By: Steve Markenson, Vice President, Research & Insights, FMI

We are very proud of our store managers. They have the most difficult job in our companies ...They have so many roles — from a financial expert to psychologist. ... It takes unique individuals who are able to do this work and do it well.
Steve Smith, president and CEO, K-VA-T Food Stores

Back in 2014 and 2016, FMI conducted industry-wide surveys of store and department managers from a range of food retailers. In 2023, FMI repeated this research with the support of more than 90 food retail banners of various sizes and participation from almost 4,000 store and department managers. The objective of the survey was to explore perceptions on nine key areas of the managers' experiences.

At FMI's Midwinter Conference, I was joined on stage by Raymond Stockard, a store manager for Food City in Kingsport, Tenn., to share his insights from our analysis of this research. He has been in the industry for 31 years and is one of FMI's 2022 Store Manager Award Winners. Stockard and I discussed some of the key takeaways from the research and his perspectives.

Store Managers
  1. Store managers overwhelmingly agreed, with 88% agreeing and 58% strongly agreeing, that hiring and keeping good employees is a major challenge. Stockard spoke about how his tremendous team of department heads do outstanding job training and retaining "winners", those new associates who see the value in staying and growing with the company. He cited the impact of ESOP and 401K programs along with excellent medical benefits helping as well.
  2. A second key takeaway surprised me — when we compared the current survey results to those eight and 10 years ago — managers are more satisfied today. Stockard spoke of how Food City has grown at a tremendous clip over the past several years and their leadership firmly believes in reinvesting in their stores, technology and associates to provide more opportunities to their associates and communities.
  3. An area where managers gave lower ratings was in their organizations' performance in hiring underperforming individuals. Stockard praised his company in this area, specifically noting the introduction of a human relation coordinator position in every store, a valuable resource for their store managers.
  4. We also discussed the top drivers of high job satisfaction among managers. Those key drivers include finding their work personally rewarding and enjoyable coupled with feeling appreciated, having development opportunities, feeling respected and feeling safe at work. Stockard shared some of the personal approaches he uses to connect with his associates and make work enjoyable.
  5. Another key learning from this research was the powerful role of team huddles or meetings. Stockard shared some of the ways he can make effective use of his team huddles by keeping them positive and how he uses other means of communications with his teams.
  6. The research found that mentorship, even if done informally, leads to happier employees. Stockard spoke of the many mentors he had, and then brought much of the audience to tears as he recalled how he mentored one of his employees. He recalled the first day at his current store, a young man named Matt who was a meat department helper came up and introduced himself. Matt is someone who "walks to the beat of his own drum." After a conversation, he walked away thinking who hired that guy? But after watching Matt and seeing how hard he worked and the quality of his work, Stockard went to his department head and told him that he believed they could help Matt reach his full potential. He sat Matt down and talked about his future possibilities if Matt was willing to put in the effort and work, Stockard believed he could accomplish anything he wanted if he set his mind to it. Three years later Matt became a meat manager. Matt's story is one of those successes that Stockard takes great pride in of the things he has accomplished.

To learn more, join me, Doug Madenberg of The Feedback Group and Harold Lloyd at our digital seminar on February 6 at 1pm ET to explore more about this research and ideas to help with your workforce challenges. A full report will also be released on February 6.

Register for the Digital Seminar    Download the Report