Wegmans shows why employee satisfaction counts

APA study finds that companies can keep workers by keeping them happy

Supermarket chain Wegmans took the time last week to issue a clarification following local news reports: It would not be ending healthcare benefits for its part-time employees. A story in the Buffalo News had a headline, "Wegmans cuts health benefits for part-time workers," that had been misconstrued.

It's no secret why Wegmans — which operates 81 stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts — is included in Fortune magazine's list of the "100 Best Companies to Work For."

Just last month, the chain said it would spend $4.8 million give college tuition assistance to 1,880 employees. It's not the only company to stand up and invest in its employees. Club retailer Costco Wholesale turned heads in March when it expressed support for a bill in Congress that would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10, with president and CEO Craig Jelinek saying in a statement on behalf of the nonprofit group Business for a Minimum Wage that the company already paid a starting hourly wage of $11.50.

It turns out there also is science to back these kinds of policies up. According to a 2011 survey conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of the American Psychological Association, many workers in the United States reported feeling stressed out and undervalued, with 49% saying that low salary had a significant effect on their stress level at work and 36% experiencing work stress regularly. Much of this was attributed to the economic recession, which by then had already ended, but whose effects had continued to linger.

Not surprisingly, the study found a link between happy workers and productive workers. Those companies that created healthy workplaces had average turnover rates of 11%, compared with the national average of 38% estimated by the Department of Labor. Employees of these companies also reported significantly lower stress and higher satisfaction.

Policies that keep employees happy and turnover low aren't exactly hurting companies like Wegmans and Costco, either. Wegmans is renowned for the loyalty of its customers, while Costco just reported higher-than-expected sales in for the month of June.

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