Advertisement

Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 295–307 | Cite as

Is Strategic Human Resource Management Socially Responsible? The Case of Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.

  • Souha R. EzzedeenEmail author
  • Christina M. Hyde
  • Kiana R. Laurin
Article

Abstract

In 2005, Wegmans Food Markets Inc., the family-owned supermarket chain, was awarded the number one spot on the Fortune “100 Best Companies To Work For.” Wegmans’ recognition illustrates an exemplary case of strategic human resource management embedded in an overall culture of social responsibility, amidst a highly competitive and low margin industry. We detail Wegmans’ human resource practices and its overall stakeholder orientation, arguing that the treatment of employees as strategic assets constitutes an effective approach to social responsibility. In other words, strategic human resource management can help organizations reconcile the often cited conflict between profits and principles. We therefore begin with an overview of the contemporary supermarket industry, provide a brief history of Wegmans, and showcase the supermarket chain’s human resource practices. In closing, we discuss Wegmans’ stakeholder orientation and comment on the divide between strategic human resource management and social responsibility research.

Key words

employee practices human resource management social responsibility strategic human resource management Wegmans 

Notes

Acknowledgement

The authors are grateful to Paul M. Swiercz for his feedback on an earlier version of the manuscript.

References

  1. AFL-CIO (2005). Living & minimum wage: What’s the difference between a living wage and the minimum wage? In American Federation of Labor/Congress of Industrial Organizations. http://www.aflcio.org/ (Accessed online: August).
  2. Anonymous (1996). Education efforts. Progressive Grocer, 75, 32D.Google Scholar
  3. Anonymous (2003). Wegmans Food Markets: IAFP 2003 Black Pearl Award Winner. Food Protection Trends (November), 902–903.Google Scholar
  4. Appelbaum, S. H., Delage, C., Labib, N., & Gault, G. (1997). The survivor syndrome: Aftermath of downsizing. Career Development International, 2(6), 278–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Associates, P. (2001). Supermarket strategic alert special report: Supermarkets & their employees. New York: Pollack Associates.Google Scholar
  6. Backhaus, K. B., Stone, B. A., & Heiner, K. (2002). Exploring the relationship between corporate social performance and employer attractiveness. Business and Society, 41(3), 292–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barney, J. B. (1991). Firm Resources and Sustained Competitive Advantage. Journal of Management, 17(1), 99–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barney, J. B., & Wright, P. M. (1998). On Becoming a Strategic Partner: The Role of Human Resources in Gaining Competitive Advantage. Human Resource Management, 37(1), 31–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Barney, J., Wright, M., & Ketchen D. J., Jr. (2001). The resource-based view of the firm: Ten years after 1991. Journal of Management, 27(6), 625–641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Becker, B. E., & Huselid, M. A. (1999). Overview: Strategic human resource management in five leading firms. Human Resource Management, 38(4), 287–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Becker, B. E., Huselid, M. A., Pickus, P. S., & Spratt, M. F. (1997). HR as a source of shareholder value: Research and recommendations. Human Resource Management, 36(1), 39–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bhatnagar, P. (2005). The Darwinian world or retailing: Merger frenzy gains steam as retailers battle Wal-Mart, other discounters, but is that good for you? In CNN Money. http://www.money.cnn.com (Accessed online: July).
  13. Black, L. D., & Härtel, C. E. J. (2004). The five capabilities of socially responsible companies. Journal of Public Affairs, 4(2), 125–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. BLS (2004). National Industry-Specific Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Grocery Stores. In U.S. Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics. http://www.bls.gov/ (Accessed online: August).
  15. Boyle, M. (2005). The Wegmans way. Fortune (January 24), 62.Google Scholar
  16. Bruton, G. D., Keels, J. K., & Shook, C. L. (1996). Downsizing the firm: Answering the strategic questions. Academy of Management Executive, 10(2), 38–45.Google Scholar
  17. Buckley, W. (1967). Sociology and modern systems theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  18. Budd, J. W., & McCall, B. P. (2001). The grocery stores wage distribution: A semi-parametric analysis of the role of retailing and labor market institutions. Industrial & Labor Relations Review, 54(2A), 484–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Buss, D. D. (1999). Know-how in the bank – How to be ready when key employees walk out the door. Wall Street Journal (June 14), p. B9.Google Scholar
