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GM Report: The Faces of Our Co-op PDF Print E-mail

by Sabine Rhyne, General Manager
April 2016

Every year in March, the GM reports to the board about the Co-op’s relationship with its employees, and for the last couple of years, we have administered a staff survey to measure the staff’s satisfaction with our workplace. This year, I elected to administer a full survey to all staff—managers and workers alike—in order to set a baseline for my work going forward. It was a particularly difficult time to do so, as we were simultaneously reorganizing the workforce to better align our organization with the current priorities and position ourselves for the near term. So, in other words, in the midst of our somewhat chaotic transition that impacted almost everyone, we asked them how they were feeling.

Predictably, the results were a bit lower across the board than the survey we took last year from a random sampling of 40 staff members. This year, 107 or 73% of eligible employees responded to our request for input. Eligible employees included all full- and part-time employees as well as regular subs, all of whom had passed their trial period—all except for me, of course. We paid staff for their time, offered them quiet stations in the offices to take the survey, asked, cajoled, and enthusiastically encouraged them, and even offered a random drawing of a $100 gift card to all survey respondents. The survey was taken online anonymously using a survey program designed for CDS Consulting Co-op (a cooperative of co-op consultants) by CoMetrics (a co-op of data analyzers). After the results were reviewed by our survey consultant, she came to the Co-op to interview twelve randomly selected staff members across the store in order to help her understand the average scores and standard deviation on certain questions.

Out of the 70 questions that asked for agreement or disagreement, 77% scored above 3.5, our mean positive measurement on a scale from 1 to 5, and 22% scored below 3.5. As I said before, almost all of the questions scored slightly lower than last year with two notable exceptions: questions regarding our workplace being consistent with Co-op values and principles as well as the Co-op’s Ends Policies, and the workplace being free from harassment and discrimination. That, at least, was heartening. As for the rest, we have some significant work to do.

Co-op shareholders are often very concerned about their workplace being the best it can possibly be for its workers, as we come from a tradition of social justice and workers’ well-being. Managers regularly balance the needs of their staff and themselves with the needs of their customers. We like to think that we offer staff a safe and interesting workplace, and that we challenge all staff to broaden their skills and seek advancement opportunities to build their careers. Finding ways to make this happen when we spend the larger part of our time getting good products on the shelf at the right price is a tall order. It is clearly my job as a leader in this organization to continue to prioritize and re-prioritize our staff’s development, even when we are a relatively flat organization with very slim margins with which to do our work. If we are going to play in an increasingly competitive marketplace, this truly becomes a huge challenge, albeit an opportunity for creativity.

It is fair to say that because of this conundrum we will never be able to reach the highest ideals that we ave set for ourselves. But I look forward to the day when we will score among the highest quartile of our co-op food store brethren, and where we will have overwhelming agreement on the priorities that we have set and actualized. We will do another full survey in two years, and I hope to be able to report some significant progress. As we continue to administer our orientation passport for our newer staff, and carve off a few segments to better inform some of our longterm staff more immediately, I think we will see some significant improvements in the near term. And as we plan ways to enhance and enlighten folks about our goals, how our data is bearing out those goals, and making training of all types available to them, we should begin to see many more positive results, from which you too will benefit. Thank you for supporting your Co-op, and all of its many faces, as we continue to improve ourselves.

In cooperation,