The phrase “company culture” brings to mind a certain image of professional utopia. Tech companies with large-scale campuses where employees can take naps in pods or indulge in free beer when happy hour hits, exclusive personal development seminars led by world-renowned speakers, and over-the-top employee recognition traditions all bring the idea of a “perfect” company culture to life.
It’s a concept that many business owners can’t even bring themselves to consider. You mean that on top of my laundry list of daily tasks, managing hundreds of employees, and balancing the responsibility that I feel to make a company-sustaining revenue I need to develop and maintain a company culture?
That’s exactly what we’re saying.
Grocers and other neighborhood-centric retailers will find that they need to take their company culture even one step further. It’s not enough for grocery employees to feel like they’re valued. They also need to be instilled with an appreciation and respect for the community that their store is located in. A grocery store’s company culture needs to be community-driven.
Trust us, you already have a company culture
Here’s the blunt truth: if you’re not putting dedicated time and effort toward creating a community-driven company culture, one will develop on its own – and you may not like it.
This is where things can go sideways for many grocers. While you’re focusing on the ups and downs of day-to-day business, your employees are developing relationships with each other, learning the social norms that exist in your business, and adjusting to your internal environment.
Ideally, your company culture should reflect your brand and its values, with your employees serving as your company’s direct representation within your local community. However, without putting in the time, effort, and training that is necessary to curate a company culture, you are unknowingly giving your approval to whatever culture pops up without your guidance.
Even if you’ve never put a bit of thought into creating a company culture, one still exists within your business. It’s just not intentional.
Why your company culture should be community-driven
Grocery stores have a community reputation that is unlike that of retailers in any other industry. Community members head to their grocery store every week, sometimes even more often, and they develop a bond with their chosen store. They know where to find what they’re looking for, and they are knowledgeable about cyclic changes in inventory. Visit after visit, they tend to see the same employees, and those employees are typically also members of the community.
In a way, your grocery stores can feel like a second home for many people within your area. It can act as a place where they run into other community members, generating the feel-good, in-person conversation that the age of the internet has circumvented. It’s a rare case where a retail space can serve as a place of comfort and familiarity, without the typical sales pressure associated with consumption.
These unique characteristics mean that a grocer can’t operate like a typical retail executive. The company culture that they create can’t exist solely to empower employees and build a connection between employee and company. Grocers need to take it a step further and create a culture that fosters engaged employees, but also drives home their place within the community, creating a connection between employees and local shoppers. Grocery stores need a company culture that is community-driven.
How to develop a community-driven company culture
Creating a community-driven company culture isn’t an unattainable task. While it does require focused and intentional effort, it need not take up the majority of your brainspace. You have a grocery store to run after all! Here are a few ways that you can start to develop a community-driven company culture:
Create brand values that align with the community
If your company doesn’t already have a detailed set of brand values, consider working through an exercise to develop one. Think about your community’s personality as you walk through each potential pillar, and look for ways that your company’s values could align with those of the community.
For example, if your community is built on generosity and connection, perhaps one of your values could be “service”.
Once you’ve determined your company’s values, set aside time for your employees to be trained on them, and provide examples of how those brand values can come to life in their work. Through this exercise, you’ll find that your stores will become mini representations of the larger community, which translates into familiarity and trust for your customers.
Hire community leaders
Stack your staff with community leaders in order to create a community-driven company culture. Hire the local football captain and student council leaders as entry-level employees, and bring on community organizers, nonprofit board members, and PTA leaders as higher-level executives. These notable leaders within the community will innately enact policies and procedures that represent the community at large, and they’ll act as another connection point between your brand and the community.
These community leaders should not only be recognizable to your shoppers, but also inspiring to them. Customers should see that these leaders work for your company and be proud to be a part of your customer base.
Treat employees at every level with respect and purpose
Every employee within your company is likely one of your customers. Though it should go without saying, this is yet another reason why you should treat each and every employee with respect, and provide them with motivation and purpose within their positions.
Your employees are your voice within your community, even if they aren’t community leaders. Their friends, family, and neighbors know that they work for your company, and their attitude toward their job (no matter what level they’re in) can have a profound effect on the way that their network views your store. If your employees have a good experience working for you, they’ll stay loyal customers and recommend you to others.
Host and engage in community events
To have a community-driven company culture you need to get your employees involved in the community. Through hosting community events (and sponsoring others), you’ll provide an opportunity for your staff to interact with the people that they see in the grocery store on a weekly basis, and connect with them on a more personal level.
Turn community wins into company wins
This tactic is probably one of the simplest that you can enact in order to make a difference in your company culture. When something great happens in your community, celebrate it as an overjoyed member of the neighborhood. On the flip side, if someone in your community is struggling, make it a point to join in the community’s support of that individual. If a local sports team wins the state championship, celebrate publicly with an event or signage. When your community comes together to support a cause, get involved. It’s all about being in tune with what is happening in the neighborhood around you and making sure that your store is a part of the solution or the celebration.
Developing a company culture takes intentional effort, training, and time, but as a grocer it’s imperative that you take this challenge head-on. As a staple within your community, it is your responsibility to ensure that your culture reflects that of the neighborhood around you, and promotes a connection between your employees and your customers. If done correctly, your company culture could turn even the most noncommittal shopper into a loyal customer.
Developing a community-driven company culture is just one aspect of being a community grocer. Click below to download our eBook to see what else you can do to get ahead of the competition in 2020.