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Your Employees Desperately Want to Find Meaning in Their Work. Here’s a Simple Way to Help Them
Work is in disrepair–but there’s something you can do about it.
CREDIT: Getty Images

The world is suffering a disease. I’m not talking about famine or inequality. I’m not talking about global warming, American politics, or smartphone addiction. I’m talking about work.

The perils of the modern workplace are well documented. Spirit-sapping offices prioritize power dynamics and useless posturing. Work environments oriented around results, where workers are given control, are simply all too rare. Work is in serious disrepair.

Ineffectual management is ubiquitous and bold leadership is an exception. It’s one of the main reasons why we continue to see sky-high employee disengagement around the globe. According to Office Vibe, 60 percent of employees report that their work is taking a personal toll on their life. Physically and emotionally they suffer. Too many workers show up every day at a sorry excuse for a workplace. A whopping 57 percent of employees say they wouldn’t recommend their company as a good place to work. This begs the question–why on earth are they there?

For starters, many feel trapped. They haven’t been given the one thing they need to turbo boost motivation and increase job satisfaction. It all comes down to control. Like all aspects of our lives, we want freedom over how we get work done. We want to exercise judgment over what we work on, and when and where we work on it. Yet in so many workplaces, employees are stripped of these liberties. Restricting workers’ control over how they work is actually one of the surest ways to lower morale, deflate motivation, and stifle innovation.

The Best Places to Work

Edwin Jansen is a recovering manager. After 10 years at a big Toronto-based technology company, he knew it was time for a change. He had to find his calling. An unreasonable fellow, he set about doing every exercise that might help him find his why. In the process, he organized weekly meet-ups to aid others in search of their callings. Prior to facilitating his largest yet meet-up, Jansen explains he felt a tingle throughout his body. It turned out, Jansen found his purpose when he was helping others to connect to meaningful work.

In a series of subsequent events, Jansen soon found himself as head of marketing at Fitzii — a hiring platform that matches people with work they care about. Most notably, Fitzii is a company with no managers. Everyone manages themselves, and by virtue brings their best selves to work. In his quest to help connect people with meaningful work, Jansen has seen an entire generation adopt a new ethos:

“The individual needs to see that their success is going to be self-driven. ‘I am going to pick myself, define what I want to do, what differences I want to make, and how I will be valuable to people. I am my own brand – I am going to own it and make my way.'”

Cliche as it may sound, describing his transformation Jansen says it was as if a weight, that he didn’t even know was there, had been lifted from his shoulders. It should come as little surprise because when he took more control over his work, he became more humble and more hungry to become a better leader. He learned to manage himself better and now helps others do the same. Jansen wakes up each day and knows precisely what he needs to do, and simply does it.

Jansen is adamant that giving control is the real remedy to one of the most pressing problems in business today. Disengagement in the workplace need not be an epidemic. Letting people manage themselves is not just good business, it’s also humane.

Better Questions

We should be modelling our companies more like our cities. As cities grow they get smarter, better connected, and more efficient. More patents are filed, more innovation takes places, more creativity flourishes. But as our organizations scale they tend to get stupider. Decision making is increasingly centralized and slower, artificial power infests every nook and cranny, and people go home feeling diminished and diffused.

Reassuringly, folks at the world’s most pioneering companies are asking better questions about how we can organize in work. Like Jansen, they are experimenting and learning what environments best nourish people. They continually ask: do employees feel empowered to bring their best selves to work? Do they give more than they take? Are there strong social ties between colleagues? Is authority distributed in the right way?

The best places to work have many common characteristics. They prioritize activity-based working (ABW) — whatever mode of work you happen to be in, there is a space that caters to it. These places champion movement, encouraging happy collisions and interesting collaborations. They feature nature heavily, taking note from the science of biophilia which helps boost productivity and creativity. But most importantly, they act as destinations; places that people choose to go because they can both give what they want and get what they need.

