By Sara Counihan
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Company culture has been a hot topic in the HR space for quite some time, but what often gets overlooked in customer-facing industries is the correlation between employee engagement and customer loyalty.
The education session “Building Customer Loyalty Through Employee Culture and Engagement” at the 2021 NACS Show last week in Chicago featured executives from Love’s Travel Stops and Sheetz—two companies known for their positive company culture.
“[Culture] is akin to the water at the aquarium. It’s always there and almost see-through, but it has to be nourished to keep the fish and others alive and thriving,” said Jenny Love, chief culture officer at Love’s.
“The true measure of a store’s culture is what goes on when you’re not there,” said Travis Sheetz, president and COO of Sheetz.
According to Love, culture at Love’s is vital for employee engagement, and many times it’s not about the paycheck for employees, she’s learned. It’s about what values your employees can gain by working at your store.
Sheetz says that without question he’s seen better metrics at stores where employees are more engaged.
“If people aren’t happy to be there, that naturally reaches across the counter,” said Sheetz.
Love’s measures employee engagement through a variety of measures, including an annual employee survey with the same questions year over year to establish benchmarks. The company also looks at employee turnover and retention. Another sure sign of good culture at a store is the number of referral bonuses a store receives.
When Sheetz first started working at his company, there was good culture, he says, but nothing was formalized. Sheetz and his team identified seven key culture points that are associated with the company with respect at the center, and then they tested it against organization.
“It has to feel right to the employees of the company. Before that, it was a feel when you worked at Sheetz. When we formalized it, we created an expectation and a means to measure it,” said Sheetz.
Sheetz sends culture surveys to each store—one on the store and another on the store manager. The reatailer also participates in Fortune Magazine’s Best Companies to Work list, but the primary goal is not to have the Sheetz name on the list but to receive the information on other often-competing companies on the list, too.
“We are very purposeful about managing culture. We take all employee complaints to a specific employee engagement group in the company. The group looks at the results and uses culture scores from the results to develop [employees]. Sheetz doesn’t fire over [the results]. It’s a way to coach them,” said Sheetz.
Another way company culture engages employees is by taking care of the mental and emotional wellbeing of their employees.
“We make sure that work is not dominating their life—there’s a different work expectation now,” said Sheetz.
The pandemic increased anxiety and tension for everyone, especially those on the frontlines. NACS Magazine dove into this serious topic in “Mental Health in the Workplace” in the September 2021 issue.
Sara Counihan is contributing editor of NACS Daily and NACS Magazine. Contact her at email@example.com.