The Food Co-op in Port Townsend, Wash. has done an employee survey administered by Carolee Colter, now CDS Consulting Co-op’s human resources and training consultant, every two years for ten years running. They believe that they wouldn’t be where they are operationally as an organization without the measureable input they’ve received over the years from its results.
According to Victoria Wideman, the co-op’s recruitment and employee relations specialist, the first time they did it the co-op wanted to “take the pulse of the staff” regarding their benefits, pay, and compensation for paid time off. What they learned was eye-opening. The staff cared about things that went beyond pay and benefits, and it gave the managers valuable insights into how to better manage the workplace. “It was a really good thing to do. We were able to recognize programs that were not working and figure out how to serve our staff better,” Wideman said.
“What we also realized over the years is how having an engaged staff, giving them a voice, and hearing what they have to say is an important tool. If our staff is speaking with one voice on the survey, it’s a good indicator of how things are going.” Because of the feedback from every employee survey, The Food Co-op has made changes to improve based on the information. “Carolee showed us our strengths and weaknesses, found areas for improvement, and she encouraged us to reach out to others for advice,” Wideman said.
The leadership team is engaged with the feedback on a number of levels, including with each other and their individual departments, working on communication, programs, benefits, and continual improvement. “We’ve put more emphasis on how it takes all of us working together to contribute to our success,” Wideman said. This has included scheduling regular staff meetings, doing daily check-ins with floor staff, and putting out a staff newsletter focused on this intention.
Wideman also said that as a result of the employee surveys, the management team has “worked hard to be on the same page.” They’ve put a lot of energy and training into their communication styles, to show staff how to work with integrity, and say please and thank you for a job well-done. “Being a leader is a challenge. You have to build trust, be accountable, and all these things impact staff,” she said.
The community of Port Townsend is also very much top-of-mind for the leadership of The Food Co-op. It’s a small community of 9,000 people. “Members come to the co-op and the staff has a connection to their lives. It’s our work and community at the same time,” Wideman added.
As you’ll note by looking at the graph, virtually all areas of the surveyed groupings have shown continuous improvement over the years. Wideman believes that the efforts to improve based on survey results have positioned their co-op for growth, including a major expansion in 2001 and the co-op’s ability to buy its building in 2005. “We have no plans to stop doing employee surveys. It’s well worth the investment in money and time in exchange for everything it provides,” she said.Add to favorites