All retailers know they would not exist – and certainly not prosper – without the people who work and shop in their stores.
Hy-Vee, The Shelby Report of the Midwest’s Retailer of the Year, has many avenues to care about its employees and customers – from competitive wages and benefits to charitable contributions and a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.
In fact, Hy-Vee was named a 2022 Great Place to Work-Certified Company. The West Des Moines, Iowa-based retailer has accomplished this through an assortment of programs. While the numbers for 2022 are not yet available, the company quantified its worker benefits in a year-in-review publication at the end of 2021. They included:
- $84.3 million in shared bonuses with full- and part-time employees
- $34.7 million in matching contributions through the Hy-Vee and Affiliates 401(K) plan
- $34.3 million in savings for employees and their families through Hy-Vee’s 10-percent employee grocery discount
- More than $2 million in holiday pay to retail employees
- $318,141 awarded to recipients of Hy-Vee’s Tuition Assistance Program.
Last year, the company also introduced free access to WeeCare and care.com for employees. The care.com website allows them to connect with services for their homes, families and pets, while the WeeCare concierge service connects employees with child care that best fits their families’ needs.
Once a month and during special times like holidays, Hy-Vee offers a three-day weekend for its employees to receive a 20-percent discount compared to the everyday 10 percent.
On the national level, Hy-Vee has been recognized by Forbes as Best-in-State Employers in Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota. In a 2021 USA Today reader’s choice poll, Hy-Vee was voted the best grocery and convenience store in the Midwest and the No. 2 best grocery and convenience store in the country.
Newsweek featured the company as a leading Online Retailer for its rapid e-commerce growth, sales and website traffic. Finally, Hy-Vee received recognition from its home state, earning Iowa’s Healthiest State Large Workplace award for its efforts to improve the physical, social and emotional well-being of its employees.
“We’ve done a lot of work the past couple of years to become the best place to work in America,” said Georgia Van Gundy, EVP, chief administrative officer and chief customer officer. “We ensure we stand apart from other employers so that we can attract the talent that we need in order to grow and do business [and] be the best place to work in America.”
Van Gundy said Hy-Vee collects feedback and data via roundtables and surveys when deciding what policies are best suited for its workforce. Other offerings include: more training and education options; easier access to certifications by revamping Hy-Vee University, the company’s leadership training program; and added orthodontia and chiropractic care to insurance coverage. In addition, the company has made insurance benefits available to part-time workers.
Jen Kopriva, district store director, said Hy-Vee’s autonomy has been one of the most beneficial aspects during her 30 years with the company.
“I think a lot of customers forget. They don’t consider us local because Hy-Vee is big,” she said. “But we do a good job, especially locally. We are an employee-owned company.
“We make sure that our customers understand that one of the benefits…within our stores is our employees. They share in the profits of our store. It makes us special and different from competitors.”
Kopriva has stayed with Hy-Vee for so long because she fell “in love with the business on the customer side and the employee side.”
“[Working for] Hy-Vee is very fortunate because they give us so much opportunity,” she said. “Customers make it fun. It’s challenging. There’s always things that are changing. Especially when COVID started. But there’s a reason I’ve been here so long, along with so many others.”
Hy-Vee continues to support minority employees. In 2021, the West Des Moines Chamber honored Hy-Vee for its DEI efforts. That same year, the 24/7 Black Leadership Advancement Consortium named Hy-Vee its Equity Champion for serving as an inclusion leader in the pursuit of economic equity within the Cedar Falls and Waterloo, Iowa,
Hy-Vee and Chairman and Executive Director Randy Edeker were both featured earlier this year in The Shelby Report of the Midwest’s DEI special section.
“Randy has championed investment in their employee population to better reflect their communities, including a requirement for all stores to submit quarterly action plans,” according to the article. “In the past year, Hy-Vee has increased the number of non-white retail management-level employees by 11 percent.”
The article also highlighted Hy-Vee’s donation of $1 million to organizations that support racial unity and equality and how the company is working toward completing a commitment of one million volunteer hours.
“The Hy-Vee leadership team has significantly bolstered efforts to broaden and increase its diverse supplier partners. Hy-Vee sponsored the Black and Brown Business Summit and has also begun hosting ‘Best of Local Brands’ summits to encourage more local brands of all demographics the opportunity to have Hy-Vee carry their products,” the article continued.
Externally, Hy-Vee makes contributions to the communities where it has stores. Last year, the retailer made $54 million in donations, according to Edeker.
He went on to explain Hy-Vee’s work to support youth organizations, veterans, land conservation and economic development. Hy-Vee Homefront is the company’s charitable foundation devoted to veterans. Variety, a longtime partner of Hy-Vee, is a children’s charity focusing on those who are at-risk, underprivileged or critically ill.
“We have our Veterans Day breakfasts that we do every single year where we feed veterans for free. We send out something to every single veteran employee in the company to say thanks for their service,” Edeker said.
Hy-Vee One Step, the company’s largest charitable arm, encompasses the company’s mission to fight food insecurity, plant trees and build wells.
Any time One Step products are bought, a portion of the proceeds go toward the initiatives. The products include: One Step Cereal, a brand that is packaged in 100 percent recycled cardboard boxes; One Step Russet Potatoes; One Step Paper Products, another product made from recycled materials; One Step Eggs, which are produced on small family farms in Southeast Iowa and Northeast Missouri; and One Step Water.
To date, more than 26 million meals have been donated to nonprofits; some 600,000 trees have been planted across Hy-Vee’s market territory and 107 clean water projects have been undertaken.
“We know we can’t solve all of the world’s problems, but we can do something,” Edeker said. “We’ve funded 107 wells around the world for people that we’ll never meet and never know but are desperate.
“Last year alone, we fed 26 million children off of the boxes of cereal that sell every single day. Since the program started, we’ve also dug 850 local gardens off the sales of our potatoes. We’ve planted more than 620,000 trees off of the sale of our paper towels.”
To further combat food insecurity, Hy-Vee holds Food Bank Fridays. Edeker implemented the fundraisers when he saw the coming tide of inflation and food shortage issues in early 2022.
“If inflation hits, if people are getting in tough spots, they’re going to start emptying the food banks,” he explained.
Hy-Vee has a long history of partnering with local food banks. But through the campaign, customers are asked to donate when they checkout online or in store. Within the first six weeks of the campaign’s start, Hy-Vee had raised $1 million, according to Edeker.