Made in Korea

Ethnic grocers aren’t only changing the way business is done, but also the way staff loyalty is built.

Owner Jeffrey Min relies on some proven practices from Korean business, including some he learned while working at Hyundai. He spoke with Canadian Grocer’s managing editor Nancy Kwon.

Q: How is your approach to building staff loyalty different than mainstream Canadian businesses?
We believe that Korean businesses really encourage employees to be a part of the company, rather than working independently. We are motivated to build a culture where employees are considered "partners" in the company. Instead of managing our business according to a set manual, we prefer to understand and take our employees' thoughts and concerns into full consideration. We also strive to create a mutually beneficial relationship where two parties (employee and employer) are satisfied.

Q: How do you encourage staff to share their ideas?
Sharing ideas is an important consideration when looking at promotions and annual reviews. Our staff is segmented into teams, each with a team leader, and staff are rewarded both within the team and individually. We also make sure that good ideas are implemented in our management decisions and that they are actually used in decisionmaking processes or in the business itself.

Q: What type of activities does Galleria do that are similar to business practices in Korea?
In Korea it is very common for staff to go out for dinner or drinks after-hours. So at Galleria we do staff dinners on a monthly basis that are paid for by the company. We feel these dinners promote team building among staff.

Q: Can you describe the special way you celebrate staff anniversaries?
Galleria offers an ounce of gold to employees who celebrate two-, five- or 10-year anniversaries with the company.

Q: How do you build loyalty with younger generations?
We try to promote our younger staff members into key management roles to encourage loyalty. We are also very supportive of our younger staff members who want to go to school while they are employed at Galleria full time. For example, we offer flexible hours to accommodate their school schedules. Galleria also provides young employees with a growth plan within the organization that sees them getting experience in all facets of the business. This helps us identify areas where their talents could be best used within the company.

Q: Do you have a bonus system similar to those common in Korea?
Our "bonuses" are not bonuses. Instead, they're more like profit sharing plans. We conduct evaluations on a semi-annual basis and employees receive a percentage of the profits of sales targets that are exceeded.

Q: What's unique about your recruitment practices?
To offer an authentic Korean food experience in Canada, we hire food and cooking specialists directly from Korea. Every year we hold recruitment fairs in Korea for Galleria's specialty roles (cooks and food preparation staff ). Most of the individuals that we hire from outside of Canada have direct experience at Korea's mainstream retailers such as E-Mart, Home and Home and other department stores.

Q: Is there anything that you bring to your management style at Galleria from your 15 years with Hyundai in Korea?
Trust is one of the most important things that I value. It's something I learned from my experience at Hyundai that I have brought to Galleria. It is as important to build trust among employees and employer as it is to build trust among Galleria and its customers.

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