Food Lion Supports Associates’ Career Growth with Tuition Assistance
As a major food retailer, Food Lion prioritizes the personal growth and professional development of its associates, including providing support for their educational interests. Recognizing the variety of skills needed within its 1,100+ stores for more than 80,000 associates, the omnichannel grocery chain provides pathways to degrees and other programs through tuition assistance. This support can pave the way for retail associates to grow into other roles at the company, including Food Lion’s corporate offices and management positions.
Brandi Langford, director, human resources strategy at Food Lion, recently shared insights about the company’s education benefits program and the specific needs of grocery retail employees.
In your experience, how can training and education assist retail workers in their current roles?
Education is an important piece to help people apply what they’re learning in their day-to-day work. It’s not just about gaining new skills and new areas of knowledge, but education helps our associates see how they can put their new abilities into practice, and we want them to visualize themselves in future roles.
Can you speak to how education helps prepare retail workers to take on more responsibilities?
At Food Lion, we’ve seen the direct effect education can have on careers. Offering education benefits is a way to support our associates’ goals while also creating a talent pipeline for our larger organization. There are many opportunities for growth at Food Lion, and education benefits certainly help us with both talent attraction and retention. We want our associates to learn and grow, and continuing education programs and tuition reimbursement are benefits that help our associates move into roles that require new or different ways of thinking.
I was one of those people: I started working at Food Lion in high school and I worked here through college. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I graduated, but as I worked at Food Lion while earning my degree, it was natural to take my classroom learnings back to the store and apply my new experiences. I saw how studying business would help me in my career, and I want Food Lion associates to take this journey as well.
We've had associates who were pursuing a career in a certain field, and they may have been working for us part time and in high school or college and they tell us that they didn’t really think about continuing their careers with us. But once they started working at Food Lion, and for example, used our tuition reimbursement benefit, now they’re interested in careers in our corporate offices or management roles. It’s exciting to watch associates pursuing their education and decide to remain at Food Lion to build their careers.
How is food retail different from other industries? What are some training needs that are specific to food retail workers?
Running and operating a register, product knowledge and customer service are just a few skills needed to work in the front end of a retail store. As time has changed, and rapidly over the past few years, our associates need clear, concise, and consistent training to ensure they can manage all the things that happen in a store. Retail managers need to manage associates, products, and stores, and ensure the needs of customers are met. It’s a lot to balance, and training helps retail managers expand and hone their skills.
Have you noticed any trends in training and education over the past few years?
We’ve seen an increased interest in going back to school. Our associates want more interactive learning opportunities, especially through video. I think that’s an easier, more intuitive way for a lot of people to learn. We’ve put a lot of work into developing some of our own training content that’s quick, relevant, and interactive.
There’s been some interest in non-degree programs and certifications, but the bulk of our associates are interested in an undergraduate or graduate degree program. Those traditional degrees can still have a lot of impact on their careers.
Can you give an example of a recent “success story” of someone you know who’s completed a program?
Yes, I do have an associate in mind. This is someone who has a common but still compelling story: she’s working full-time while going to school for her degree. She has a family and a lot of personal commitments. But she started taking classes just to broaden her horizons and she’s already moved into a manager position.
At Food Lion, we love these stories because they can be so powerful. That’s why we review our education benefits program each year to make sure it’s serving our associates and their goals.
We want them to have options, to understand how the tuition reimbursement program works, and for them to see how easy it is to get started. These stories show that a lot is possible through education. We want to support our associates and be part of their path to achieving success.
To discuss how education benefits can support your employees’ goals, contact Workforce Edge staff here.
As a major food retailer, Food Lion prioritizes the personal growth and professional development of its associates, including providing support for their educational interests.