Good People - Chap. 5 - The Ultimate Quest: Wholeness
"Everyday You Get Our Best"
Anyone with too many connections to Western New York knows that Wegmans is consistently ranked by Forbes as one of the best places to work for employees. This year it ranked #2 on the list, right after Google:
Employees say “there’s a lot of love and caring” at this 100-year-old family-owned grocery chain, where workers have flexible schedules, ample promotion opportunities, and “feel like family.” But it’s the “small things that make a difference,” like free cakes on birthdays and hot chocolate in the winter for anyone who works outside.
I'm a proud former employee (front end, helping hands, service desk, bottle return, and photo/video) and I still look back at my time there fondly. As I read about the characteristics of wholeness in this chapter, I was constantly reminded of instances when my supervisors demonstrated love, respect, and wisdom toward their employees and why those acts made it such a good place to work.
Serving the People Who Work For You
No matter their title, no one was ever too good to help. When the front end was insanely busy, accountants hopped behind cash registers and store managers started bagging groceries. When I spent six hours in subzero temperatures lifting groceries into trunks and pushing carts in the snow, my front end manager made sure I got plenty of breaks, stayed warm, and drank lots of hot chocolate. Our managers were of even more service to employees than they were to customers, which reflects the company motto, "employees first, customers second."
Respecting The Small Things
No one wants to push carts or bag groceries forever (or even for a day really). But because managers publicly recognized small accomplishments, it gave meaning and a greater sense of purpose to menial tasks. It became important to receive praise for getting the fastest scans-per-minute, having a balanced till, receiving customer compliments, and passing alcohol and tobacco checks. Because if you can scan canned beets for an entire Saturday and still manage to smile and engage with customers, you deserve some respect!
(If I have accomplished nothing else in life, at least I no longer have to wear an orange safety vest.)
When I first started training in the photo/video department, I was very apprehensive about developing negatives. It was a complicated process that involved lots of un-mixable chemicals and plenty of steps that you couldn't screw up because then you'd ruined someone's vacation memories forever. Because of all the mistakes I'd already made in training, I was convinced this was a task I wouldn't be allowed to do for a while. But rather than being disciplined after one particularly bad morning of missteps, my manager called me into the darkroom and started training me on negatives. A few shifts later and I was a one-hour photo developing beast. The trust and assurance she placed in me mattered less for developing photos and more for becoming a self-actualized employee on a highly efficient and precise team (which is good since developing film is a completely useless skill now).
(Lindsay liked Wegmans so much that she still works there! She's currently a staffing coordinator in Northern Virginia.)
I'm thankful to have had these experiences early on in my career because they taught me what it means to foster wholeness in employees.