Rates highly among women, new grads and Millennials
Since August, Publix has received six separate honors from various publications and organizations, ranging from Forbes and Fortune to Newsweek and People magazines.
The Lakeland, Florida-based grocery giant is being hailed for everything from its customer service and philanthropy to offering a work environment that appeals to women, new graduates and Millennials.
According to Publix CEO Todd Jones, the accolades are a reflection of the company’s culture.
“What we believe is that, because of the touch side of the business, the emotional side of the business, of creating a culture of an organization, there needs to be a lot of art,” he said. “It has to be a lot of art. A lot of feel for that. It’s not all science behind it.
“I also think that you can build science or processes in the minds carrying forward culture. You have to establish it first. What is a culture? A culture for us is treating our customers like royalty…that’s part of our customer-facing culture.”
According to Jones, associates are treated as the most important asset, internally and externally.
“I’m going to need you here,” he said of the company’s approach to an employee. “I want to rely on you here, so I want to make sure there’s an emotional connection that we have here. But I also need to make sure that I can sustain that and Publix can sustain that. So we created a mentoring program.
“What is a mentoring program? Well, we want to make sure that every leader within Publix has chosen a mentee, maybe two people, that they can work with throughout the year. We built a formal mentoring program, and we give them a toolbox. But then we let them actually make that toolbox work for them.”
Recognition also is important in fostering the culture.
“The longevity, whether it’s a five-year, 10-year, 15-year recognition luncheon across the entire company,” said Jones, adding Publix may recognize 20,000 to 30,000 people annually for their years of service. “We take them to lunch, recognize them – or dinner, bring their family members in for a dinner.
“I think what you have to do is kind of define what that culture is, put a lot of art behind it. But don’t be afraid to throw the science side of the processes in, so that it’s going to be something that’s continuing through the organization on a regular basis.”
Consistency also is central to Publix’s culture.
“We’re celebrating 90 years this year, and we haven’t had to redefine who we are,” said Maria Brous, director of communications. “It’s been very simple for us from the beginning to say we’re focused on the customer. We’re focused on the dignity and respect and value of our associates. We haven’t had to teach our culture over and over and over to redevelop that – it’s been very consistent.
“It’s a consistent message each time. It’s building the opportunity for advancement or promotion within company. There’s lots of opportunities. When you hear about where people start and where they go, that’s the culture…we create opportunity, and that’s part of our culture.”
There’s also valuing the difference.
“We recognize that we have multi-generations that are working for us,” Brous said. “We start from age 14, and the eldest associate to date is 96. That is huge. How we communicate and how we keep them engaged, and how we share information, and how we value and get experiences that both Todd and Kevin always talk about.
“We want to keep close to the work – keeping close to the people who do the work, so that you can actually get that feedback, improve processes, continue to put customers and associates first. That is the culture. It’s perpetuating that culture. It’s incumbent on each of us to do that.”
Countless managers got their start with Publix as teenagers.
“We hope we never let our teams – at any level – not be able to lead at the level they need to lead,” Jones said. “Down low or up high or sideways, they’ve got to be able to lead in all those fashions. And if they can’t, we’ve got to get them back engaged into the game. Come back out and work. It’s been a while since I’ve been a store manager, but I come out and engage in stores on a regular basis.”
All management and corporate personnel spend time in the stores each year.
“We’re not asking them to understand how to mix dough,” Jones said. “But they ought to understand the process and the difficulties and challenges associated with mixing dough. Because you come in, you go back to bakery and the bread wall’s empty in the morning.
“There’s a lot of science behind it. It could be 50 degrees outside, and the temperature just changed five degrees in your store, and the dough didn’t work right.
“You have to be able to adjust and fly on that and understand that and be able to coach and be there…if you can’t, I think that you’ll end up out-running the coverage, and then they’ll end up somewhere else.”
Jones doesn’t hide his pride in Publix associates and their accomplishments.
“I just can’t tell you how proud I am of all these folks, what they’ve done – not only on a regular basis, but they’ve stepped up to another whole level,” he said.
And they inspire him in his role.
“The more responsibility you have, the more you have to listen to them. And I try my best to lead that way.
“We try to teach our team to go to the back of the house and talk to the associates long before you come out and talk to people. Bring them out and ask them why this worked this way or didn’t. You can manage front to back or back to front. Back to front is much better.”
The honors rolled in for Publix at a steady clip throughout the summer and fall – including twice in a span of five days in both August and September. The following is a brief look at each of the awards.
