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Providing Positive Environment Key To Fred Meyer’s Development

Fred Meyer
Sara Parker

Sara Parker, director of human resources for Fred Meyer, was no stranger to the food business when she joined the company in 2002 from a general merchandise retailer in Portland, Oregon.

“My dad worked for a food processing company when I was growing up, and he was a director of quality control, so I have always been very exposed to the food industry – especially from the food safety side,” she said.

After graduating from Linfield University, Parker went through an executive training program that prepared college grads for the merchandising side of the business. Parker was quick to add that Fred Meyer has been “part of my entire life,” recalling how her father would take her there to buy lumber to build a deck.

Today, she and her team lead people processes for more than 36,000 associates.

“I have a team of HR professionals here at our division office and a talented field team in our nine districts,” she explained. “They’re responsible for partnering with the district managers to help ensure talent development and executing on our total rewards strategy and associate relations initiatives in their particular districts. We want to create opportunities to empower our associates and enable them to be their best.”

Parker works closely with Dave Richard, VP of operations. 

“As you can imagine, most of the talent falls under the operations umbrella because that is all of our store teams,” she said. “It’s a partnership and a commitment to providing ongoing  leadership development opportunities to strengthen current abilities, provide diverse growth experiences and develop our leaders for future roles. 

“Additionally, we are very focused on staffing from the very first connection with potential candidates. We have consistent onboarding processes so we create a welcoming new hire experience and provide role relevant training so our associates have a terrific start with us. As part of our focus on the associate experience, we also measure retention. Kroger provides us key  data and insights to identify opportunities to strengthen retention. It’s a priority to all of us.”

Parker noted that the candidate pools for food retail were smaller last year than the year before.

“I think it puts additional focus on leading through positive influence to make sure we’re providing a good environment where people want to continue working,” she said. “We have 10 associates who have 50 or more years of service. They are incredible examples of ‘Feeding the Human Spirit’ and taking care of our customers and fellow associates.

“To create a friendly and caring culture for all associates, two areas we actively focus on are  supporting our shared company values and associate well-being. As an example, our associates have had the opportunity to take diversity, equity and inclusion training. This is important to us because as part of our leadership model, we emphasize deeply listening to our teams and working inclusively across all levels and departments.    

“I am also really proud of how we continue to expand our focus on investing in associate well-being by meeting associates where they are personally and professionally, this includes care through an employee assistance program, feeding their future with educational opportunities and an internal support fund that uplifts associates during hardships.

Surveying the supermarket landscape, Parker thinks many of the changes have been customer driven. 

“Food brings people together and is very celebratory,” she said. “We look for new ways to provide experiences that inspire our customers’ passion for cooking and love for food. Our general merchandise business enables the DIY spirit of creating and personalizing indoor and outdoor living spaces that bring our customers joy.”

She also pointed out how Fred Meyer has been a “pioneer in having our own nutrition centers, and having products that people respect and trust…food as medicine.”

Parker also cited the broad selection of relevant, trusted local products that are organic or natural. “We understand our customers want healthy, accessible options and we can provide that value under one roof,” she said.

Parker also described another “big piece” of the company’s successful formula.

“We have very capable store leaders, leading all of our 132 locations,” she said. “They’re making good, informed decisions based on years of experience, data and listening to associate and customer feedback.”

Parker is a world traveler, having visited about 20 different countries and living in Costa Rica. “One of my favorite quotes – and I have it framed – is, ‘I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.’ I love that perspective.”

Fred Meyer has ranked among the top places to work in Oregon. 

“We’ve been on that list a couple times,” she said. “It’s something [job applicants] look at when considering a career. We also measure associate engagement on an annual basis and look for meaningful opportunities based on this feedback to improve every day. I am excited to celebrate our 100-year anniversary with our associates and customers.”

In closing, Parker reiterated that she is “really proud of our store leaders.”

“They lead in a way that inspires a friendly and caring associate and customer experience. They motivate, inspire and put our customers first,” she said. “I really think that is where we invest our energy, making sure that team feels very supported. They’re critical to our success.”

For more information, visit fredmeyer.com.

To read the full anniversary section on Fred Meyer by The Shelby Report, click here.

1 Comment

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  • Congrats Sara! Great article about an even greater person! Having a chance to see you have done so well with an excellent local company should inspire all. I shop at Fred Meyers all the time and know many employees personally. The way Fred Meyers takes care of their employees is truly amazing! It makes sense Sara Parker has something to do with that. I will continue to do all of my shopping at Fred Meyers in the future and know I’m supporting a company who cares about it’s employees not just their customers. The last couple of years have been challenging for everyone who worked daily through it. Fred Meyers employees not only continued to work hard during those times but did with smiles everytime, everyday. That’s why I’m proud to shop there and why I’m proud of you Sara Parker! Thank you to everyone working at Fred Meyers for getting it right with excellent customer service during a pandemic when most others did not. I’m also glad that Sara’s HR department got it right by recognizing they needed to reward employees for those times and did. I’m getting it right by supporting that beautiful business model by being a proud and inspired customer for life.

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