Enriched Benefits Are a Draw
Raising wages is a first-line tactic for attracting employees. Tyler, Texas-based Brookshire Grocery Co., for one, has made multimillion-dollar investments in wages across the organization to boost employee satisfaction and retention. “Recognition also plays an important role,” notes Rosemary Jones, the company’s EVP-chief people officer/legal. “At our distribution operations, we increased wages to be more competitive. We also added attendance bonuses, weekly and monthly employee recognition initiatives, and revamped our referral program.”
Still, in this new marketplace, increasing wages isn’t enough. “Employees still want a fair wage and bonuses, but that’s not the reason why people stay anymore,” observes Doug Baker, VP, industry relations for FMI. “It’s flexibility, training and skills development, investment in education.”
Retailers are continuing to enrich their benefits packages to attract employees. For instance, Barons recently increased its employee discount from 10% to 15% and made vacation and dental insurance available to all employees.
The Kroger Co. recently piloted a program with Cohoes, N.Y.-based Goldman Sachs Ayco to offer associates financial counseling services. Salaried and hourly associates have the opportunity to access financial coaches and supportive programming as part of the free and confidential service. Online tools and resources and trained one-on-one financial coaches are available to help associates look at their total financial picture and advise on financial decisions. Program participants can create a savings plan and explore opportunities to maximize available company benefits.
“Kroger is the first retailer in the nation to offer this kind of benefit to hourly workers,” asserts Theresa Monti, VP of total rewards at the Cincinnati-based grocer. “We know financial wellness is essential to all of us. This is an important way we are improving our associate experience — empowering anyone to thrive and grow at Kroger.”
To support its team members who want to be a part of something bigger and make an impact, The Giant Co. offers its employees paid time to volunteer in areas that they’re passionate about, according to Krueger. “We believe that when we work together to make a difference in the community, it also helps to create a stronger sense of engagement in The Giant Co.,” she says.
Skill Building Boosts Retention
Deloitte’s Harrold notes that retailers have shifted away from a “refilling the bucket” mentality to a focus on investing in training and retention, and experts agree that career development is a key driver of employee engagement and loyalty.
“Incorporating upskilling programs, career coaching and industry certifications will be critical for grocers looking to build a workforce committed to a future at their company and to embedding a future talent pipeline,” notes Ross Forman, managing director of Chicago-based professional services network BDO USA’s Corporate Real Estate Advisory Services practice. “When employees believe an organization is invested in them, they commit to the organization.”
In addition to a matching 401(k) plan, associate discounts, quarterly bonuses and health benefits that encompass medical, dental and vision, Jacksonville, Fla.-based Southeastern Grocers offers associates various advancement opportunities.
“Our corporate leadership development platform, SEG University, provides personal and professional development resources to help associates advance their careers through leadership courses, lunch-and-learns, and other engaging workshops,” says Raymond Rhee, the company’s chief people officer. “Our Retail Leaders program provides leadership training for SEG’s current and future store leaders through a series of interactive workshops and on-the-job training.”
For its part, The Giant Co.’s Giant University platform provides team members with opportunities to grow their skillsets. The training helped 4,092 team members receive internal promotions last year, according to Krueger.
Culture is Critical
Creating a positive culture is another way that retailers can make employees feel valued, motivating them to be strong team players and contributing to higher store morale.
“A focus on culture is a game changer,” affirms Shemirani. “We always say if we take care of our employees, they’ll take care of our customers. We encourage our employees to think creatively, and we get a lot of good creativity out of them.”
Allowing store employees to take initiative — and even risks — fosters a sense of ownership and pride in what they do. In this vein, Tops encourages store personnel to take ownership of projects. “We partner with vendors on sales contests, or run promotions to see how many items a store can move based on how creative the displays are,” says Liou. This type of involvement is not only fun, it’s also a key team builder for store personnel.
Feedback and access to management are also part of a desirable workplace. “Retention is highly important for us,” notes Brookshire’s Jones. “We conduct surveys and stay interviews at various intervals of the employee lifecycle. This helps with retention, because employees feel valued when we value their feedback.”