  20. Cardy, B. (2004). Ethics: Beyond rhetoric and bureaucracy. Academy of Management Newsletter, 28(2), 11–15.Google Scholar
  21. Cascio, W. F. (1993). Downsizing: What do we know? What have we learned? Academy of Management Executive, 7(1), 95–104.Google Scholar
  22. Case, J. (1995). Open-book management: The coming business revolution. New York: Harper Business.Google Scholar
  23. Chandler, G. N., & McEvoy, G. M. (2000). Human resource management, TQM, and firm performance in small and medium-sized enterprises. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 25(1), 43–57.Google Scholar
  24. Cheney, S., & Jarrett, L. L. (1998). Up-front excellence for sustainable competitive advantage. Training & Development, 52(6), 45–47.Google Scholar
  25. CNN (2005). Winn-Dixie cutting 22,000 jobs: Supermarket retailer closing more than 300 stores as it seeks to bolster results. In CNN Money. http://www.money.cnn.com/ (Accessed online: July).
  26. Conley, R. (2004). Discount superstores leave some supermarket chains struggling to survive. Knight Ridder Tribune Business News (May 17), p. 1.Google Scholar
  27. Crane, K. (2004). Wegmans celebrates 20 years of helping employees achieve their goals. http://www.wegmans.com/ (Accessed online: January).
  28. Cyert, R., & March, J. (1963). A behavioral theory of the firm. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  29. Daviss, B. (1999). Profits from principle: Five forces redefining business. The Futurist, 33(3), 28–33.Google Scholar
  30. Delery, J. E., & Doty, D. H. (1996). Modes of theorizing in strategic human resource management: Tests of universalistic, contingency, and configurational performance predictions. Academy of Management Journal, 39(4), 802–835.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Demby, E. R. (2004). Two stores to refuse to join the race to the bottom. In Workforce Management. http://www.workforce.com (Accessed online: 2004).
  32. Donaldson, T., & Preston, L. E. (1995). The stakeholder theory of the corporation: Concepts, evidence, and implications. Academy of Management Review, 20(1), 65–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Economist (2002). Lots of it about: History shows the Anglo-Saxon corporation to be far from heartless. The Economist (December 14), 62–63.Google Scholar
  34. Economist (2004). Business: Two-faced capitalism, corporate social responsibility. The Economist (January 24), 59.Google Scholar
  35. Economist (2005). The good company. The Economist (January 22), 4.Google Scholar
  36. Epstein, E. M. (1999). The continuing quest for accountable, ethical, and humane corporate capitalism: An enduring challenge for social issues in management in the new millennium. Business and Society, 38(3), 253–267.Google Scholar
  37. ERS (2005). Food market structures. In Economic Research Service/United States Department of Agriculture Briefing Room. http://www.ers.usda.gov (Accessed online: July 11).
  38. Ferris, G. R., Arthur, M. M., Berkson, H. M., Kaplan, D. M., Harrell-Cook, G., & Frink, D. D. (1998). Towards a social context theory of the human resource management-organizational effectiveness relationship. Human Resource Management Review, 8(3), 235–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. FMI (2004). Sales and expense growth during the last decade. In Food Marketing Institute. http://www.fmi.org (Accessed online: July).
  40. FMI (2005). Supermarket sales. In Food Marketing Institute. http://www.fmi.org/ (Accessed online: July).
  41. Fonda, D. (2003). If this is a boom why does it feel like a squeeze? Time (November 10), 62.Google Scholar
  42. Forward, R. (2003a). Supermarket industry under pressure – The challenge has never been tougher (February 25). http://www.retailforward.com/ (Accessed online: July).
  43. Forward, R. (2003b). Top 100 retailers worldwide realize slow growth in 2002. In Retail Forward. http://www.retailforward.com (Accessed online: July).
  44. Forward, R. (2005). Supermarket companies must make fundamental changes to remain competitive, new retail forward report reveals (June 29). In Retail Forward. http://www.retailforward.com/ (Accessed online: July).
  45. Freeman, R. E. (1984). Strategic management: A stakeholder approach. Boston, MA: Pitman.Google Scholar
  46. Freeman, R. E., & McVea, J. (2001). A stakeholder approach to strategic management. In M. A. Hitt, R. E. Freeman, & J. S. Harrison (Eds.), The blackwell handbook of strategic management (189–208). Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  47. Friedman, M. (1970). The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. New York Times Magazine (September 13), 32–33, 122, 126.Google Scholar
