Published on: September 9, 2022
I did a FaceTime video the other day defending the idea that people, whatever their age or experience, are entitled to feel like they are doing meaningful work, and that leaders ought to consider helping them feel that way as part of their portfolios. The video was prompted by an interview with just-retired Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who said that younger people "don't seem like they want to work" partly because they want meaningful jobs. "You can't expect to start with meaningful work. You're going to have to earn it," he said.
MNB reader Douglas Madenberg agreed with me:
KC what a fantastic POV in your FaceTime segment on meaningful work. Should be required listening for every food retailer.
Supermarkets are uniquely challenged because of the high proportion of “entry level” jobs, usually filled by teens and young adults who are green enough to hope (in this market, expect) to spend their working hours doing something meaningful. And as you point out, good for them! A huge advantage in the grocery business is the fact that we are feeding communities, nourishing kids, bringing families together, making people healthier without prescriptions. If a food retailer isn’t making that connection to every single store and corporate job, then that’s probably the foundational problem.
To make your point: we’ve surveyed thousands of supermarket employees since Covid, and the NUMBER ONE item correlated with being a GREAT place to work is… My job is personally rewarding. And BTW my general experience with Whole Foods, even since the acquisition, is that their employees seem pretty committed to their work. John Mackey may be just too far removed at this point to bleed that spirit like he once did. I bet he’d take a mulligan on these comments.
You have more faith in Mackey that I do. I think he'd double-down.
We had an email from MNB reader Patrick Smith in which he talked about how the economic model, as well as the entrepreneurial culture, have changed at many companies - he recalled that when he started in the food industry, in 1964, his store manager "made $42,000, much of it from bonuses."
This prompted another MNB reader to write:
Yikes, 1964 salary of $42,000 in 2022 dollars is $401,406.19.
Yikes is right.
Responding to yesterday's interview with Bruce Mehlman, a Washington lawyer and insider who next month will be a keynote speakers at the National Grocers Association (NGA) Executive Conference and Public Policy Summit, on the subject of "the shifting political landscape," one MNB reader wrote:
Kevin, that was well done. A very timely message and somewhat encouraging as well. Thank you.