Customer service – Oct. 15
Publix was named to Newsweek’s 2021 America’s Best Customer Service list, ranking No. 1 in the supermarket category.
“We are honored to be recognized with this award by our customers,” said Maria Brous, director of communications. “Publix associates work hard to treat our customers like royalty, and we’re grateful to be acknowledged for customer service excellence in our industry.”
More than 25,000 U.S. customers who have purchased, used or researched a product or service in the past three years were surveyed. The final assessment and rankings were based on how likely customers would be to recommend the companies to friends and family and their evaluation of the companies in the areas of quality of communications, professional competence, range of services, customer focus and accessibility.
The top three to five companies were ranked in each of 160 categories.
Workplaces for women – Sept. 21
Fortune recognized Publix as one of the Best Workplaces for Women, ranking No. 29 of 100 companies on the 2020 list.
“Our inclusion on the 2020 list reflects Publix’s commitment to create a diverse culture that makes us stronger as a company,” Brous said.
In a survey conducted by Great Place to Work, women were asked about experiences in their workplace based on their ability to reach their full potential and how their gender shapes those experiences. Great Place to Work then analyzed trends based on an organization’s size, industry and region.
Employers for new grads – Sept. 17
Forbes has ranked Publix No. 21 on its list of America’s Best Employers for New Grads 2020, up from ranking No. 45 last year.
“Attracting and retaining top talent is a priority for us,” Brous said. “We are dedicated to developing and growing our associates at all stages of their careers and are honored to be considered a top employer by new graduates.”
More than 20,000 U.S. young professionals – employees who have under 10 years of work experience – were asked in an independent survey to assess their employers according to atmosphere and development, image, working conditions, salary and wage, workplace and diversity.
They also were asked whether they would recommend their employer to others and then evaluated other employers in their respective industries that stood out either positively or negatively. Participants work for companies that employ at least 1,000 people within the U.S.
Company that cares – Sept. 3
Publix has been recognized as the No. 1 Company that Cares by People magazine.
The fourth annual list was featured in the Sept. 14 issue of the magazine. It highlighted the top-ranked U.S. companies that have succeeded in business while demonstrating outstanding respect, care and concern for their employees, their communities and the environment, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When the first Publix store opened 90 years ago, our founder, George Jenkins, instilled a set of values that still guide us today,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones. “Our philosophy has always been to respect the dignity of our associates, treat our customers like royalty and give back to our communities.”
In compiling the list, People magazine partnered with Great Place to Work to analyze surveys of more than 4.8 million employees on their experiences of how their workplaces have made a difference in their lives and their communities.
Rankings also reflect Great Place to Work’s assessment of the generosity of each organization’s benefits and their philanthropic and community support, with particular focus on activities in response to the coronavirus.
Global corporate leader – Aug. 12
Lakeland, Florida-based Publix has been named United Way’s No. 1 Global Corporate Leader. For more than 40 years, Publix associates have shown their commitment to improving the early education, financial stability and health and wellness of individuals in the communities Publix serves through donations to the annual United Way campaign.
In 2019, associates pledged $38.6 million to United Way with Publix Super Markets Charities committing another $25 million, bringing the total to $63.6 million. The donation supports 109 local United Ways in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
“We’re honored to be recognized as United Way’s No. 1 Global Corporate Leader,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones. “Our founder, George Jenkins, believed in the benefit of giving to United Way because the funds raised support the critical needs of the community through local agencies. I’m proud of our associates for continuing the legacy of giving Mr. George exemplified.”
“Publix and its associates share United Way’s belief in building strong communities, which is why it’s no surprise to see Publix become our largest corporate donor,” said Brian Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide. “On behalf of everyone at United Way, I want to thank Publix for being incredible community citizens.”
Workplaces for Millennials – Aug. 7
Lakeland, Florida-based Publix has been recognized by Fortune as a great place to work. It ranked No. 69 in Best Workplaces for Millennials for the fifth consecutive year.
Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1997, make up about 40 percent of Publix’s workforce.
The companies that ranked for Fortune’s list were those with favorable ratings on anonymous surveys conducted by Great Place to Work. Millennials were surveyed on their experiences of trust and innovation at their companies, their ability to reach their full potential at their place of work, company values, effectiveness of their leaders and other factors.
To read what Publix associates have to say about working at Publix, visit its profile on greatplacetowork.com/certified-companies.