Every year, Fortune magazine publishes a list of the best places to work in the U.S. It always includes companies like Google, which claimed this year's top spot and is known for high salaries and great perks.

But number two on this year's list is a little harder to guess.

It's Wegmans Food Markets, a family-owned, regional supermarket chain that's based in Rochester, New York.

To put this in perspective, Wegmans beat out companies like the Boston Consulting Group (number three on the list), a company known for great compensation and amazing benefits. In contrast, numerous Wegmans positions pay less than $11 per hour, and a department manager earns a yearly salary of under $60,000 (according to Glassdoor).

So, what makes working at Wegmans so great?

According to employees surveyed by Fortune, "there's a lot of love and caring" at this 100-year-old family-owned grocery chain. Workers claim it's the "small things that make a difference," like free hot chocolate in the winter for anyone working outside in the cold.

A quick look at the stats and employee comments reveal further insights that employers could learn from.

For example, here are a few things that employees praised about Wegmans:

Great managers. Ninety-three percent of employees surveyed said that "management is honest and ethical in its business practices." Ninety-six percent said they had "great bosses" and 97 percent claimed to benefit from "great communication."

Positive culture and working environment. Ninety-eight percent of workers called the workplace a "great atmosphere," while 95 percent said the facilities contribute to a good working environment.

Additionally, rewards programs provide praise, thanks, and recognition for "work anniversaries, developmental goals, and acts of service for helping others," and even allow employees to reward colleagues for "living company values"--with $5 coupons for prepared foods at the store.

A listening ear. And bias for action. Wegmans claims to invest in various programs that put employees' ideas into action, encouraging workers to contribute to decisions that improve their work and benefit the company.

Flexible scheduling. Employees praise the flexibility they have in finding the right schedule, and the company offers telecommuting for certain positions.

Necessary tools and resources. Ninety-six percent of those surveyed said they are given the resources and equipment to do their jobs.

"We believe this makes our work more fun and more meaningful, whether a cashier, chef, accountant, or baker," said the company in an official statement.

Employee development. The company invests more than $50 million annually in training and development, which includes providing management trainee and leadership development programs, department universities, workshops, and certification programs.

Wegmans also offered $5 million in tuition assistance in 2016. (Employees aren't obligated to return to Wegmans after graduation, although many do.)

Perks. Wegmans offers health insurance for qualifying part-time employees, 100 percent company-paid health coverage for dependents (for full-time employees), and fairly generous paid-time-off benefits.

Social initiatives. Ninety-five percent said they feel good about the ways the company contributes to the community. (Wegmans donated more than $6.5 million to philanthropic causes in 2016.)

Why Wegmans' Success Matters

We all know that an attractive salary will get people through the door.

But more and more employees are looking for more. They realize that they're often spending more time at work than doing anything else. For many, that means it's important to find a workplace they actually enjoy going to. An environment where they feel appreciated for their work, and where they benefit from transparent communication. Where they have a certain degree of flexibility and autonomy, along with opportunities to grow.

Not only is all of this possible, it's necessary--if you're serious about keeping good people around.

And Wegmans has more than 40,000 happy employees to prove it.

Published on: Mar 13, 2017
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