Whistle While You Work and Have Fun

Discussion
Jan 11, 2007

By George Anderson

Who do you want to work for if you’re in the retailing or consumer products manufacturing businesses? Based on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for in 2007 list, you’d want to work for (in order of ranking): Wegmans, Container Store, Whole Foods, S.C. Johnson, Nugget Markets, Starbucks, QuikTrip, Valero Energy, Nordstrom, J.M. Smucker, Stew Leonard’s, Publix, Procter & Gamble, Nike, Timberland, CDW, CarMax, Men’s Wearhouse, IKEA North America.

What exactly makes these companies better employers than, say, any other business not on the list?

Take Nugget Market in Woodland, Cal., as an example. According to Fortune, the supermarket business “keeps full-time turnover down to 8.2 percent (unheard-of in the grocery business) with rah-rah spirit, good pay and benefits, plus a rockin’ end-of-year bash.”

The company, which operates seven Nugget Markets and three Food 4 Less stores, has 1,099 employees. Eligible part-timers and full-timers have access to 100 percent company-paid health coverage, including dental, vision and prescriptions. For those employees who manage to stay out of the doctor’s office, unused sick pay is paid out to employees at the end of the year.

The average pay for full-time cashiers is $33,722 a year and store directors earn $98,833.

Other reasons for working at Nugget can be found on the company’s web site. Here’s how the company describes its culture.

“In this company, your positive attitude will allow you to accomplish anything you want; there are no ceilings. By supporting each other and coaching each other into excellence, we create a dynamic environment where all associates are encouraged to excel. We are never satisfied with the status quo and believe there is always a better way of doing things. Though we love to celebrate our successes and will find any excuse to throw a party, we continually push ourselves to the edge…. Your individual gifts are a part of who you are, and we do not want to change that; on the contrary, our goal is to help you become a better ‘you’ and to find a position where you are both in ‘the right fit’ and challenged to grow. In turn, you can help make this a better company!”

Discussion Questions: What “makes it so great” to work at the retail and consumer products manufacturing companies on Fortune’s list? Do you believe there is a direct correlation between strong financial results and the pleasure employees have in working for a company? Are there any companies on the list that you have insights into?

Nugget Market’s philosophy in short: Respect, appreciate and value everyone (RAVE).

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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6 Comments on "Whistle While You Work and Have Fun"


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Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

It’s not necessary to treat people well to make great profits. And treating people well doesn’t necessarily hurt profits. The real question: what’s the retailer’s model for success? Some retailers feel they’ve got great tools for minimizing the pain of high staff turnover. They recruit and train daily, and they’ve simplified the jobs so they don’t feel the downside of turnover. Some retailers prefer to take the high road. You can make money either way. Costco is a great place to work and it makes great profits. McDonald’s is legendary for high turnover, but they’re profitable, too.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
15 years 4 months ago
It is interesting that I just posted a comment on my blog yesterday about that fact that 18 of the top 100 companies on this list are retailers or in the hospitality industry. Both groups are known for higher turnover and, in most cases, employees who really don’t care. You may also want to note that 10 of the top 30 also came out of this same group. Now a couple of comments about the list and the companies on it. The only way a company can get on the list is to nominate themselves and pay a fee to be evaluated. So there are a lot of great companies out there who either don’t know or don’t care to get involved in the process. The best example would be Southwest Airlines, who was on the list for 10 years straight and then all of a sudden dropped off. They did not become a bad place to work all of a sudden. They quit applying. They’re still ranked by most people who work for and… Read more »
Sue Nicholls
Guest
Sue Nicholls
15 years 4 months ago
This is a very interesting question. I worked for Procter & Gamble for 18 years, until I started my own business. It was, for the most part, a positive experience, and one that I have never regretted. The “great” things about working there included: 1. A strong vision, principles and values instilled in the organization. You have a vision of where the company is going and understand how your role is helping it to get there. 2. Great opportunities to experience different roles in the organization, get promotions, manage people, etc. 3. Great compensation – salary, benefits, stock options. 4. Huge learning curve — when you’re working with big brands and big budgets, you work with the best data available, have access to strong training plans (particularly when you start out in the company), and you can learn & grow in the organization. 5. It’s “fun” to be #1. Having leading brands, competitive advantage through strong category insights, and being a big company is great for the ego. Retailers know that, for the most part,… Read more »
John Rand
Guest
John Rand
15 years 4 months ago
We did a piece of research after the California grocery strike a couple of years ago and were clearly able to demonstrate the direct link between sales per employee and the number of employees per square foot. This held true for more than 20 retailers studied Oddly, almost everyone has a pretty good idea of the sales per square foot but very few public comments are made about retailers sales PER EMPLOYEE. But the retailers who had the most people on the floor (this is truly among the most obvious things I ever proved) had the highest productivity per person. Lo, some things remain eternally true — if you treat employees as an asset, they are more productive, and if treated as a cost, they are less so. Quite a few of those 20 retailers are on this list, and again, quite obviously, the ones who treat people as a valuable resource are almost always at the top of the list as a good place to work. Hmm. Treat people as replaceable worker bees (less… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
15 years 4 months ago
Thank you Mel for making it clear that this list is restricted to companies who pay to be on it or are invited to participate. Did you notice that one-third of top 100 companies are confined to three states? Was Trader Joe’s on the list? Or Aldi? Where was H-E-B? It really doesn’t matter. They can all get together and create their own list. I would imagine that some good employers don’t want to be listed for fear that every Wal-Mart employee will come applying. I’m not so sure that we should give the employer so much credit but rather the employees are the ones who make a company a good place to work. Nixon Peabody is the top payer at $181k per year. But they are all lawyers. These are people who have many years of college and are somewhat personally motivated. The average [joe] off the street isn’t going to even get a job emptying waste baskets there. Things have not changed much since we were all teenagers. We didn’t pick our part-time… Read more »
Michele Eby
Guest
Michele Eby
15 years 4 months ago
For the 15+ years I’ve been in the training and development field, I have always found it interesting how this topic circulates over and over again. It seems like common business sense to me that if you treat you employees well and create a fun and respectful workplace, customers will benefit. But, I have found that even with intellectual agreement from managers that happy employees create happy customers, many companies just don’t walk the talk. The companies on this list, however, do. They may pay to be evaluated, but perhaps that’s because they know they are successful because of their employees and their employee relations and they want the world to know. Maybe they want to be known as a company that is fun and treats its employees well. It’s free advertising. When I go into a Wegmans or a Starbucks, for example, I like that the employees seem to be happy working. I like that the employees are visibly having fun. I like that I don’t feel like a number or a disruption or… Read more »
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