Can a convenience store chain serve up greater social equality in addition to coffee and food?
Yes, if you’re talking about Sheetz, a Best Workplace for Women™ 2021 and a company that has dramatically increased pay, time off and other benefits to its hourly workers over the past 18 months.
These improvements are being felt by Sheetz’ workforce. Nearly 90 percent of Sheetz’ 23,000 employees work in the company’s retail stores. Of those store employees, 61 percent are women and 23 percent are people of color.
This year, 85 percent of Sheetz employees said people are paid fairly at the company. That marks a 15 percent jump since 2019.
“It has always been part of our culture to take care of our employees,” says Stephanie Doliveira, vice president of human resources at Sheetz. “Ensuring they have a fair wage is part of that.”
What Sheetz has done to raise wages is helping to close gender and racial gaps in income in America. Recent studies have highlighted how increasing the minimum wage nationally would significantly narrow inequality in wages and wealth by gender and race.
For example, the “Raise the Wage Act” before congress is projected to raise wages for nearly 32 million workers, 59 percent of whom are women. Nearly a quarter – 23 percent – of all workers who would see a raise are Black women or Latinas, an overrepresentation of their share of the U.S. workforce in 2020.
By itself, Sheetz can’t fix decades of structural racism and economic inequality. But the company, which operates 600 convenience stores in the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina, has been doing its part.
And by elevating its hourly wages and other benefits, the company has improved its overall level of employee trust – which fuels business success. In 2021, 90% percent of employees called Sheetz a great place to work. That compares to 88% in 2019.
Consider some of the comments Sheetz employees shared with us through the Trust Index™ employee survey:
- I have had so many raises that I have lost count. I know that it has been a crazy year for everyone but being able to stay working and to get bonuses and raises is amazing. A lot of people have not had that with their jobs. I love working here and I would love to continue to move up in my position here at Sheetz.
- I…enjoy the quarterly bonuses that are shared with employees. It pushes me through the hard work we do in the summers.
- One thing I can say for sure about Sheetz is they care for their people in so many ways, from quarterly bonuses, 3 dollars (an hour) extra during the pandemic to an extra dollar (an hour) for the summer, not to mention the pay increase we just got company wide. There are so many opportunities to promote, learn and develop new things and skills every day! Every day Sheetz does something that blows my mind!
What steps has Sheetz taken to care for its people – and women employees in particular – in difficult times?
Knowing that low wages and tipping culture are perpetuating gender gaps, it’s music to my ears that Sheetz rejects tipping culture altogether.
“We do not have tipped workers at Sheetz,” says Stephanie. “We pay them a full wage. They don't need to make up their money in tips.”
- Sheetz has increased pay for its people in a variety of ways, and on repeated occasions. The average wage for all store employees (ranging from team member to manager) has risen 21 percent in the past year, to $16.80 per hour.
- Temporary Pandemic Pay. From March 2020 to June 2020, Sheetz paid an additional $3.00 per hour to frontline workers.
- Retention Reward. To thank employees for loyalty during the summer of 2020, the company paid store employees a reward amounting to an additional $1 per hour from June 5 through September 24.
- End-Of-Year Gift. In December 2020, employees received a cash gift of $150 to $800 (based on tenure and time worked requirements). The total payout was over $12 million, representing the amount of profit that was above the company’s annual budgeted profit. “We were over our budget by $12 million, so we gave it to our employees,” Stephanie says.
- Wage Increases in 2021. Sheetz has increased store employee wages by a total of $78.5 million this year. The raises included a permanent $2 per hour wage hike.
- Summer 2021 “Stimulus.” This summer, Sheetz introduced a $1 per hour wage increase for store employees, production teams and transportation drivers.
“What we know about our female workforce is that lot of our female managers and store team members are single moms,” Stephanie says.
“And so, giving them time off is important so that they can take care of their families. If they have a child who's sick they can take the day off and they can take it off with pay without being worried about losing their job.”
- Extra Paid Time Off and Retention Reward. Sheetz gave additional time off to a range of employees during the pandemic, including retail store employees. Employees who worked at least 120 hours from March 13 through June 4, 2020, were eligible for additional PTO based on hours worked during that period.
- Extended Vacation Time. The company normally allows employees to carry over just one week of unused paid time off (PTO) to the following year. But because the pandemic has disrupted many vacation plans, all PTO over the limit at the end of this year will automatically carry over to the employee’s anniversary date.
- Flexibility in the Pandemic. Sheetz worked to accommodate store employees who felt uncomfortable working directly with the public during the pandemic. In addition, with advance notice, parents were permitted to be absent from work if needed until childcare arrangements could be made.
Sheetz’ ride service benefit is another way the company is helping to create a more level playing field for women in America.
"For a lot of people, a barrier to employment is transportation. So how can we find ways to overcome those barriers?” Stephanie says. “What are the ways that we’re making it difficult for people to work, and how do we remove those barriers?”
- Lyft and Uber Rides. The company has begun using transportation services like Lyft and Uber to help people get to work if they have difficulty with transportation.
- Focus on Trainees. This ride service benefit is used heavily with new employees in the company’s training program.
What makes Sheetz such a great place to work is that its inclusive benefits support the diversity and intersectionality of its workforce. By listening to their employees and understanding survey data, Stephanie and Sheetz are meeting their employees’ individual needs one policy at a time.
Close equity gaps at your workplace
The first step to creating an equitable company culture is to measure equity in your workplace. Start listening to your different employee groups – from the storefront to the warehouse to the work-from-home desks – with our employee survey and analysis tool.