CHICAGO — It's no secret that happy employees make happy customers. That's something all convenience retailers know, including long-time industry players Love's Travel Stops and Sheetz Inc., which took to the stage at the recent 2021 NACS Show to talk about the importance of culture and what culture means to them.
"[Culture] is really akin to the water in the aquarium," Jenny Love Meyer, chief culture officer at Love's, explained during the Oct. 5 "Building Customer Loyalty Through Employee Culture & Engagement" education session. "It' always there. It's invisible, but it needs to be nourished."
At Love's, the culture started with its employees and as the company continues to grow its network, having a culture for all team members to embrace becomes even more important.
"For Love's, it's a way that we can center our [employees] on our North Star," Love Meyer said. "We are opening 30 to 40 new locations each year, so we really need that North Star."
At Sheetz, culture is about being fearless — taking risks, being resilient, and taking on challenges.
President and Chief Operating Officer Travis Sheetz said culture fills the gap between training and communication, especially as the company grows. "Culture is what people lean on when you are not there," he said. "It is the backbone you rely on."
Culture is more than a corporate buzzword; it is vital to employee engagement. For many, their job is about more than a paycheck, and culture goes to the heart of that, added Love Meyer.
And employee engagement goes hand-in-hand with customer service. "There is a direct correlation," Sheetz said. "If the employees are not engaged and they don’t want to be there, it comes across the counter."
Making the Employee Connection
Taking the pulse of employees brings engagement full circle.
Love's measuring sticks include annual surveys, year-over-year benchmarks, retention and turnover rates, and referral bonuses.
Connecting with employees may change with each generation, Sheetz noted. Gen Z and millennials care about social issues, work-life balance, and flexibility.
"Work not dominating an employee's life has changed and it's really important to the younger generation," he said.
As employee expectations change, Gen Z and millennial employees are also more vocal about what they want, according to Love Meyer.
As with most companies, both Love's and Sheetz learned a lot about their organizations and their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Love's, how the company handled the pandemic validated the organization and its team members, the chief culture officer shared.
The pandemic additionally stressed the importance of culture.
"We have put deposits into the culture piggybank and one day, you may need to make a withdrawal," Sheetz said. "We needed to do that, not only with COVID but with staffing issues, and our team stepped up."
The 2021 NACS Show took place Oct. 5-8 at McCormick Place in Chicago.