How businesses achieve a love connection with their company needs scrutiny and communication about how it works at prominent corporations like Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., Salesforce.com, and Southwest Airlines. Their common interest in articulated values, employee empowerment, and extensive learning options also shows how the Human Resource function has changed. Best Practices Institute’s Most Loved Workplace® investigation found “A most loved workplace drives productivity, from the break room to the bottom line. From the boardroom to the loading dock, when employees believe they are valued, the response is strong. They work harder to achieve personal and company goals, work more effectively within teams, and strive for success. All these are driven by respect.” The following three companies deploy best practices where employees are valued and respected, and the outcomes are impressive.


Gates, NY is home to Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. Fortune, Bloomberg, and others regularly list it as a leader among the best-loved and most-admired companies. Privately-held and managed by CEO Danny Wegman and President Coleen Wegman, the company has been in family hands for 100 years. As of November 2016, Wegmans reports revenues of $7.9-billion through 92 locations with 47,000-plus employees. Distinguished by its customer loyalty and customer service, you can infer that its employees are happily employed. Wegmans’ Media Relations Director Jo Natale told Fortune, “We empower our people to make decisions that improve their work and benefit our customers and our company.” Wegmans has consistently won awards and recognition from the likes of Fortune, Working Mother, American Society of Training and Development, Supermarket News, Dale Carnegie Training, Ethisphere Institute, National Down Syndrome Congress, National Council on Aging, and Forbes. All the awards argue for the employee-centric organization Wegmans puts forward in its public relations, recruiting, and employee development.


Wegmans’ published values determine their culture and organizational behavior. The values assume an effective connection between employee and customer. In their words (with added emphasis in bold italics):

  • We care about the well-being and success of every person.
  • High standards are a way of life. We pursue excellence in everything we do.
  • We make a difference in every community we serve.
  • We respect and listen to our people.
  • We empower our people to make decisions that improve their work and benefit our customers and our company.

The people emphasis is clear, repeated, and emphatic. The very rhetoric makes the people priority a cause and an effect connection.


Wegmans reiterates this focus in their statement of corporate beliefs (emphasis added):

  • At Wegmans, we believe that good people, working toward a common goal, can accomplish anything they set out to do.
  • In this spirit, we set our goal to be the very best at serving the needs of our customers. Every action we take should be made with this in mind.
  • We also believe that we can achieve our goal only if we fulfill the needs of our own people.

And, you might notice all the wording avoids reference to “employer” and “employee.”


Wegmans chose to align benefits with goals and beliefs. For example, when it comes to medical benefits, Wegmans says, “When our people are healthy, Wegmans can work towards a common goal and can fully live our values.” They help employees stay healthy with proactive wellness and fitness programs. In addition to the comprehensive health plans offered to all employees, they sponsor programs for childcare, eldercare, financial planning, adoption assistance, and dependent care savings accounts.


Wegmans President Colleen Wegman, 2012 Northeast Executive of the Year, says, “Learning and growing at Wegmans means that you’re given the opportunity to improve every day. No matter what part of the company you work in, it is important to us that everyone is engaged in our business, supports what we do, and continues to learn and grow.” Wegmans starts new hires at payrates equal to or higher than the competitors. And, they enable learning and career growth including a competitive scholarship program providing $4.5-million in tuition assistance every year. Since 1984, they have awarded $105-million in tuition scholarships to the benefit of 33,000 employees. Again, the commitment is always stage front with Wegmans in all their literature, employee communications, and compensation structure, including semi-annual raises.

  • Promote from within through internal job postings.
  • Encourage employee referrals. (1 out of 5 employees are related.)
  • Provide extensive in-house training and development courses.
  • Management Trainee Program
  • Store Operations Intern Program
  • Culinary Management Trainee Program
  • Culinary Extern/Intern Program
  • Dedicate mentors develop others by sharing knowledge, skills, and experiences.

Over half of the store managers started work at Wegmans in high school or college, completing their education thanks to the scholarship program.


Employees consistently rate Wegmans highly in many areas:

  • 97% believe Wegmans offers great challenges.
  • 97% are proud to work there.
  • 96% say it has a great atmosphere with great bosses.
  • 95% appreciate what the company does for the community.
  • 94% say it’s a great place to work.
  • 93% believe Wegmans has great ethical values and practices.

But, it takes marked leadership to get the business into this enviable position. Best Practices Institute’s study on Creating a Most Loved Workplace® found “the most basic, most desired commodity a company can offer its employees [is]: respect.”

