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    PG 2014 Retailer of the Year: Encouraging Strengths, Nurturing Careers

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ
    Stop & Shop team-building at MetLife Stadium

    Larry Jones, human resources manager, Stop & Shop New England, explains how the company encourages associates to grow in their careers.

    Building on strengths and exploring new opportunities — that’s the core of career development at Ahold USA and part of what equips PG’s Retailer of the Year with the talents and skills it needs to excel in a highly competitive marketing area.

    The company encourages associates to constantly review their performance and personal goals “to make sure they’re aligned” with district and corporate goals, says Larry Jones, human resources manager, Stop & Shop New England. “Reassessing performance constantly, compared to the goals, keeps us focused and performance-driven. Associates are challenged to evaluate what they’re contributing to the company and challenge their teams to do the same.”

    Twice a year, in spring and fall, associates complete surveys to assess their progress. Reviewed by teams of associates, the surveys pinpoint each employee’s top three strengths, which they’re encouraged to continue and hone, and top three opportunities for improvement. Store performance is similarly assessed. “We empower department heads to run their departments like their own businesses,” Jones says. Aiming to drive business on all levels, department heads “challenge each other” and share ideas, he adds. The mutual learning process makes them “feel empowered to get the best results.”

    So what makes Stop & Shop a great place to work?

    In addition to “competitive” wages and benefits, it’s the opportunities for enrichment and advancement, Jones says. “I make it clear we have lots of opportunities — whatever your passion or background, there’s a position in our organization,” he asserts. “We’re going to challenge them to grow their leadership qualities.”

    He continues: “Every career path is as unique as the individual who works for us. ... We identify what their strengths and opportunities truly are, and help them reach their end goal. We spend a lot of time with associates gauging where they’re at and revising goals as needed, working on what they need to be a better leader. They’re involved at every step; we don’t just tell them what to work on.”

    Among the ways in which Stop & Shop has shown its appreciation for its associates was to boost its employee discount to 10 percent as part of 100th anniversary festivities for the Stop & Shop banner. All 395 stores in the chain served cake to “celebrate and say thank you” to associates and customers, Jones says. Certain store-brand products sported commemorative packaging, associates and support personnel wore 100th-anniversary pins and aprons, and posters displayed in stores documented the journey of the company over the past century.

    Additionally, the company marked the milestone with 100 Days of Giving, during which the grocer donated $1,000 each to 100 organizations between Memorial Day and Labor Day, delivering giant checks along with cake and balloons in decorated vehicles to each group. “These organizations are doing great work, and we love to partner with them,” Jones says.

    A 20-year company veteran who started as part-time grocery clerk while in college, Jones “never thought it could be a career,” he says of grocery retailing. “My store manager took an interest in me, which was different from everywhere else I worked. He talked to me. He listened to me. That sort of attention helped me see myself as an important part of the team. … I felt like I contributed to the overall goal of the company.”

    Jones worked his way up to full-time general merchandise clerk, and then to assistant store manager and store manager, before attaining his current post. “I’ve always felt important and listened to — that’s what makes this company feel like a family,” he says. “I don’t think that happens in every organization.”

    His duties include conducting exit interviews with retirees, among them the associate who brought him into the organization: “It was great to sit with the store manager who hired me 20 years ago and talk about our experience.”

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ
    • About Jim Dudlicek As editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer, Jim Dudlicek oversees daily operations of the magazine, spearheads its signature features, produces PG’s monthly Trend Alert newsletter on center store issues, moderates its regular webcast series, and writes and comments about a wide range of grocery issues. A food industry journalist since 2002, Jim came to PG in June 2010 after covering the dairy industry for 7½ years, during which time he served as chief editor of Dairy Field and Dairy Foods magazines. A graduate of Marquette University, Jim is fascinated by how truly progressive grocers inspire consumers to enjoy food, transforming the industry from mere merchants into educators that can take the most basic of all necessities and turn it into something profound and life-enhancing.

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