Six months ago I quit my job! I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder, more on that later, and I could not stay where I was. Changes were inevitable if I wanted to find my happy. What I found out was that having a long term career in one industry was actually working against me in finding a new path. At that time, I wrote the following and posted it to my LinkedIn. The comments and support were uplifting and helped me through a very tough time. Please remember this when you are out shopping or hiring for your business.
Why are grocery retail workers your best new hire?
Most of us are in such a hurry we rarely genuinely connect to others around us. The person working in the grocery store will usually rate very low on your radar unless they do something really terrible. It is of no surprise that unless you make daily trips to the grocery store you have no idea who the person is that is helping you. Let me take a few moments to tell you why the grocery worker can make a great addition to your business.
Most of us start somewhere at the bottom, working weekends in high school for gas money, then you move on to college and then a career outside grocery. Some may remember the days stocking groceries or checking them out, but chose did not stay in the career path. The few “lifers” that have made grocery their life probably started at the bottom and like me, worked up, down and across the latter. We have seen it all! This gives us grocery workers an interesting perspective on a variety of things from communication to problem resolution and all things in between.
We are resilient. We take a licking and keep on ticking. Sometimes, I mean literal licking: a literal beating to the body. We stand in one place for hours, we run on concrete for 8+ hours a day. We pull bales of cardboard and toss pallets into stacks, we are strong in body. With all the physical workouts, remember our office is the sales floor. We can direct holiday traffic and take many different questions at once. We handle the tides of change when managers move and companies are bought/sold. When we get home, our bodies and mind are worn, but it is all worth it to take care of our customer. We get up and go back tomorrow, that makes us resilient (maybe crazy too). Resilient; an excellent quality for a position that requires hard work, work in a new industry or painstaking tasks.
We have seen the worst in people and handled it with grace. I once had a store director have a customer spit in his face. He did so without retaliation. The story behind that is much longer than one can write here. I have personally been cursed at, yelled at and belittled. It happens, at times, that someone looses their temper over a wrong price, a wrong order, long lines… etc. It happens. Shit happens and it is no different at the grocery store. Sometimes you have to buy snacks for your kids soccer team after you got in a car wreck, you are impatient, you are late, and the person is front of you is writing a check. You may, some people have, taken out frustrations on the wrong person. A grocery worker knows not to take it personally and a good one will be able to diffuse the situation. Grace; an excellent quality for a position that handles customer complaints or stressful situations.
Grocers get pulled in many directions and are often required to multitask. We answer to usually more than 2 boss and our customers. At any given moment we are muddling through sets of instructions/ schematics that may or may not be changed tomorrow, fielding phone calls and directing customers to the where the soy sauce is located. With decreasing labor dollars, we have to consistently multitask efficiently in order to achieve our daily goals. Each day our goal is to help our customers in the best way we can. We know that each move and decision we make affects more than our hours in the day and ability to complete the task, but it affects the people around us. Efficient, another great quality
Grocery workers, specifically the managers, are patient. We deal with slow corporate bureaucracy, HR managers that are over whelmed and a young work force. The tides of change either take months to happen or suddenly and all at once. Patience is a key virtue in the ever changing tides of our business. Learning to take the information in strides and getting our teams to buy into the program takes patience.
We are problem solvers. An excellent grocery worker has become skilled in handling chaos. With lines back to the aisles on a busy holiday and computers that don’t necessarily keep up with demand, we must perform in the toughest of conditions. I have seen grocery managers with a packed out warehouse get a load of 20 more pallets fit it all in. With a little creativity and out of the box thinking a grocery person is able to solution many problems. I personally am at my best when I can problem solve in a chaotic time because it doesn’t give me the time to over think the solution.
Leaders in the grocery world have become effective communicators. The reason is very simple indeed. It is our changing workforce. We have all sorts of personalities working for us and we have to learn to communicate effectively to each person. Grocers are forced to make very quick decisions many times a day. The success of the leader depends greatly on their ability to communicate their vision to each of their teams and individuals that work for them. The message must be clear to be successfully followed.
It is for these reasons and many others that a grocer can make a move to almost any other industry. I have grown up in this industry and seen the best of the best come and go. We are an ever changing world and with today’s technology it is changing even faster.
My personal journey tells a very similar story and I have had the opportunity to exercise many of these traits. I feel like my skills have pulled and stretched to help me become the person I am today. My many roles have left me with a yearning to learn more and a desire to find a career that is creatively stimulating and personally fulfilling. It is my hope that employers will be more inclined to go beyond the resume of a grocery worker and get to know the person before turning the page. Paper can only tell part of the grocery story.