Wawa Expands Big Six Program


Employee-focused initiatives recognize associates for living chain's corporate values

Last October, Convenience Store News featured Wawa's Big Six Values program, an initiative that spotlights associates who live the retailer's values: Value People, Delight Customers, Embrace Change, Do the Right Thing, Do Things Right and Passion for Winning.

The Big Six program encourages Wawa's 16,000 associates to share examples of coworkers living Wawa's values in and out of the workplace. Those selected as Values Champions are recognized in a number of ways, including receiving customized Wawa greeting cards from President and CEO Howard Stoeckel or value pins to wear on their uniforms that embody each value with an Olympics-like icon.

As of last October there were 3,000 peer nominations for Values Champion recognition via Wawa's internal Web site. Each submission is evaluated with Wawa's CHAMP test — the behavior has to be a Consistent action, Heartfelt, Awe inspiring, Meaningful and Progressive. Each submission is rated on a scale of one to six for each characteristic, and the score determines the level of recognition.

Selected employees are spotlighted in the retailer's internal Uno newsletter and My Wawa Web site, and some are invited to headquarters for lunch with Stoeckel. The ultimate recognition is granted through Wawa's Dream Maker initiative, whereby Wawa fulfills the dreams of a few employees. Last year for instance, an associate who was a hockey fan was surprised with four tickets to a number of Philadelphia Flyers games, Mario Lemieux's rookie card, Flyer's paraphernalia and other hockey-related treats.

Elsewhere, management's commitment to valuing people is embodied by the Internal Care department, which is devoted to helping associates facing a crisis or celebrating happier life events, such as a new home or an engagement. In many cases, the Internal Care team steps in when an associate is suffering from an unforeseen, catastrophic event, often tapping into the Wawa Associates in Need fund, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization supported through company and employee donations.

In the last year, Wawa has strengthened its Big Six Values program, adding new initiatives and working to engage every associate. As of July, the program had nearly 8,000 peer nominations, with more than 95 percent of associates from the chain's 572 stores participating, noted Barbara Ennis, executive office relationship manager.

Among the chain's new efforts is Wawa's Values Storybook, showcasing heroic tales of customer service and camaraderie exhibited by real-life Values Champions. Published in March, the chain distributed the book to every store and corporate department. "When we first distributed it, 200 associates lined up for a book signing with Howard," Ennis said.

The chain also added Values Day to the corporate calendar. The companywide celebration gives associates an opportunity to reflect on the chain's values. "We are adding new elements and a values-inspired contest to our next Values Day to make it bigger and better than ever," Ennis noted.

The Lunch with Howard program has also been enhanced, with Stoeckel going on the road so the recognized associate's family, friends and coworkers can join in the celebration with the CEO. First-year associate Glenn Vogel joined Stoeckel after he became the first person in company history to be nominated for all six values. Similarly, this spring, associate Dave Stalhuth was recognized with a lunch for living Wawa's values.

"It's not unusual for Dave to sing in his store to brighten the mood, help a fellow associate get through a personal crisis or make sure elderly customers have pleasant and easy shopping experiences," Ennis said.

Last year, employee Samantha Eller, a parts analyst at the Wawa dairy, was the fourth person recognized by the Dream Maker program. Eller cared for a fellow associate who was hospitalized for 20 days following a serious car accident, visiting the woman daily; acting as a liaison to her family, friends and colleagues; and helping her through a difficulty recovery.

"Sam was a fairy godmother to [that associate], and it was only fitting we reward her in a way befitting a fairy tale," Ennis said. After consulting with Eller's family and friends, Ennis and her team surprised her with a deluxe salon and spa package, a new wardrobe and a five-day Disney cruise for her, her husband and young daughter.

At the same time, the retailer is building the Wawa Associates in Need fund, which continues to provide a layer of support for employees. The fund has raised $1.6 million since its inception in August 2008. Last fall's "Dollar for Dollar, Heart for Heart" campaign increased awareness and encouraged Wawa associates to contribute $1 a week to the fund. Participation among associates is now at 38 percent.

More recently, a newly appointed volunteer team of "angels" was deployed across the convenience store chain's five-state footprint to further raise awareness.

"The focus is on the collective strength of the Wawa family — a little change can make a lot of change in our associates' lives," Ennis said. "In part through the efforts of this outreach campaign, we've been able to help 500 associates during their darkest hour."

For comments, please contact Barbara Grondin Francella, Senior Editor, at [email protected].

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