Being Human

It’s time for a fresh approach and a renewed attitude towards work. I believe in the years to come, how we choose to spend our time and what we decide to work on is going to make us less mechanical, and more human.

Soon more than half of the American workforce will be independent.  Three-quarters of the world’s workforce is going to be made up of millennials. Success is going to be self-driven. You’ll need to understand how you add value in the world, adopt the right mindset and have the aptitude to carve out and continually craft your career. Along with continuing education, self-awareness is going to be instrumental in helping you perform at your best. You’ll need to keep your peripheral vision popping; to see the connections between industries, disciplines, people, places and beyond.

Self-management will continue to gain more favourability in the workplace. The practice places emphasis on you to direct your own time and cultivate rich rhythms and rituals of work. And self-efficacy is going to distinguish those that flourish versus flounder. In a world that is only changing faster and becoming more complex, being resilient is a need to have ability.

We can undo the dystopian future that lurks around the corner. We can design a future of work that we actually want. We can be sincere with ourselves and understand what each of us yearn for. More importantly, we can ask one another how we can help. Ultimately — each of us should decide how we want to organize in work. If we are what we repeatedly do, then how we direct our energy and spend our time is what really what matters.

One by one we can help put the world of work at ease.


Decline of Independent Retailers


SpartanNash CFO: Decline of independents “overblown”

Food distribution customers show resilience in changing market

Russell Redman 1 | Jun 21, 2018

While players have come and gone amid the disruption in the retail grocery sector, SpartanNash Co. Chief Financial Officer Mark Shamber sees independent supermarkets holding their own.

“I think the expected death of the independents has been way overblown,” Shamber said Thursday at the Jefferies Global Consumer Conference in Nantucket, Mass.

Through its core food distribution business, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based SpartanNash serves about 2,100 independent retailers, primarily in the Midwest and southeastern United States. The grocery wholesaler also supplies 142 corporate-owned supermarkets under multiple banners.

“When you look at our [independent grocery] customers from a geographical perspective, they’re not necessarily competing in many of those markets with regional players or international players. They may be competing with a deep discounter like Aldi, they may be competing with Walmart or — certainly in the Midwest — with Meijer, who we compete with on a regular basis,” Shamber (left) explained. “But in many of those areas, they’ve been competing with those folks for years, and there’s not enough demographic demand to allow for an entry of another competitor into the space.”

In the question-and-answer session with Jefferies food retail and distribution analyst Chris Mandeville, Shamber dismissed a recent report projecting that 25% of retailers will close in the next five years.

“There may be some additional competitive openings, but I don’t see a wholesale dynamic shift to where they’re going to be forced out of the market,” he said. “I don’t see anywhere near that level for our customer base in the markets they serve.”

Amid news headlines about regional retailer bankruptcies, independent grocers have demonstrated an ability to operate with financial flexibility in a changing business climate, according to Shamber.

“They operate within a very reasonable level of leverage because they’re positioning themselves to be able to survive downturns or higher interest-rate environments that we’re now seeing for the first time in a decade,” he said.

And though competitive pressures or generational ownership turnover may lead some independents to exit the market, others are looking to branch out.

“Within our customer base, we’ve got independents who are looking to grow and expand,” said Shamber, who joined SpartanNash last September. “And so, in many of those instances, they may acquire one of their competitors — who are also one of our customers in the market — and look to grow their base.”

For its fiscal 2018 first quarter ended April 21, SpartanNash reported total sales of $2.39 billion, a year-over-year gain of 1.3%. Food distribution sales rose 3.7% to nearly $1.13 billion. Revenue for corporate-owned stores fell 5% to $566.2 million, primarily due to the closure and sale of retail stores and to a 2.2% decrease in same-store sales (excluding fuel).

During the quarter, SpartanNash closed three retail stores and ended the period with 142 owned retail stores, down 153 stores a year earlier. Its primary banners include Family Fare Supermarkets, D&W Fresh Market, VG’s Grocery, Dan’s Supermarket and Family Fresh Market.

