Caring for Employees in a Time of COVID-19

HR leaders from Pilot, Casey’s and Kum & Go share how they engage frontline teams. 

November 18, 2020

By Sarah Hamaker

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—How are your employees doing as the pandemic drags on? At Pilot Travel Centers, managers are working hard to make sure employees “feel appreciated for what they do every day,” said Paul Shore, chief people officer at Pilot Travel Centers.

“It’s more important that every team member feels connected and part of the team, and that we go out of our way to make sure our team members feel part of the larger organization,” Shore said during the “Motivating and Protecting Your Frontline” education session at the NACS Crack the Code Experience.

Shore outlined the common strategies retailers employ to motivate workers, including developing camaraderie with other team members, the desire to do a good job, being encouraged and recognized by management, and making an impact with their work. “Taking the time to recognize and appreciate those team members who are coming in every day is more important than ever,” Shore said.

Casey’s General Stores, also follows the same best practices. “One that I heard most appreciation for was thank-you pay,” said Sherri Hart, vice president of total rewards at Casey’s. “We received random thank you notes and emails from employees showing their appreciation for the extra pay.”

What garnered the most feedback for Kum & Go was an email of gratitude and appreciation that Matt Spackman, vice president of fuels, sent out to employees during the summer when civil unrest had exploded around the country. “I expressed my personal thanks for the work our associates had been doing,” he said. “I got a number of responses from associates thanking me and our owners for all that we had done. It was a great reminder of how we need to empathize with our associates.”

Hart also discussed how to motivate employees into the future. “We know things are changing, … and human behaviors are going to change, too,” she said. “We need to ground ourselves in the fundamentals of change and the fundamentals of management and the fundamentals of motivation. … We’re trying very hard to listen to employees and guests.”

Hart highlighted four motivational strategies she sees going into the future.

  1. Clarity around expectations
  2. Recognition and appreciation
  3. Coaching and feedback
  4. Following through on promises

“It’s been a stressful time,” she said. “If there are ways to have fun and laugh with co-workers, we need to encourage that too.”

You can still register for your very own NACS Crack the Code Experience (CTCE) to gain access to this and dozens more education sessions and collaborative experiences. The NACS Crack the Code Experience runs through December 4, and features 24/7 access to forward-looking ideas and insights, plus innovative new-to-channel products and strategic connections. Your fellow convenience industry retailers look forward to seeing you there!

Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and NACS Daily and NACS Magazine contributor based in Fairfax, Virginia. Visit her online at