  48. Friedman, M. (1998). A windfall for the PSU program. Progressive Grocer, 77, 76.Google Scholar
  49. Glinow, M. A. V., Drost, E. A., & Teagarden, M. B. (2002). Converging on IHRM best practices: Lessons learned from a globally distributed consortium on theory and practice. Human Resource Management, 41(1), 123–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Glynn, M. (2005). Wegmans is no. 1 on Fortune’s list of 100 best companies to work for. Buffalo News (January 11), p. A1.Google Scholar
  51. GPTW (2004). Innovations awards. In Great Place to Work Institute. http://www.greatplacetowork.com (Accessed online: 2004).
  52. Greene, J., & France, M. (2005). Culture wars hit corporate America. Business Week (May 23), 90–93.Google Scholar
  53. Handy, C. (2002). What’s a business for? Harvard Business Review, 80(12), 49–55.Google Scholar
  54. Harrison, J. S., & Freeman, R. E. (1999). Stakeholders, social responsibility, and performance: Empirical evidence and theoretical perspectives. Academy of Management Journal, 42(5), 479–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Hemingway, C. A., & Maclagan, P. W. (2004). Managers’ personal values as drivers of corporate social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 50(1), 33–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Hiser, J. (1998). Understanding the value of your employees’ knowledge. The CPA Journal, 68(7), 56–57.Google Scholar
  57. Huselid, M. A. (1995). The impact of human resource management practices on turnover, productivity, and corporate financial performance. Academy of Management Journal, 38(3), 635–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Huselid, M. A., Jackson, S. E., & Schuler, R. S. (1997). Technical and strategic human resource management effectiveness as determinants of firm performance. Academy of Management Journal, 40(1), 171–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Ireland, C. (2005). Activists take on Wegmans. In Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. http://www.democratandchronicle.com (Accessed online: July).
  60. Jackson, S. E., & Schuler, R. S. (1995). Understanding human resource management in the context of organizations and their environments. Annual Review of Psychology, 46, 237–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Kaihla, P. (2004). Acing the exit interview: How to mine the data in your workers’ heads before the best ideas walk out the door. Business 2.0, 5(4), 77.Google Scholar
  62. Katz, D., & Kahn, R. L. (1978). The social psychology of organizations (2nd edn.). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  63. Katzenbach, J. R., & Santamaria, J. A. (1999). Firing up the front line. Harvard Business Review, 77(3), 107–119.Google Scholar
  64. Kerr, S. (2004). Executives ask: Is ethical behavior good for the bottom line? Academy of Management Executive, 18(2), 112–113.Google Scholar
  65. King, J. E. (2000). White-collar reactions to job insecurity and the role of the psychological contract: Implications for human resource management. Human Resource Management, 39(1), 79–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Kotler, P., & Lee, N. (2005). Corporate social responsibility: Doing the most good for your company and your cause. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  67. Kydd, C. T., & Oppenheim, L. (1990). Using human resource management to enhance competitiveness: Lessons from four excellent companies. Human Resource Management, 29(2), 145–166.Google Scholar
  68. Lazich, R. S. (Ed.), (2004). Market share reporter 2005 (vol. 2). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group.Google Scholar
  69. Levering, R., & Moskowitz, M. (2005). The 100 best companies to work for. Fortune (January 24), 72–90.Google Scholar
  70. MacDuffie, J. P. (1995). Human resource bundles and manufacturing performance: Organizational logic and flexible production systems in the world auto industry. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 48(2), 197–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Martin, R. L. (2002). The virtue matrix: Calculating the return on corporate responsibility. Harvard Business Review, 80(3), 69–75.Google Scholar
  72. Mccarthy, M. A. (2005). Winn-Dixie files for chapter 11; Losses, executive tumult spur grocer to reorganize; Losing share to Wal-Mart. Wall Street Journal (February 23), p. A6.Google Scholar
  73. McKendall, M. A., & Margulis, S. T. (1995). People and their organizations: Rethinking the assumptions. Business Horizons, 38(6), 21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Nace, T. (2003). Gangs of America: The rise of corporate power and the disabling of democracy. San Francisco: Berret-Koehler.Google Scholar
