Sharon McGinnis had hired a key employee but was finding she and others in the company were butting heads with the new worker, an individual with good job skills but who was a bit headstrong. McGinnis sent a card to the employee’s home with a gift certificate to a fancy restaurant and a note of confidence that things would ultimately work out.
McGinnis says the employee told her she broke into tears when she opened the card, read the message of reconciliation and found the gift certificate. That gesture smoothed the relationship and eased the conflict.
That typifies the approach that McGinnis and her sisters, who own grocery stores in Monroeville and Brentwood and employ 150 people, use to build loyalty and retention in a business that finds it hard to recruit and retain workers.
McGinnis says she and her sisters hug their employees, take them out for golf lessons, send them off to investigate and implement new business ideas and let them try out salad recipes they’ve picked up at bridal showers or parties in the stores’ own salad cases.
McGinnis Sisters uses more conventional strategies as well. The company has sponsored a profit-sharing plan that 83 employees participate in. That’s remarkable, given that a considerable share of McGinnis Sisters’ employees are part-timers and students, and the plan requires that participants be at least 21 years old, work at least 20 hours a week and have at least a year of service to participate. Half of the participants have at least $20,000 vested in the plan, a number have at least $100,000, and there could be several millionaires in the group over the next decade.
The program is so successful that McGinnis says several employees could end up retiring early.
Still, the company faces recruitment and retention challenges. McGinnis Sisters isn’t planning to open any more stores, so advancement opportunities are limited. To expand the recruitment pool, a long-time policy of not hiring family members has gone by the wayside. The next strategy the company plans to implement is a recruitment bonus plan.
Despite the creative efforts McGinnis Sisters uses to keep its work force together, it faces stiff competition for workers. In Monroeville, the store operates in the shadow of Monroeville Mall.
As McGinnis puts it, working in a grocery store “isn’t as easy as selling shirts at the mall.”