Right Thing = Good Business w/ Michelle Long, Shop LC

RecognizeGood: How does Shop LC justify the investment that you make into your people? Because that takes not only money, but it takes a ton of time to manage. What’s the benefit to the business of going beyond normal expectations to manage all of that?

Michelle Long: I think the benefit to the business is that our employees are here because they want to be and they don’t have to be. We just try to provide opportunities for financial, mental, social benefits. Our Wellness Team drives a lot of that.

We look at five pillars – physical wellness, mental wellness, social wellness, environmental wellness and financial wellness. You never think you’re doing enough. When we actually started talking about it, we realized we have a good list, let’s just do it.

Financially speaking and resource wise, we just try to spread the love. We are a very cost-conscious organization overall and so in order to do some of those things, we have to look hard at how we spend our money, negotiate, and make choices on what we do for our people.

RecognizeGood: You seem to throw the full amount of necessary resources at each one of these, and make sure that people hear it and internalize it. Even a monthly performance evaluation is a lot. That’s 12 a year. What’s the benefit of all those check ins?

Michelle: We’re floating between 550 and 600 team members. Some full-time, some part-time because we’re growing so quickly and expanding our business model.

We have a great tool. We use SuccessFactors which is, I think a part of SAP. That really sets the tone for our managers to engage with their people on a weekly and monthly basis. I don’t know if we would be as successful without these checkpoints. But it’s a process tool, it’s not something that can be implemented by flipping a switch. It was certainly something that we had to learn and as leaders adopted it, we grew into it. Then you start to see the benefits and we really enjoy what we see and the associates do, too.

RecognizeGood: That’s fantastic. Having some type of structured backbone seems to make a big difference. There’s a difference between “We can feel it, we know it when we see it” versus when “We try to plan for it, we’re proactive about it.” Shop LC is setting the bar very, very high on that front, I think.

Michelle: One of the things, when I started with Shop LC that I wasn’t really sure about, but I have really grown to love, is the philosophy – BWWB, which stands for Brag, Wonder, Worry, Bet. It gives every person a platform to talk about something great they did and something they’re worried about. Instead of bringing a complaint, you’re bringing your worry and we ask that they come with a solution if they can.

A wonder is what they are curious about and you get the full gamut on that one. Where do you think you’re going to go, or what are you going to do? Or how’s the company going to perform? You get a lot out of those types of questions.

RecognizeGood: No doubt the feedback loop seems to be another one of those things that’s very intentional and proactive over there. Y’all also seem to also go above and beyond when it comes to consumer education, and I think that’s a that’s a good tie into ethics. For a transactional business model, you all seem to go way beyond the transaction and make sure your customers are as well informed as possible. What’s the philosophy behind that?

Michelle: Our purpose is delivering joy, and that’s really at the forefront of what we do. Whether that’s for our employees, our customers, our community, or our shareholders, delivering joy is our purpose. We have it posted on a lot of things, and that’s one quick phrase that everyone can repeat and then tie to the mission of our one-for-one program, which we’ve recently rebranded to Your Purchase Feeds.

Your Purchase Feeds provides a meal for every item we sell, but when we looked at the guts of it, it was doing so much more. We’re feeding over 50,000 kids a day and those same kids every day come to school not just to get the meal, but then they get their education. And if we can keep them in school, we see that progress year after year after year that purchase is feeding more than just a belly. It’s feeding their minds, their hearts, and their futures. That’s really the beauty of this program.  So much so, that we just upgraded our mission statement to be able to provide 1,000,000 meals every day by 2031.

That’s one million kids, every day – that’s our goal. We talk about it every day, planning for how we’re going to do that. That’s a huge difference, to go from 50,000 to 1,000,000, but people are embracing it. We love it. We love the goal. It’s awesome.

RecognizeGood: Any other internal programs for employee well-being you’re particularly fond of?

Michelle: We have a great group of folks who help with the Wellness Committee, and we invite anyone to be a part of it. We have a whole team just for environmental issues called 3G – the Goals for Going Green. That committee is completely focused on environmental efforts, so much so that we just got recognized as an Austin Green Business Platinum company and that was a huge deal for us. Again, we went at it not understanding it and we checked way more boxes than we ever thought we could.

We still have a ways to go. We have a lot of initiatives in that aspect, but along the same line we needed something to cover financials so one of the gals recommended the Dave Ramsey program. We’ve got Smart Dollar onsite for any staff member who wants to get more savvy in their debt reduction, their financial planning, and that’s free to anybody. We’re on our second year and we’ve recognized over $100,000 in debt payoff with those employees who are participaing.

There’s also just really a true sense of pride with the diversity chats that we did, which really allowed people to learn about each other. We are looking for ways to expand on that program more regularly, but cross culture communication is huge. Because we are a global company, we see such an amazing opportunity to share with one another.  I think we take these pillars and look at what we can do to educate and help people help themselves, and helping people help others just to be better. We don’t push the agenda. It’s really up to you, how much you want to give, and how much you want to get out of it.

RecognizeGood: Trying to tie in global culture differences is tough, but you’ve got the backbone. You’ve got the processes that that seem to guide it.

Michelle: We do a great job taking feedback from people. One of the things that we started last year when we weren’t getting enough information from our frontline, from the executive to the manager, to the supervisor, to the lead on the floor, to the floor. So we had some supervisors handpick just a few people on the floor. We gave them special credentials. You get a yellow lanyard. You get to use your cell phone on the floor, and we told them, you are now our communication champion.

What a difference something so small has made. The folks who participate in that truly have stepped up to champion two-way communication, not just the downhill, but they bring it up. And that’s the beauty of it, because they have now created a conduit in a safe space to say, “Hey I need this,” or “Hey, this isn’t working.” They don’t feel like they’re going to their manager, who may or may not have time to assess what that request is, or even the opportunity to take it in one direction or another. Maybe they’re too new or just don’t know the right person to navigate it.

We help push those suggestions and we recognize people for it. They get ‘extra mile’ awards and they get financial rewards. Not many will turn down help financially and I think that’s a great thing we can do to recognize them and put a little extra in their paycheck.

For us, we just do it because we love doing it. We know that there are so many people out there who need help and we know we can’t help everyone, but we hope we’re making good choices and the team appreciates it. We’re just going to keep doing it.

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RecognizeGood: THE Foundation (commonly known as simply RecognizeGood) is a local nonprofit that provides a means for individuals, businesses and other nonprofits to illuminate selfless volunteers, charitable acts and community service throughout the greater Austin area. There are several active RecognizeGood programs that work toward this mission from different angles, but the common theme is simple – the illumination of GOOD in our community.