First off, let me say that I think our staff is pretty rad. When I was just out of high school, some of my friends were in a punk band they dubbed “It Takes All Kinds,” and I think my co-workers here sort of exemplify that sentiment. We have vegans and carnivores. We have lots of different personalities; gregarious and shy, Republicans and anarchists, autodidacts and officially degreed folks. The only consistency we try to enforce is that we all serve you to the best of our abilities.
To support answering customer questions with alacrity, we offer staff trainings regularly. All staff members are required to attend three trainings in our first six months. The Natural Food Training Overview gives everyone the base idea of what natural foods are compared to organic or conventional. It covers the kinds of products that we offer and why. The Customer Service Introduction explains different methods for interacting with people and why some of those methods are more desirable than others. The Big Picture training is something of a history of co-ops crash course with an emphasis on our Co-op in particular. Between the trainings and the exposure to the products and the general knowledge of others, we quickly find ourselves more capable of helping shoppers, regardless of our previous work experience.
One of the ways we attract people who already have a good attitude and work ethic is our competitive benefits package. Between a staff discount, paid time off, the potential for health and dental insurance and the opportunity to start a 401K retirement plan, our staff members can feel well taken care of.
Strength in numbers
One of the best supports that we offer our staff, however, is each other. You may have noticed that there are a lot of bodies in the aisles. The main reason we have such a large staff is so that there is always someone available to help you—we direct you to a new product that your doctor, sister, or rabbi recommended; we get your special orders, we answer questions from how to prepare foods to what a food even is. Our numbers also help prevent theft, thereby protecting your investment. Lastly, our backstock area is tiny compared to our floor space—we need enough staff to keep up with how much the customers buy, bring product out to the sales floor, and get deliveries from distributors six days a week.
Our staff is pretty great. They are the reason I wanted to work here in the first place, they were why I shopped here before they put me on the payroll, and they are the main reason I’m still working after four years.
As part of this article I chose to profile four different Co-op staff members. Each has been at the Co-op for a different amount of time—one person for a year, one for six, one for nine and one for 15 years.