Rochelle Discovers Mentoring

images-2“My car is messed up; I’m in debt; I don’t have any money; but the grocery store loves me. I think I’ve made progress,” Rochelle told me a couple of days ago during our weekly interview. She had been the only one in her three-month training program to be promoted to the position of Central Cashier Supervisor. She had also been placed in a training program for people who have shown promise for advancement within the company. She did all this even though her economic and family life is still quite chaotic. She was able to do it because she is a strong person, and she has had support from the managers within her company. They have mentored her.

One day, when feeling extremely stressed by problems at home, Rochelle decided to speak about the situation to one of the managers at her job. She had told me about her stresses earlier, and I had suggested she tell a manager at her work. She was being scheduled until midnight frequently, and her children’s grades at school were falling; she wasn’t available to help with homework. Rochelle was working far more late, late shifts than other people. I asked if she had made her scheduled availability as “open” for the days she got scheduled until midnight, and she agreed she had. I told her that was the problem; she needed to make her store aware of the problems that had caused. When she discussed it with her managers things got corrected, plus she also got praise about what a good job she was doing. She got encouragement even from the store manager. They all told her they could see she had a real future with the company.

The company Rochelle works for is known for its success in the grocery business, but it is also known for being pro-active in the promotion of women and minorities. I had heard that while I was getting an MBA and trying to figure out where I wanted to work after my degree was completed. I didn’t go with that company, but the woman who was my class president did. They are not unfamiliar with mentoring people from backgrounds similar to Rochelle’s into success stories; they are not unfamiliar with single mothers trying to balance work with child-care. I have had the experience of being mentored in large companies and it made all the difference in the world. My mentors guided me towards success and promotions. They were direct with the criticism when needed but also generous with praise when deserved. I think this is too often missing today, and Rochelle is very lucky to have found support within her job, if not within her family life.  The importance of mentoring cannot be stressed enough. Good parents mentor their children, and good companies mentor their employees.

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A Corner Turned?

images“I have no stress and the holidays were good,” Rochelle told me on January 2nd.  “This year I’m going to focus on my health and on my career with the grocery store.”

I had never heard her use the word “career” when talking about any job.  The store knows she wants to advance, and she has already been trained in various areas of its operation.  When this training was first offered to her she didn’t want to do it.  Initially they wanted her to learn how to demonstrate food; she felt this was a lower position than she currently held.  It was, however, higher pay.  I told her the more she learned about the company, the more valuable she would be to them.  Later they wanted to teach her how to run their gas station operation.  Now she does both in addition to acting as cashier, and she enjoys it.  She also attended, on her own time, a class on the various methods for advancement within the company.   She has now worked at the store for 8 months.  “I want to learn all I can about the company before I try for advancement,” she told me.  They only take 10 people a year into their management school and Rochelle knows she isn’t ready.  The company does, however, offer classes to learn about its organization and operations, and that is how Rochelle wants to proceed.  Rochelle is thinking ahead and thinking things through for the first time since I have been interviewing her.  Of course, this is the first time she has ever had a job with any kind of future.

Rochelle is not even close to being out of poverty, but she is on a better course.  Her car will still be causing problems, but things are definitely better than they were a year ago.  I asked her what she thought.  “I think I’m on the right track finally,” she told me.

I have not posted for the last month or so, though I did interview Rochelle weekly.  I guess I was taking a needed break as well.  I will continue to interview Rochelle for the next 6 months and then we shall see where this blog goes.  I’m going to leave this post short because there is no need to elaborate.  All is not going to be smooth sailing, but Rochelle just may have turned a corner.  Again my fingers are crossed.

Rochelle Gets Promoted

imagesRochelle called me last week with great news!  “I got promoted to full-time with benefits,” she told me excitedly.  “And I got another fricking raise.  I am just so excited.  I told them I would be happy to work Christmas and Thanksgiving, but I don’t have to.  I like my job and I like the people I work with.  I am getting an 11% raise this time, and I’ve only been working for the company for 6 months.  I’ve received two raises and a promotion.  I’ll be making the same pay as I made at the department store when they closed, but it took me 7 years to get there.”  Rochelle could hardly believe that her hard work had paid off so quickly.  I wasn’t surprised, but I was thrilled for her.  I had always heard that this privately held grocery store chain was a great place to work.  I had graduated from The McCombs Graduate School of Business at The University of Texas in 1981; the woman who was president of my class at the time also decided to work for this same Texas grocery store.  When I asked her why, she had explained that it had a reputation for great management and excellent training.  I haven’t kept up with this woman, but it seems that she was correct.

