Low pay. Irregular hours.
… We haven’t even gotten to the “dealing with customers” part and already these common descriptors of working in a grocery store aren’t sounding like the most appealing long-term career prospect.
That’s an opening for Whole Foods Market, which is looking to improve on the grocery industry’s typical high-turnover workforce through its career development initiatives, per Axios.
Its tool of choice: Culinary apprenticeships
In September, CEO Jason Buechel said Whole Foods’ previous year saw 11k+ employee promotions, with an expanding roster of paid apprenticeship programs playing a key role in their internal development model.
- Existing apprentice tracks: butchery, cheesemongering, bakery decoration.
- Next additions: pizza-making, produce specialist, and fishmongering.
The on-the-job training programs are intensive, sometimes yearslong paths for Whole Foods employees, but there’s a prize at the end: expert-level certification and expanded growth opportunities.
It’s not a hard bargain for employees; for instance, would you rather pay ~$4k for an eight-month meat-cutting certification, or get paid while you complete that education?
More loyal employees mean more happy customers?
Six years after Amazon’s $13.7B acquisition of Whole Foods that sought to disrupt the grocery world, you can feel the tech giant’s DNA all over the stores — from expanded, redesigned stores to palm-reading payment tech — but only to limited effect.
- For all the fanfare, the chain carries just a 1% share of the US grocery market.
Still, they can afford to play the long game, and they’re betting on long-lasting employee satisfaction — then projecting that team’s expertise to build on a reputation for higher-quality groceries — as a differentiator.
- To wit, Whole Foods proudly hails itself as the world’s top employer of Certified Cheese Professionals.
Good for them. Just don’t come for our crown as the top employer of cheese-eating professionals.