This week, Wegmans, a family-owned grocery store chain, announced it would open its first location in New York City.
The announcement prompted an outpouring of devotion for the company. The New York Times noted it can actually claim a â€ścult following.â€ť Part of the devotion to the store is not just that it manages to have a huge selection while offering prices that can compete with Walmart, but that it does it while treating its employees well.
The perks start with pay, which for hourly store employees is a little more than $33,000 a year on average. By contrast, Walmart has admitted that more than half of its employees make less than $25,000 a year, although it recently announced a wage increase, and retail sales workers make a median $21,410 annual salary. Anonymous pay sites like Glassdoor and Payscale also show that a Wegmans cashier can expect to make more than $9 an hour, on average.
But thatâ€™s not what makes the company famous for employee satisfaction, landing it on Fortuneâ€™s 100 Best Companies to Work For list every year since the list began. It also offers generous benefits. It pays about 85 percent of the costs of health care coverage, including dental, for its full-time employees and offers insurance to part-time workers who put in 30 hours a week. It offers 401(k) plans with a salary match of up to 3 percent of an employeeâ€™s contribution.
And it has a scholarship program that awards tuition assistance to employees, which has paid out $100 million to 32,000 employees since it began in 1984. The program gives part-time employees up to $1,500 a year and full-time employees up to $2,200 a year to study at any college in any field. Starbucksâ€™s lauded scholarship program, by contrast, used to only be for studying careers that directly prepared employees for working at Starbucks and now is only applicable for studying at Arizona State University. The share of companies offering employees college assistance has been trending downward.
Wegmans also offers more work/life balance than most retail jobs. It gives employees 11 days of paid vacation and holidays and three extra days of paid time off. Itâ€™s known for flexible scheduling, a perk that regularly tops surveys of its own workforce as the most important benefit offered. Managers have the power to craft their own schedules and work with employeesâ€™ needs, and many workers use an online system to lay out their availability around their own schedules. In retail at large, on the other hand, more than a quarter of workers report irregular and unpredictable scheduling like being made to be on call or working two shifts in one day. Nearly 40 percent of retail workers in New York City say they donâ€™t have a set minimum of hours week to week.
These benefits arenâ€™t just altruistic. The company generates $7.1 billion in revenue and is profitable. â€śWhen you think about employees first, the bottom line is better,â€ť the companyâ€™s vice-president for human resources has said. The company boasts a 5 percent turnover rate among full-time employees, compared to a 27 percent rate for the industry. That comes with a cost, as it often eats up about 20 percent of a workerâ€™s salary to replace him.
â€śWhat some companies believe is that you canâ€™t grow and treat your people well,â€ť says a senior vice president. â€śWeâ€™ve proven that you can grow and treat your people well.â€ť
This blog was originally posted on Think Progress on May 14, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: The author’s name is Bryce Covert. Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Instituteâ€™s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman. Her writing has appeared on The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Nation, The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and others. She is also a board member of WAM!NYC, the New York Chapter of Women, Action & the Media.