Since the merger with Nash Finch in 2013, SpartanNash has continued to rationalize its base of retail stores, which totaled 177 at the deal’s completion.

“We’re getting sort of towards the end of that stretch where we brought the store base in line with the [number of] stores that we want to operate,” Shamber said.

“There will be, on occasion, stores that are underperforming or — based on what we’re being asked for market rent increases — where we may choose to exit. But I would say that the pace will slow dramatically,” he added. “I think last year it probably was in the high single digits and maybe even got close to 10% of the store base closed. This year, we’ve had three stores [close] so far, and I would be surprised if it got above the mid-single digits.”

In a research note released Wednesday, Mandeville noted that SpartanNash’s retail store segment brings advantages to its food distribution business.

“Management continues to see strong value with owning and operating its own stores, as it provides proof-of-concept for initiatives also offered to distribution customers,” he said in his report.

Last week, for example, SpartanNash launched a private label line of heat-and-eat meal items called Good to Go!. The products are now available at its Family Fare, D&W, VG’s and Forest Hills Foods stores in Michigan, and plans call for the brand to roll out to the distributor’s more than 300 Michigan independent retailers in the coming months.

SpartanNash, too, has continued to expand its online grocery presence, including curbside pickup and home delivery via its Fast Lane service and Instacart.

Regarding Fast Lane, Shamber said, “We see some significant increases in the consumers who adopt that — whether they’re existing customers or new customers, their basket size increases. And surprisingly, we see a little bit of a scenario where it doesn’t necessarily eliminate their trips to the store. They may use Fast Lane for their primary shop of the week. But through card data, you may see that there are individuals who still come into the store once or twice for fill-ins.”


Will strict requirements for SNAP recipients become law?

Will strict requirements for SNAP recipients become law?



The bodega cat is a familiar figure to any New York City resident. Now, Instacart has made its own version of the feline friend for grocery delivery users.

Instacat (yes, Insta-cat) is a new browser extension for Google Chrome launching June 21 that lets desktop users see a cartoon cat jump around while they shop on Instacart. Instacart hopes the playful extension, created with agency MSCHF, gives Instacart an edge over other grocery and food delivery services.

“We decided to go with Instacat because people are familiar with the neighborhood cat that often hangs out at your neighborhood convenience store, and genuinely, people love cats, so it was a playful way of connecting with people,” said Guillaume McIntyre, Instacart’s head of digital marketing.

Instacart’s new Instacat

The company is buying ads featuring Instacat on social in hopes of getting more people to the service. For now, Instacat is planned to be a temporary experience.

“Right now, the plan is that we will push the campaign for about two or three weeks, and then we’ll take a read to see how things are going, how much of an impact we’re seeing,” McIntyre said.

The extension is reminiscent of Instacart’s early growth, which was driven by word of mouth rather than a big investment in advertising. Instacart gained a formal marketing team when McIntyre joined in April of last year, and now, the majority of Instacart’s marketing dollars are spent on Facebook, Google and programmatic.

Most of Instacart’s inbound traffic comes from Google, McIntyre said. The company’s consumer research attributes that to word of mouth as well as signage in its partner stores like Costco and Safeway.

Founded in 2012, Instacart competes with tech giants like Amazon, with Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods; meal-kit delivery startups like Blue Apron and HelloFresh; and traditional grocery stores. Instacart plans to make delivery available to 90 million households within the U.S. and Canada by the end of 2018. It’s funded by more than $1 billion in venture capital from Sequoia and Andreessen.

“We’re playing in an industry that is almost a trillion-dollar industry,” McIntyre said. “There hasn’t been much innovation around grocery shopping for quite some time. Everyone knows grocery shopping is bound to go online. What people don’t know is who is going to be the long-term leader.”

Walmart Best Supply Chain

Manufacturers think Walmart and Kroger manage supply chains best


Kroger Eyes Rapid Rollout for Ocado

Photo courtesy of OcadoThe Kroger Co.’s recently hatched partnership with British e-commerce company Ocado will provide flexibility for the retailer to adjust how it fulfills online shopping orders depending upon consumer demand, company officials said in a conference call discussing quarterly earnings.

