its people. Whether it’s the people on your front line or your back end, employee satisfaction leads to customer satisfaction, which leads to a business’ success.
So how does a business create a pro-employee environment? At Wegmans Food Markets, a $5.15 billion supermarket chain with 35,000 employees and 80 stores in the northeast United States, you state your commitment to your workers in your tag line. Simple and powerful, Wegmans philosophy is “Employees first, Customers second.”
The philosophy has paid off as Wegmans has won hundreds of customer service, community and best place to work awards over the years. In fact, it’s made Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list every year since it started in 1998. Wegmans’ employee retention is also impressive at just 8 percent, half of the average for its industry. To attract and retain the best workers Wegmans’ relies on traditional methods – competitive pay, solid training and comprehensive benefits. But it goes further with values and best practices that make its stores a place employees love to work and customers love to shop. Here are some examples.
- Training. Wegmans invests the necessary time to properly train its workers. Full-time employees’ training averages around 6 months, and part-time employees’ more than a month. In fact, Jo Natale, Wegmans director of media relations, says the store spends $1.5 to 2 million on labor costs in the six months prior to opening a new store. She says the company wants to be sure all employees have adequate time to participate in its onboarding programs, as well as live training in the store.
- Communication: Communication is critical for building trust with your employees. Wegmans realizes this and aims to be transparent with its workers about its plans and strategies. “We don’t ever want anything important happening that our employees don’t hear first from us,” said Natale. “We try to always give managers plenty of time to familiarize all staff with any changes so they aren’t taken off guard.” The strategy has been effective. In its best places to work poll, Fortune magazine asked employees, “Does management have a clear vision where it is going?” A whopping 96 percent of Wegmans employees answered yes. The dynamic builds trust with employees fulfilling their need for job security.
- Invest in relationships: Wegmans leadership invest time and energy into developing relationships with its workers. For example, both HR executives and company leadership make frequent store visits to talk to its employees about their concerns and share best practices. “Relationships are certainly first and foremost for our business,” Natale said. “The Wegman family are in our stores every week for a couple of days. It’s important for them to make the personal connection so that the employees understand they are part of the Wegman family.”
- Manager Autonomy and Flexible Scheduling: Wegmans empowers its managers to work creatively and autonomously with its staff to meet their needs. For example, flexible scheduling, while often unheard of in retail, is standard at the stores. “Every time we poll our employees about what is most important to them on the job, flexible scheduling rises to the top,” Natale said. “Whether it’s the high school student that needs time off to work on a school play, or the retired teacher that wants to take line dancing classes, we work with our staff so they can have a work-life balance.”