Enhancing the Guest and Employee Experience Amid a Labor Shortage: Webinar Key Takeaways

May 2, 2022

By Jim Dudlicek, NGA Director, Communications and External Affairs

Online grocery shopping for pickup or delivery has surged in sales growth and household acceptance far beyond levels predicted before the pandemic. After two frantic years, that growth is stabilizing, but even as more consumers have resumed in-person shopping, expectations remain high both in-store and online.

However, a nationwide labor shortage impacting many industries including grocery threatens the level of service and experience that retailers are able to provide to their customers and their team members.

The National Grocers Association Foundation hosted a recent webinar to explore how grocers are continuing to raise the bar despite current challenges.

Moderated by Nick Nickitas, founder and CEO of e-commerce solution provider Rosie, the discussion also included Chris Gentry, owner of Madison Foods, a single-store grocer in southwestern Montana; and Cheryl Kerr, employee experience specialist in community relations at Buehler’s Fresh Foods, an independent regional chain with 14 locations in northeastern Ohio.

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

Establishing trust with new employees is a critical first step. Lay a solid foundation for success during your onboarding process. Inspired leadership looks motivating, attentive, focused, organized and responsive.

When employees are happy on the job, it shows in their engagement with customers. Satisfaction on the job stretches far beyond the workday into the community. Apply the Golden Rule inside the store: We take care of them, they take care of us. The customer is always right, but the employee comes first.

Pursue outside-the-box retention strategies. Provide flexible work options for those with specific needs, like seniors and stay-at-home moms. Offer generous insurance and benefits; consider an employee emergency fund. Incentives and recognition throughout the year have greater impact with Millennial employees, such as quarterly bonuses and holiday gift cards.

Help advance employees in the workplace and beyond. Provide a pathway for advancement within the store. Cross-train employees to serve in multiple positions and departments. Offer a scholarship program for continuing education.

Sustainability is a driving force behind Millennial and Gen Z behaviors. Most Millennials prefer to work in a company with a strong sustainability agenda, many willing to take a smaller salary to work for an environmentally responsible firm; 60% of Gen Z consumers think food retailers should help their employees and the community in addition to making a profit.

Referral programs attract talent and grow teams. Research has found that referred candidates are of higher quality than applicants from the general public and are more likely to receive and accept an offer, stay at the job longer and perform better. Referrals are more effective hires when the employee and referred candidates know each other well.

The rising cost of housing makes it difficult to attract talent. In the past two years, a national shortage of available homes, coupled with a record number of first-time homebuyers, created an imbalance of housing supply and demand that increased home prices. Plus, many took advantage of remote working arrangements, a desire for more space and historically low interest rates to buy homes. Taken together, these trends caused home prices in the United States to increase by 30% since 2020.

Click here to view a recording of this webinar.