Industry Strives for Better Work-Home Balance

The food industry is becoming more accepting of workers' desire to have a better balance between their work and home lives, executives told an audience of students in the Food Industry Leadership Center at Portland State University. The industry has changed a lot, Jeffrey Juckel, district manager for Haggen's, Bellingham, Wash., said here. Baby Boomers are task-driven, but we understand

TIGARD, Ore. — The food industry is becoming more accepting of workers' desire to have a better balance between their work and home lives, executives told an audience of students in the Food Industry Leadership Center at Portland State University.

“The industry has changed a lot,” Jeffrey Juckel, district manager for Haggen's, Bellingham, Wash., said here. “Baby Boomers are task-driven, but we understand there is life outside the four walls of a store or office.

“You used to have to live and breathe work six days a week, but in the last 10 to 15 years, that's changed, because it burned out too many people. Now we believe that if managers work more than 42 or 43 hours a week, it's too much. The industry understands the value of family, and it understands that if a person is able to spend more time with his family, he may do a better job serving customers,” he said.

“So the industry is working hard to help people achieve a better balance of work and home life, with a 50-50 split or even a 60-40 balance, where 60% is home.”

Lisa Early, vice president, regional sales, Frito-Lay, Dallas, said the balance should be left up to the individual. “The balance is in their hands, and we want them to know when to go home. We also encourage our people to schedule work around their kids' sporting events so they can attend those games.

“You have to prioritize when you're trying to learn the business, but you know what you need to be home for, so we encourage our people to set their priorities and communicate that with their managers.”

The question and answer session followed the 13th annual Executive Forum sponsored here by FILC.

Asked by students about the importance of integrity in the workplace, John Jochum, director of the Clackamas, Ore., distribution center for Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., said, “Leaders are role models, and you must have integrity to lead.”

Juckel echoed that thought. “You must be a person of your word. It's all about integrity.”

According to Nancy Krawczyk, director of client services for the Network of Executive Women, “People won't follow you if you don't have integrity. To be a leader, you must be transparent and care about the people you're leading.”

Several executives expressed the need for passion for a career in the food industry.

“If you love the job you do, the hours don't mean a thing, and time is irrelevant,” Jochum said, “because you get to be part of something that goes on forever.”

“There are positions in finance, operations, merchandising, real estate, legal — this is an exciting business, and it gets in your blood,” said Keith Fuller, director of strategic recruiting and organizational development for Fred Meyer, the Portland, Ore.-based division of Kroger Co., Cincinnati.

Juckel expressed his own enthusiasm to the students. “This is an exciting career, and it's always changing,” he said.

“No matter who you work for, the grocery business is a great career. If you're good and willing to work hard, any retailer would love to have you. And if you apply yourselves, the retailers will reinvest in you.”

“If you have a passion for understanding people, this is the industry for you,” Krawczyk said.

Early said she used to hate going to work when she was employed in another industry, but 13 years after joining the food industry, “I love going to work every day,” she said.

Asked by students what skills industry executives look for in a job applicant, Fuller said interpersonal skills are important — “the ability to communicate, which means to listen to what someone says so you can help them.”

According to Early, “We look for a willingness to learn by people who are good listeners and good communicators, but who are also willing to get down and dirty and learn the business.

“Being a good leader is also not just a matter of what you're taught, but how active you are in your schools and communities. And we look for good work experience.”

Betty Ward, university relations manager for OfficeMax, Naperville, Ill., said it's important for applicants to show they can work with a team “and to learn how to communicate effective solutions as part of a team.”

Juckel said he looks for leadership skills — “the ability to step back as you learn and see something through others.

“And we look for a commitment to customer service. You must get happiness from making other people happy.

“The goal should be to deliver the best service to customers.”

According to Krawczyk, “We look for candidates focused on delighting consumers. When you come in for an interview, be prepared to tell us how you can add value.”

The executives urged students to get work experience in the industry.

“It will give you an edge over others just coming out of school,” Fuller said.

According to Juckel, “Getting your foot in the door and getting to know the culture of the industry will enable you to focus better on what positions you want to apply for.”