  75. Nadler, D. A., & Tushman, M. L. (1999). The organization of the future: Strategic imperatives and core competencies for the 21st century. Organizational Dynamics, 28(1), 45–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Niedt, B. (2005). Wegmans reaches no. 1 on list of workplaces: Fortune magazine smile on grocery store chain for its employment policies. The Post Standard (January 11), p. 1.Google Scholar
  77. O’Neill, H. M., & Lenn, D. J. (1995). Voices of survivors: Words that downsizing CEOs should hear. Academy of Management Executive, 9(4), 23–34.Google Scholar
  78. Parks, J. M., & Schmedemann, D. A. (1994). When promises become contracts: Implied contracts and handbook provisions on job security. Human Resource Management, 33(3), 403–423.Google Scholar
  79. Peters, T. J., & Waterman, Jr., R. H. (1982). In search of excellence: Lessons from Americas best-run companies (1st edn.). New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  80. Pfeffer, J. (1994). Competitive advantage through people: Unleashing the power of the workforce. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.Google Scholar
  81. Pfeffer, J. (1996). When it comes to “best practices” – Why do smart organizations occasionally do dumb things? Organizational Dynamics, 25(1), 33–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Pfeffer, J. (1998). The human equation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School.Google Scholar
  83. Pfeffer, J. (2005). Putting people first. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 3(1), 26–33.Google Scholar
  84. Pfeffer, J., & Veiga, J. F. (1999). Putting people first for organizational success. Academy of Management Executive, 13(2), 37–48.Google Scholar
  85. Pratt, K. H., & Kleiner, B. H. (1989). Towards managing by a richer set of organisational values. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 10(6), 10–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Primeaux, P., & Stieber, J. (1994). Profit maximization: The ethical mandate of business. Journal of Business Ethics, 13(4), 287–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Prospero, M. A. (2004). Employee innovator: Wegmans. In Fast Company. http://www.fastcompany.com (Accessed online: June).
  88. Roskies, E., Louis-Guerin, C., & Fournier, C. (1993). Coping with job insecurity: How does personality make a difference? Journal of Organizational Behavior, 14(7), 617–630.Google Scholar
  89. Rousseau, D. M. (1990). New hire perceptions of their own and their employer’s obligations: A study of psychological contracts. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 11(5), 389–400.Google Scholar
  90. Rousseau, D. M., & Tijoriwala, S. A. (1998). Assessing psychological contracts: Issues, alternatives and measures. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 19(Special Issue), 679–696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Rynes, S. L., Bartunek, J. M., & Daft, R. L. (2001). Across the great divide: Knowledge creation and transfer between practitioners and academics. Academy of Management Review, 44(2), 340–355.Google Scholar
  92. Snider, J., Hill, R. P., & Martin, D. (2003). Corporate social responsibility in the 21st century: A view from the world’s most successful firms. Journal of Business Ethics, 48(2), 175–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Swibel, M. (2003). Nobody’s meals. In Forbes. http://www.forbes.com (Accessed online: 2003).
  94. Swoboda, F., & Stoughton, S. (1999). Grocery chains shop for workers; labor shortages, influx of nonunion rivals offer few bargains for supermarkets. The Washington Post (April 19), p. F.12.Google Scholar
  95. Taylor, S. (2005). Death, taxes, and supermarket changes. In Progressive Grocer. http://www.progressivegrocer.com/ (Accessed online: July 2005).
  96. Walsh, J. P., Weber, K., & Margolis, J. D. (2003). Social issues in management: Our lost cause found. Journal of Management, 29(6), 859–881.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Way, S. A., & Johnson, D. E. (2005). Theorizing about the impact of strategic human resource management. Human Resource Management Review, 15, 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Wegmans (2005). Wegmans history. http://www.wegmans.com/ (Accessed online: 2005).
  99. Weisser, C. (2005). 5 ways to cut your healthcare costs. Money, 34(1), 90.Google Scholar
  100. Wernerfelt, B. (1984). A resource-based view of the firm. Strategic Management Journal, 5(2), 171–180.Google Scholar
  101. Wright, P. M. (1998). Strategy-HR fit: Does it really matter? Human Resource Planning, 21(4), 56–57.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Souha R. Ezzedeen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christina M. Hyde
    • 2
  • Kiana R. Laurin
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Business AdministrationThe Pennsylvania State University HarrisburgMiddletownUSA
  2. 2.Undergraduate Studies, School of Business AdministrationThe Pennsylvania State University HarrisburgMiddletownUSA

Personalised recommendations