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    INDEPENDENTS REPORT: Nice work if you can get it

    Offering key intangible rewards on the job can assure grocers a caliber of associate that money alone can never buy.

    During their never-ending quest to attract and retain the best available associates, the most successful grocers I know are constantly asking themselves what it is that their people need and expect from them, besides a paycheck.

    Does it include serving as a good corporate citizen, a commitment to being the best place in town to work? Or other financial benefits such as health insurance, profit sharing and 401(k) benefits, and paid holidays and vacations? Absolutely! It's all of the above -- and more.

    Supermarket owners must today invest in a number of expensive but intangible benefits for associates that, while costly, can't be measured in dollars and cents, says respected author Vince Crew, founder and president of Naples, Fla.-based Reach Development Services.

    "I've never known an employee who got up in the morning and was motivated to go to work because of a great eyeglass plan," says Crew. "People come to work for attention and appreciation -- and, yes, a paycheck."

    Crew, who began his career with Brach's Candy after graduating from college, today consults with businesses both domestic and abroad. Regardless of whether his clients are marketing products such as steel, nursing home services, or groceries, he reminds them that at the end of the day, it's people who produce profits.

    This is Crew's list of 10 expensive benefits every employer can afford:

    --Listening: "Everyone in the store has a perspective, an insight, or idea that's worth hearing," says Crew. "Remember, when it comes to solutions, those closest to the problem, or to the customer, often have the best source of information and ideas."

    --Looking: There's much to be said for curiosity and observation. "Look around for new ideas, trends, and additional sources of support," suggests Crew. "Don't hesitate to look outside of your particular industry."

    --Recognizing: Particularly in the food business, the pace of change, competition, and everyday life are often so hectic that we overlook the efforts of those we depend on. Crew's advice: "Regardless of title, task, or department, stop to notice and say a kind word of appreciation to your hourly associates. And don't forget to thank your department managers and team leaders as well."

    --Rewarding: According to Crew, there are at least two ways of looking at workers engaging in the ethical conduct and performance that exemplify the values you work so diligently to instill. "One way is to regard it as "simply doing what I pay you for,'" he says, "and the other is to publicly and privately acknowledge the importance of your associates' positive performance. To which would you better respond?"

    --Being available: Whether your business employs 50 associates or 500, your accessibility to them is key to reassuring them you're in touch and interested in their ideas, problems, and the daily success of the operations. "Walk the halls. Get out of the office. Meet the people," stresses Crew.

    --Caring: The storeowner's attitude toward associates is apparent from the time one enters the front door. "There is no faking it," says Crew. "There's no substitute for genuinely having concern for your people's development, perspective, and dreams. Expressing concern is an extremely powerful motivator, especially during uncertain times such as when a new competitor like a Wal-Mart Supercenter or Target comes to town."

    --Trust: Everything a storeowner or manager says and does contributes to a credibility that creates a bond with workers. Crew suggests that the owner/manager ask on a daily basis, "Do I exhibit the kind of integrity that inspires my people to give their all?"

    --Stability: Employees must trust that there's a direct correlation between performance, loyalty, and commitment to their employment. "If a storeowner or manager suggests that there's no such thing as 'forever employment,' there won't be!"

    --Safety: For some workers, whose personal lives might be fraught with chaos, turmoil, and even unsafe conditions, going to work could be the best part of their day. "Your store should serve as an oasis of security, pleasantness, and courtesy," notes Crew. "Do everything possible to protect your workers' physical safety and emotional wellbeing on the job."

    --Respect: The fundamental element of any relationship, progress, and promise of growth and achievement is respect. "Show it, do it, and earn it one situation at a time," says Crew.

    In addition to these intangibles, Crew fully acknowledges that money is indeed a motivator for employees, and that every individual's personal needs dictate how much of a priority money is. "Sure, it's nice to recognize employee efforts or years of service with gifts or some type of commemorative plaque that can hang on the wall, but never forget that it's the paycheck that matters to the employee when the electric bill comes due or little Susie has a runny nose."

    This is why, he concludes, storeowners should pay their associates the most they possibly can afford to pay. "However, they must understand that a paycheck can be earned anywhere -- from your store, from your competitor, from the factory down the street," he adds. "It's the way you treat them and the intangible benefits provided that make associates want to earn it from you."

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