As a family-owned and operated company, Michigan Bread Co., Taylor, Mich., always had a well-established personable culture. Spiros Assimacopoulos, chief executive officer, has always tries to know every employee’s name — though it can be difficult with the higher turnover rates over the past three years. But when Michigan Bread acquired Franklin Street Bakery in Minneapolis and renamed itself The Good Bread Co., workplace culture became a question mark.
“Culture is a reflection of ownership. Ownership has always been hands-on, so our culture developed organically, but how can you be hands-on when the bakery is 800 miles away?” Mr. Assimacopoulos said.
This challenge forced the team to view culture in a more structured way as opposed to being just a natural extension of the presence of ownership. Disseminating that culture has been achieved by articulating the vision and mission of the organization and then supporting those concepts through living the core values of pride, family, respect and growth.
“This has always been a family-run company, and it is central to our DNA to ensure that every team member knows they are appreciated and valued,” Mr. Assimacopoulos explained. “We’ve implemented some simple habits in our daily routine to personalize our work environment. At both plants, we have team members from countries from across the world with very different backgrounds, it is foundational to our culture that we get to know one another.”
In addition, the vision, mission and core values are reviewed at the beginning of all meetings.
“Our experience as family business owners is what we’re trying to bring,” he said. “The culture starts with leadership and cascades throughout the organization. I love the idea that there is camaraderie but also trust and commitment to each other. Ultimately, this is what will build a great organization. In recent months, we have attracted talent from larger organizations to join the leadership team. I think our culture is a big reason why.”
The work has paid off. Within a month of implementation, turnover at the West Bakery decreased dramatically to 5%.
“This is a big accomplishment that is essential to operating a successful operation,” Mr. Assimacopoulos said. “The impact this program has had in a short period of time is amazing, I am very proud of the team.”
Retention is about more than just the warm fuzzies of showing employees the executive team cares about them though. Training and career development also play a major role in ensuring people are satisfied with their work and want to stay at a company.
For training, The Good Bread Co. relies on a buddy system to pair new employees with veteran ones to learn their job functions. The company also leverages online videos to train employees, finding today’s workforce is more willing to engage with that medium than reading or a lecture.
“The first day experience in the bakery is critical; feeling welcome and supported really helps retain new team members,” Mr. Assimacopoulos explained. “You can’t just pass out aprons and expect a good result.”
He also cited another lesson in listening to his employees about what they want. The Good Bread Co. implemented a job rotation program, which has several benefits in cross-training employees and keeping people from growing bored with their work. Mr. Assimacopoulos assumed it would be a slam dunk program. He admitted he was wrong.
“Some team members felt they were being punished and preferred to remain in the role they were comfortable with,” he said. “We learned very quickly to give team members a voice in the process.”
As the company develops its workforce, Rich Tommy, director of operations, said they’ve begun internal interviews. Each employee is asked about their strengths, weaknesses and career aspirations. The information from these interviews will be invaluable as The Good Bread Co. looks to develop future leaders in the company. And it helps employees see that the company is listening to them and interested in their success.
This article is an excerpt from the October 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on The Good Bread Co., click here.