Rochelle came over for another interview three days later.  There were new problems with her eldest daughter; she had removed her from her middle school and enrolled her in a charter school the same day she had received her promotion.  Normally this would have been a major crisis in Rochelle’s life, but the praise and another raise and a promotion to full-time hours with benefits made her able to take all that in stride.  “I just might be on my way,” she told me.  “They really like me there and they tell me I have a future with them.”  She worked hard at the department store too, but it made no difference in her economic status.   No one had taken her aside and mentored her.  Her raises were small and there had been no chance for promotion.  Not only was I happy for Rochelle, I was also gratified to see a company treat its employees so well.  Good companies realize that it is actually their employees who must come first and not the customer.  Customers are treated well when the employees are treated well.

The news of her promotion is the best news Rochelle has had in the year or so that I have been interviewing her.  It doesn’t solve all her problems; her pay is still low, but it is a huge step in the right direction.  She is very proud of herself and she deserves to feel that way. She wants to be self-sufficient.  She wants off food stamps.  She wants off her housing subsidy, and she wants to be able to afford health insurance.   She isn’t there yet, but she has made a huge step forward by starting to work at what appears to be an employee focused company.

Praise and a Raise

images-1“I’ve got good news this time,” said Rochelle when I answered the phone.  She usually calls me on Friday, when she gets her work schedule, to set up our interview time for the following week.  Her days off change, so the interview days sometimes change as well.  She sounded happy and bursting to tell me her good news.  “I got a raise, and I’ve only been working at the grocery store for a couple of months,” she told me.  She was very excited.

Rochelle has been working two jobs since she was hired part-time at the grocery store about three months ago.  Recently, however, she has been working full-time hours at the grocery store because the new store she was hired for finally had their grand opening.  Rochelle has been thinking of quitting at the home for the disabled, where she has worked for the past year.  She did give them a two week notice when she was hired by the grocery store, but she stayed on as a substitute employee.  The job at the home is very stressful and pays very little.  There is little professionalism shown by the management, and employee problems are seldom addressed.  “I”m not going back,”  she told me in this week’s interview, after describing some problems she had working there this week.  I suggested she not burn her bridges yet.

“I got rated an excellent on everything,” Rochelle said.  She was talking about the 90 day review her grocery store manager had just given her.  Many companies give their employees a review after 90 days in order to encourage positive performance and to show where some improvement can occur.  “Well, I do need to scan the merchandise a little faster, but everything else was rated excellent.  And she (the manager) asked me what my goals with the company were.  I told her I would like to move up.  I told her I had worked eight years at the department store, and though I had great reviews, there was no way to move up,” said Rochelle.  “I told her I didn’t want to be in that position again.”

“My manager said she liked me and liked my answers.  She told me she wanted me to do well and knew I could.  I was almost crying,”  Rochelle told me, and now she was crying on the phone.  “I was almost crying, and my manager’s eyes were glistening, and then she hugged me,” Rochelle continued.  It had been a long time since she had experienced such positive and supportive response in a job.  In fact she has rarely experienced it in any aspect of her life.  “Then my manager gave me a raise!!  I’ve only worked in my store for two weeks,” she said.  She was emotionally overwhelmed.  “I knew you would want to know,” she said.  I told her I was very proud of her.  “I’ll see you next Wednesday,” said Rochelle, “and I’ll bring the review with me so you can see it.”

Praise and a raise can do a lot for a person.  Rochelle was a very happy person when she phoned me, and she was glad she was working at her new job.  Compared to her old job, the pay is better, the atmosphere is better, and most of all, the prospects are better.  You don’t get rich as a supermarket cashier, but this store pays a living wage and treats its employees well.