  • Empowerment: Senior managers visit each store three times a year, the SVP of Operations hosts a Q&A blog, and local managers run Huddles, Open Doors Days, and Focus Groups. Each program is a chance to listen to the people closest to the work and to the customer to facilitate continuous improvement.
  • Employee Development: Wegmans invests $50+ million each year to provide training and development opportunities in the form of department universities, online courses, workshops, on-the-job experiences, cooking technique certifications, and more. They offer internships, management trainee opportunities, and leadership development.
  • Talent: Wegmans recruits talent to its corporate values. Applicants must demonstrate passion for food, customers, and working with others. Hiring interview questions seek people who are caring, have high standards, make a difference, and value respect and empowerment. They also pursue diversity because it’s the right thing to do and because different perspectives give them a competitive advantage.


Given the consistency and continuity of its reputation, Wegmans has successfully aligned its talent management with its goals. It has made employee goals synonymous with customer goals. According to The World’s 30 Most Innovative Corporate Human Resources Departments, “What sets Wegmans apart in the HR sector is the emphasis it puts on taking care of both its employees and customers.”


Salesforce is the nation’s #1 Customer Resource Management solution, market valued at $49.01 billion (01/03/2017). Forbes listed it among Most Innovative Companies 8 years in a row; Fortune placed it among Best Companies to Work For 8 years in a row; LinkedIn named it among Where the World Wants to Work Now; and, Glassdoor listed it among their Best Places to Work.


Salesforce is a highly-valued company on the stock market with an irregular financial performance, but despite stock market volatility, employee turnover remains very low.

  • Comradery: Salesforce is more than a people business. They look for people who enjoy working together. Chief Operating Officer, George Hu is moved by the number of people who have continued with the company for 10 years or more, “to see how we much we’ve all grown up in the company and evolved.”
  • Transparency: People feel they can work hard at Salesforce, get something done along with smart and accountable peers, and have a good time doing it. EVP Jim Cavalieri feels, “Everyone that has been here for any length of time has been part of contributing to the success of the company, and we’re all on the same train.”
  • Compassion: Salesforce employees give back to communities through its unique 1:1:1 Model. With assertive input from employees, Salesforce donates 1% of employee hours, 1% of its equity, and 1% of its product to causes outside their walls.


  • V2MOM: Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff brought the V2MOM tool with him from Oracle. He collaborated with Salesforce leaders to write a statement of Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, and Measures. At Salesforce, every person, process, and performance must align with the corporate V2MOM. More importantly, each employee must prepare an individual V2MOM to drive and link objectives and accountabilities.
  • Chatter Polls: Short targeted surveys provide real-time feedback to leadership for its fast response. Open and transparent, such tools invite employees to speak out on community forums, to “chatter” on what they find is working and not working.
  • Talent Development: #dreamjob navigator is their internal portal full of resources, including links to training courses and programs, job shadowing, and mentorship programs. Meant to afford opportunities to grow and develop, access and programs foster peer cooperation and interdependence. According to Salesforce’s Consortium for Service Innovation™, “About 13,000+ employees utilize #dreamjob central daily, using about 900 articles, of which 65% were published just-in-time.”
  • Equality: Benioff avows, “Our higher purpose is to drive the Age of Equality.” Putting structure and money where their mouth is, Salesforce has operating communities labeled: Abilityforce (Disabled), Boldforce (Black), Earthforce (Environmental), Latinoforce, Outforce (LGBT), Pacificforce, SouthAsiaforce, Vetforce, and Women’s Network.

Interestingly, these diverse interests integrate vision, values, and solutions among the 19,000+ employees as well as the employees across the globe, many working in native cultures where such issues represent new exposure.


Their own employee survey supports the management aim of creating a sense of “ohana.” A loose translation of the Hawaiian is “family,” but the word can refer to any group or community that emphasizes no one is left behind, that members are bound and obliged to each other.

  • 96% feel good about contributions to the community.
  • 94% are proud of the willingness to get things done.
  • 92% agree that people get along with each other.
  • 96% are proud to work at Salesforce.


Salesforce seeks to create a sustaining culture of ohana inside and outside its operating universe. The community creates a spirit of competitive camaraderie that drives training and development, not so much from self-interest as from family potential.

Read the third part, Best Practices at Southwest Airlines — Building Employer Brand.

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