It’s time to rethink how employees are treated

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As the publication does each year, Fortune magazine named the “100 best companies to work for” in its April/May issue. Many of the usual suspects — Hewlett Packard, Marriott, Bank of America, FedEx, Hyatt Hotels, American Express, Genentech — made the list. More surprising was the exclusion of all but a precious few mass retailers.

To begin with the good news, both Publix and Wegmans found their way onto the list of 100 — each for the 25th consecutive year. Target, another perpetual entry, came in at No. 12, claiming the second-highest retail position (after Wegmans) on the top 100. Scanning the list for other notable retailers, we find …

That’s correct. Nothing. No drug chains. No other big grocery retailers. No discounters. Among the missing are Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart, Kroger, H-E-B, Meijer, Hy-Vee. We could go on and on. But to what point?

The point one could easily make is that these estimable retailers have been omitted for a reason. They simply don’t deserve to be included.

To attempt to find out why, it should be said at the outset that Chain Drug Review and MMR, its sister publication, are totally supportive of the mass retailing community and the members of that community. Which makes this piece all the more difficult to write. After all, what more impressive accolade can a company possess then being named a best company to work for?

To start then, let’s examine how the top 100 made the list. As background, Fortune points out that 11 companies on the list have appeared 23 times or more. Why? Because, said Fortune, of their commitment to their employees.

This commitment takes several forms. Briefly, organizations are cited for supporting their employees; for thoughtful hiring of the next generation of staffers; for partnering with community colleges, nonprofits and tech academies; for hiring unlikely candidates. As well, these companies reward loyalty, giving extended sabbaticals for long periods of continuous service. And many have been in the forefront of hybrid work-at-home programs, designating companywide virtual days while encouraging, but not insisting on, time at the office.

Programs like these, while appearing simplistically obvious, are actually both wise and carefully thought out in advance. After all, what stronger asset can an organization boast than a workforce that combines longevity, dedication and superior performance?

Now let’s flip the coin. Do organizations such as Walmart. Walgreens, CVS, Kroger and so many others believe they offer their employees exemplary places to work? Of course they do. Walmart, especially, makes much of loyalty, dedication and togetherness in the task of serving the customer. So does Kroger. And Walgreens. And CVS. The list should and does go on forever.

But if good is the enemy of great, as the saying goes, then it’s true that these companies not on Fortune’s list are missing a very important boat. The people who run these enterprises, without exception, understand and believe that a critical key to their success is a contented. experienced, knowledgeable and energetic workforce. Conversely, who can doubt that their labor practices account for much of the success that Wegmans, Publix and Target have turned in over the past 20-plus years?

So, perhaps the time has come for some of America’s very best and most accomplished retail companies to take the necessary next step and pay more than lip service to that old bromide that a contented employee can easily be transformed into a more productive company.

To cite another old bromide, the time has come to begin taking the next important step. After all, if Fortune’s “Best” list slyly points in that direction, who are we to argue?


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