Case Study: QuikTrip’s Responsibility to Workers

Aug 04, 2020

Corporate actual responsibility encompasses a set of obligations to workers to secure good jobs that can support families and offer professional development and advancement.

The Tulsa, Oklahoma-based gasoline and convenience store chain QuikTrip has fulfilled these obligations while steadily growing and routinely outperforming its competitors. According to CEO Chet Cadieux, who took over the business from his father in 2002, the company has “always believed … employees deserved to be well paid while having great benefits and providing the opportunity to grow and succeed.” For the last two decades, the $11-billion business with more than 800 stores in eleven states has consisted been considered one of the nation’s best employers.

In much of the retail sector, labor is seen as a cost-driver to be cut wherever feasible, but QuikTrip views its labor force as an investment. The business of front-line retail employees—restocking shelves, handling inventory, assisting customers—requires judgement and social skills that cannot be easily replicated, automated, or outsourced. QuikTrip invests tremendous resources in identifying talent, paying workers well, and promoting from within.

This philosophy began under Cadieux’s father, who in the 1980s took steps to standardize store policies and improve the treatment of employees, noting that the company “had become large enough to act more responsibly.” Cadieux, who has been ranked among the nation’s top CEOs, has only increased QuikTrip’s investments in its workers. There’s a for a simple reason for it, he says: “My family has done well because of their hard work. I want to make sure they’re taken care of and know they are appreciated.”

That investment begins with family-supporting wages. The median American cashier makes just $23,650 a year, below the poverty line for a single-earner family of four. QuikTrip’s full-time employees start at roughly $40,000 per year, plus benefits. Employees also earn bonuses based on overall store performance. Full-time employees are taught to read and interpret their store’s monthly financial statements and earn a portion of their store’s and division’s operating profit. Employees also earn bonuses based on performance in routine “mystery shopper” reviews of the store’s customer service.

QuikTrip not only pays wages that can support a family, but adopts scheduling policies that can accommodate the demands of raising a family. When Cadieux observed that the stores’ demanding, unpredictable hours and understaffing “made it very difficult to have a normal life with a family,” the company invested $10 million in additional full-time employees to ensure that stores were adequately staffed to allow for more predictable, balanced schedules. In additional, all full-time employees may request up to 10 days of additional unpaid, personal time off for family activities or obligations—such as school events, recitals, graduations, or vacation. The company invests in and retains “relief employees,” who work on a part-time basis and do not belong to any particular store to fill in when store workers take time off.

But entry-level employment at QuikTrip is not just a good job; it is the start of a career for many hires. The company is committed to developing the potential of its employees and promoting from within. Its statement of purpose includes a commitment “to provide an opportunity for employees to grow and succeed.” Employees receive extensive training—40 hours for part-time and roughly two full weeks for full-time—after undergoing a rigorous hiring process and then benefit from targeted support programs throughout their career. As with profit-sharing and performance bonuses, front-line staff are considered to be partners within the larger business. The company organizes “resource groups” of front-line employees who meet regularly to discuss challenges and ideas for improvement. Employees are encouraged to identify opportunities to enhance operations to better meet customers’ needs, and many contact Cadieux directly via e-mail to share their ideas. Because of this culture of partnership, QuikTrip routinely promotes employees from within; most of its executives and nearly all of its store managers began as entry-level store employees and worked their way up through the company’s ranks.

Entry-level jobs need not be “dead-end” or “bad” jobs. Responsible corporations like QuikTrip show that investing in workers, offering family-supporting pay and policies, and creating opportunities for professional development, can give employees greater economic security and a deeper stake in their company’s success.