Local shops have own strategies for attracting, keeping staff

By Cara Spoto

Sept. 20, 2018

 Good Harvest Market employee Abbey Blackley checks a customer out at the register.
Kenny Yoo/Special to The Freeman

WAUKESHA — As the push to attract and retain workers increases in the face of a mounting labor shortage and the approaching holiday shopping season, national retailers are pulling out all the stops — offering incentives like gift cards and higher entry-level wages to would-be employees.

To help it fill an expected 120,000 seasonal jobs nationwide, Target will be starting all new hires at $12 per hour and give them store discounts. On a grander scale, JCPenney will give its part-time hourly workers one week of paid time off a year, a story this week in the Wall Street Journal states.

But the big chains aren’t the only businesses working hard to attract and keep good workers.

Waukesha-based organic grocer Good Harvest Market announced this week it is increasing its wage for hourly workers to $10 an hour. The increase puts the store’s wage at about 38 percent above the state’s minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. That wage, which is the same as the federal minimum wage, has not increased since 2009 when the federal minimum wage was last increased.

Attracting workers

Good Harvest’s decision to increase hourly wages was partly done to attract quality candidates, a press release states, but also to reward current team members. Full-time employees at the store already receive group health care, as well as paid holidays and paid time off, the release states. The store, which employs about 90 full and part-time workers, also offers a simple retirement plan and a store discount to all employees.

“Good Harvest Market has an opportunity to show our appreciation for the contributions of our employees, and recognize these team members who embrace their responsibilities every day to deliver exceptional service,” owner Joe Nolan said in the release. “We are committed to investing in our employees, because we believe that they are the foundation of our company.”

Good Harvest isn’t alone in its efforts to attract and retain workers.

Although she was short on details, Diane Assimakopoulos, who co-owns Panos Fresh Market, said the store has also been increasing wages to attract and retain workers. The store, which is located at 426 W. Sunset Drive and employs about 15 people including the owners, currently starts workers at above the minimum wage, she said.

Paying for experience

At Faye’s fashion boutique, founder and co-owner Faye Wetzel said attracting and retaining good workers is a year-round goal for the locally- owned retailer with stores in Brookfield and Mequon.

“We know how difficult it is to get good people, so we strive to be extremely competitive all year long, and pay according to experience,” Wetzel said. “I have people who have been with me for 19 years.”

In addition to paying people well, Wetzel offers hardworking employees other perks, like clothing allowances or bonuses every now and then.

The store also does a lot of sales spiffs, which are immediate bonuses paid to workers for meeting or exceeding certain sales goals. All new hires start above the minimum wage.

Wetzel, who has been in business for 27 years, employs 2 mostly full-time workers between her two stores, and provides benefits to all full-time workers.

“Everybody needs help, and you just don’t want help, you want good help,” she noted. “You want people who are going to further your business. I have always been a believer that you have to pay for that.”