The Care Interview

The Care Interview

  |  February 22, 2021

We previously presented a series of webinars for Canadian Health Food Association on “The Rewards of a Burnout-free Workplace.” We recommended that store owners and managers hold “Care Interviews” built on five questions, with each of their staff members. Here’s how a Care Interview might go. (The five questions in bold.) Notice how the manager uses active listening to ensure understanding and avoid defensiveness.

Manager: Hello Mark, thanks for meeting with me today.

Staff: No problem. What’s up?

Manager: We haven’t had a chance to talk. We’ve been scrambling and we’ve been shorthanded. You’ve stuck it out. So I want to spend a few minutes with you checking in.

Staff: Okay.

Manager: What do you look forward to each day when you come to work?

Staff: I love getting to know the regular shoppers on a personal basis, suggesting new things to try, and in some small way brightening their day.

Manager: What are you learning here, and what do you want to learn? I’ve noticed how much the customers seem to enjoy you, too.

Staff: I really love learning about all the products we carry, particularly wellness and produce. I’ve learned a lot about my impact on the environment and the community as well.

Manager: And what do you want to learn?

Staff: I’m really interested in learning even more about the products we sell and also the sustainability of any packaging options we have.

Manager: What’s keeping you working here?

Staff: Basically, my awesome co-workers, and getting to live my values in my job. The hours aren’t bad either; they work well with my outside life.

Manager: When is the last time you thought about leaving us, and what prompted it?

Staff: Hmmm…Well, it’s frustrating when people wander off from the till and aren’t there when you need them. Some of us take a much larger share of the work. And it amounts to longer lines and more disgruntled customers. And really there doesn’t seem to be any accountability for them.

Manager: Let me see if I’m understanding you here. You observe coworkers going missing from their workstations so you can’t rely on them.

Staff: Yes.

Manager: And it seems to you that when that happens, there are no consequences for those coworkers.

Staff: Yes.

Manager: Okay, thanks. Are there other things that have caused you to think of leaving?

Staff: I don’t know if you have any power to do anything about this but I’m really uncomfortable with our inconsistent mask policy with customers during COVID.

Manager: To be sure I’m understanding here…it appears to you that we as an organization are not being consistent in requiring customers to wear masks.

Staff: Yes, and it bothers me that some of us are upholding the policy with customers and some aren’t.

Manager: I recognize this is a huge gray area for us right now and the leadership team is meeting to address it later this week.
Last question…What can I do to make your job better for you?

Staff: Mostly just dealing with the accountability issues at the register so we are all accountable to the same rules. And consistency on the masks.

Manager: I really appreciate your honesty today. Your feedback can help us make things better. The leadership team is committed to coming up with specific guidelines on how to handle customers who aren’t wearing masks. And about staff disappearing from the register, I’ll say this much. When it comes to performance improvement, we have a process, and it takes time. It’s still valuable for me to hear how things appear to you, and to reflect on what I can do about that. Again, thanks, Mark. It’s been great talking to you.


Mark Mulcahy is the owner of Organic Options and member of Columinate, providing inspirational and applicable consulting services for natural product retailers worldwide. Carolee Colter has been consulting for co-ops and independent retailers since 1984. As the leader of the HR Team of Columinate, she has surveyed thousands of employees in our industry and uses that data in her work to help make her clients the workplaces of choice in their communities.

About the Author

Carolee Colter

Human Resources for Boards &...

caroleecolter@columinate.coop
250-505-5166

Have more questions?

Get in touch with one of our consultants.

Check out the brand-new Columinate Job Board & Compensation Database. Learn more >>
close-image