Kroger earlier this year announced an exclusive U.S. partnership with Ocado, which will build large, automated warehouse facilities for the Cincinnati-based chain similar to the ones it operates in the U.K.

CEO Rodney McMullen said officials were already at work identifying the first three sites for such facilities in the U.S., although a timetable for their arrival remains undetermined. “We’re going to open those facilities as fast as we can,” McMullen said. “Obviously, there is a certain amount of time it takes to construct them and for Ocado to build it out. There’s plenty of pressure on Ocado and us and get it open as quick as we can.”

“What we’re really trying to do is make sure we have an overall infrastructure for digital that can support whether it’s 5% of share or 30% of share,” he said. “If it ends up being 30% of share in digitral grocery, there will be more [distribution] sheds and they’ll be used to take pressure off the stores, so the stores become more of a distribution point. What we’re trying to design is flexibility of a system that can scale based on how the customer changes.”

The recently announced merger with meal-kit company Home Chef  will also drive Kroger’s digital business, while the company will take over the prepared meal kits in stores, McMullen said. “Customers want convenience, simplicity and a personalized food experience. Our planned merger with Home Chef will accelerate our ability to deliver exactly this,” he said. “There is a lot we admire about Home Chef – their creativity and entrepreneurial energy, and their use of data to connect with customers, to name just a few.”

As previously reported, Kroger detailed a better-than-expected earnings performance in the first quarter, driven by cost savings including improvements in areas such as shrink, and rebounding same-store sales. CFO Mike Schlotman cautioned investors, however, to expect a choppy earnings performance for the fiscal year as initiatives and investments associated with its ongoing Restock initiative roll through. For example, the “space optimization” process changing merchandise layouts currently underway in multiple stores will be a near-term headwind but could have a positive effect on sales by late in the third quarter, Schlotman said.

Kroger Payment Policy

Jun 20, 2018

Western Growers has sounded the alarm over a letter from Kroger to fresh produce shippers announcing the company’s standardized payment terms of net 90 days.

The letter, which Western Growers linked to on its website, said the new payment terms, applied to “all aspects” of the chain’s business, will be effective Aug. 1.

  • Smooth the company’s cash conversion cycle;
  • More efficiently manage the chain’s working capital in order to re-invest in business; and
  • Harmonize terms with Kroger’s industry peers.

In addition, Kroger said it would offer an early payment option in return for a discount on the invoice.

Matt McInerney, senior executive vice president for Western Growers, said accepting these new payment terms directly conflict with growers’ protection rights under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Trust.

Agreeing to any extension beyond 30 days permanently waives your PACA trust protection, according to Western Growers.

“Anytime any buyer is asking for terms that exceed the maximum (a) grower/shipper/seller is allowed to extend under PACA regulations, to continue to be protected under PACA Trust, is always something we’re concerned about for sure,” McInerney said June 20.

Western Grower members reacted strongly to the letter, he said. “I can’t tell you how my phone and email have lit up over the last 48 hours with this request.”

Under PACA, to be eligible for trust benefits — which gives priority on claims from growers and sellers if a buyer goes bankrupt or simply refuses to pay — a Western Growers blog post said produce suppliers must use prompt payment, which means payment terms of “PACA Prompt” or “Net 10 days”.

Sellers can only extend those terms to a maximum of 30 days.

Anything beyond the 30 days will automatically invalidate suppliers’ protection and rights to the trust provision, Western Growers said.

McInerney said no customer is worth waiving PACA trust rights.

“This is about process, and it is your process that you have the very best business practices in place that would say you need to, at all times, be protected under the PACA trust, no matter who your customer is,” he said. It is not a good precedent for any buyer to have special consideration, he said.

Noting that the produce industry supply chain has benefited from the PACA trust provision since 1984, Western Growers said best business practices mandate that growers not waive trust rights, regardless of who may be requesting the waiver. In addition, if a supplier has outside growers, they would remain liable to them for any non-payment.

