Friday, September 23, 2011

Improving WSM Employees' 'Market Messenger' ...

Workers in WSM are today invited to submit ideas for improving what used to be the employee Market Messenger, but what has become simply a mouthpiece for the WSM corporate office.

Manfully, I restrained myself from all of the immediately obvious, yet inappropriate, suggestions (topless pics (blokes and blokesses); my blog; sports section; print it on toilet paper, so that it can be dual-use (oh, it is already ... ).

And instead, I came up with the grown-up version of a letter to our Human Resources Manager. Not as much fun. But more likely to be read:

"Hey Deborah,

Thank you for your note in today's Market Messenger inviting ideas for improving it.

Even I can remember a time a few years ago when it was several pages long, and was more of a communication vehicle for employees, and less of the platform for administrative office missives than it is today.

I appreciate that the tough times of the past few years may have accounted for the truncated content. But we've moved on from that point. And the Employee Survey was quite clear that employees wanted more communication.

I set out in a previous letter how I felt that, taking into account all of the commentary in the Survey results, it was not difficult to form the view that, when employees talked of more communication, they wanted that communication to be more than just communication to them from the center -

I understand the desire of the center to use the Market Messenger to improve the financial performance of employees. But you will know that our Triple Bottom Line (financial, social and environmental), our Mission Statement and Board Policy regard financial performance as only one part of the interaction between workers and their co-op.

Employees are required to have a work experience that is fulfilling and are supposed to be consulted on decision-making that affects their workplace.

Improving the Market Messenger offers a wonderful opportunity to assist in achieving those ends by helping to create more of a sense of belonging and team between the Units, and more of a sense of identity and involvement for each worker within WSM.

I think one of the the best ways of enabling such ends would be to have more involvement of ordinary workers in the production of the Market Messenger.

There could be an Editorial Committee of Unit workers, one per Unit, with each Unit deciding for itself how to choose that representative (but the representative not simply to be chosen by the Unit Manager).

I would be happiest to see that Committee, perhaps headed by someone from the Marketing Department, in charge of publishing the entire Market Messenger, with the administrative office given access to it - but not sole access.

That might be a step too far for some. So, why not let the Committee have one page to do with as they wish? There could be announcements for individual worker concerts, art exhibitions. Letters. Even competitions between the Units. Dodgeball has been mentioned more than once.

My next point is that, at the Southern Village Unit Meeting in 2010, there was an exchange about improving the financial literacy of employees in 2011.

In the context of the Triple Bottom line, our Mission Statement and Board Policy, I wondered in response if one of the reasons folks felt that not as much heed was paid to our being a co-op as it was to our being a grocery store might be that we placed too much emphasis on financial literacy, and not enough on co-op literacy.

Ruffin nodded his head vigorously.

The Market Messenger this past year has been full of information aiding financial literacy, but not one mention of co-op literacy. Maybe, an improvement of the Market Messenger would see more space devoted to our Triple Bottom Line, the Mission Statement and in what fashion we try to behave as a co-op?

In this latter regard, what about a regular report from our Worker-Owner Directors? Not some standard piece about what the Board is doing. But notes about what our Worker-Owner Directors are doing. Maybe more information more regularly about Worker-Ownership, as well?

Finally, what about putting the Market Messenger online? With opportunity for feedback?

Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to comment.

All the best,