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Lueken's Village Foods earns statewide honor

BEMIDJI - Employees at a local grocery store recently helped the store earn a statewide award.

Lueken's Village Foods was named a Star Tribune Top Workplace for 2012, which was announced today in the Star Tribune's Top Workplaces special section.

It's the first time Lueken's has been named a Top Workplace, and Store Director Brent Sicard said it's a "tremendous honor" for the store.

"We were obviously thrilled when we found out," Sicard said. "We were told we were the only grocery store in Minnesota to receive the award."

Sicard said administration wasn't overly surprised at the recognition.

"We were very pleased when we found out," Sicard said. "But we knew we had an amazing staff."

Ann Ollila, assistant human resources manager, echoed Sicard's sentiments.

"It's a wonderful honor," Ollila said. "It's not all management. It shows that our employees are dedicated."

Workplace Dynamics, a national surveying company, partners with the states to name the Top Workplaces for each state, Sicard said.

"We were essentially entered when our employees petitioned for us," Sicard said. "Workplace Dynamics sends out surveys for all associates to fill out and return with completely confidential answers."

Employees are asked questions about benefits, the direction the store is going and career opportunities, Sicard said.

"Each store that has at least 40 percent participation is given a ranking," Sicard said. "Store managers can't give any pressure to employees to fill out the surveys or tell them how to answer the questions."

The award not only recognizes the store, but also the employees, Sicard said.

"Our associates get recognition," Sicard said. "It's a title for something we feel has always been true."

Since Sicard joined the Lueken's team in June 2006, he said the company has included the employees in becoming a top workplace.

"If we want to improve the cashiers, we ask the cashiers. If we want to improve the baggers, we ask the baggers," Sicard said. "We tap into that collective wisdom.

Ollila said some of the programs currently going on at Luken's were started by employees.

"We strive to listen to our employees," Ollila said. "Both the Back to the Store and USB Drive programs were initiated by employees."

Lueken's places its employees first, something which helped them be named a Top Workplace, Ollila said.

"We strive to be there for them," Ollila said. "A lot of places with a high turnover rate automatically fire employees after missing one day of work. We try to understand where they are coming from."

Being named a Top Workplace is just the first step towards becoming a better company, Ollila said.

"We have a long way to go, but with these employees at our backs, we can get there," Ollila said.