McInerney said Kroger’s listing of cash flow among its reasons for the net 90-day terms does not apply to fresh produce in the same way it might apply to other non-perishable products.

“One those unique attributes of produce is our inventory, once taken into possession by Kroger turns into relatively immediate cash,” he said. “So unlike the middle of the store, where other inventory might be sitting for a rather extended period of time waiting to get sold, (produce) turns into immediate cash,” he said. What’s more, he said PACA provisions were given to protect farmers – farmers that also have cash flow needs to invest in their crops.

Kroger’s notion of paying quicker for a discounted bill hits the wrong note, he said.

“We appreciate the challenge with cash flow and because our margins are so utterly slim and the thought of taking a discount for getting paid … seems counterintuitive and not necessary,” he said.

Western Growers advised suppliers to contact Kroger about grower concerns with the 90-day payment policy.

“We’re looking forward to, hopefully, a resolution that would recognize the need to have farmers of produce treated differently and consistent with a long-standing statute (PACA) that has worked so well for the supply chain over 88 years,” McInerney said.

High Produce Scores

I’m sure every retailer out there – except Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans – is feeling a little like Jan Brady right now with yet another naming them some version of of “America’s Favorite Grocer.”

Say it with me here:

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

the brady bunch marcia marcia marcia GIF

Wegmans, Wegmans, Wegmans!

Of course, Wegmans’ reputation in grocery is well-deserved, for a lot of reasons, and I’m not disparaging the fantastic job they do to lead and innovate, especially in fresh produce and prepared foods.

The rankings come from an upcoming release of Market Force Information’s 2018 Grocery Benchmark Survey, a survey of just under 13,000 consumers conducted in April, which asked respondents about their grocery habits, brand preference, customer experience, brand engagement and brand awareness.

Market Force uses a Composite Loyalty Index, a score based on how respondents rate satisfaction with the most recent shopping experience and likelihood they will refer the chain to others to create the media’s “favorite” thing to talk about this week in grocery.

Wegmans topped the list at 77%, followed by Publix at 76% and Trader Joe’s at 75%. Aldi came in fourth at 70%, and H-E-B scored a 69%. Walmart and Safeway were at the bottom of the list of 22 retailers ranked at 42% and 34%.

See a pattern here? Three of the top five are regional players, which doesn’t surprise me. Regional retailers like San Antonio-based H-E-B (my local grocer), Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets and Wegmans typically top these lists with their almost-rabid loyal shoppers.

Business Insider put together this article of the 22 retailers listed, if you’d to see them all.

But what we’re really here for is consumer opinions on their retailer’s fresh produce, right? So, I reached out to Market Force to get some produce-specific numbers.

market force grocery indexWhen asked why they choose to spend the majority of their grocery shopping dollars at a their primary grocer, respondents were given a list of traits, including location, sales and promotions, value, cleanliness, variety, courteous staff and high quality produce.

Thirty-one percent of respondents said their primary grocer excels at high quality fresh produce.

Market Force shared the percentage of shoppers who said their grocer excels at high quality produce, too, and there’s some great numbers here.

Not surprisingly, Wegmans scored high, with 65.9% of its shoppers saying they shop this brand for high quality produce.

Who else did shoppers choose because of fantastic produce? Here are the retailers that scored above 50%:

  • Reasor’s                                               90.0%
  • Earth Fare                                           72.2%
  • Hannaford Supermarkets             65.9%
  • Raley’s Family of Fine Foods        65.7%
  • Whole Foods Market                      65.6%
  • Sprouts Farmers Market               65.5%
  • Publix                                                    52.0%

Fresh produce also is a reason for shoppers to switch primary grocers, according to the survey. Of the 5% of respondents who said they plan to change in the next 90 days, “better quality fresh produce” was the No. 4 reason to switch.

Better sales and promotions was the top reason to change to a different grocer.

market force grocery index