The National Association of Business Resources recently named Ace Hardware Corporation as one of the “best and brightest” companies to work for, and it has been among the top 10 employers in the Chicago area as identified by the Chicago Tribune. Ace continues to find success in the Windy City through its dedication to culture, even as other warehouses and competitors attempt to move in. Kane Calamari, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Ace Hardware Corporation and president of the Ace Foundation, says the retailer focuses on its culture by supporting its individually owned and operated stores. “Our core values are service, convenience and quality. We make sure staff are trained and equipped with everything they need. They represent our brand every day,” he says. Growing talent is an important part of that process, which Ace accomplishes through its “Ace Academy.” According to Calamari, “We look for employees that exhibit leadership skills and work to develop them. We also have our online ‘Ace Learning Place,’ which gives employees the opportunity to develop at their own pace.” The market for talent is very challenging, he says, but “at our retail level, compensation is up to the owner/operator, but we help them with studies to make sure they’re competitive with regard to salaries and benefits. We review these on a regular basis to make sure we’re keeping pace with market conditions.” Moreover, “We’re also helping our owners find better candidates faster. We’ve launched technology called Snag-a-Job that helps identify the best candidates. The owners can screen better, save time and find the right job seeker for their opening,” adds Calamari. Turnover is low, with some associates in plumbing staying with the company for 10 years, but turnover has increased recently in the warehousing and distribution ends of the business, which is why Ace is investing in better onboarding and mentoring programs to “make sure every worker is where they want to be.” Surveys also enable the retailer to ensure that employees are embodying the values of the company, and the retailer is using technology to help stores with labor force optimization.
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