Teaching employees to put their best foot forward
Jeff Sinelli insists his employees put themselves in his shoes. But only the really good employees.
Sinelli, the CEO of Which Wich, a 50-store sandwich chain based out of Texas, rewards his outstanding employees by presenting them with a certificate to customize a pair of Nike shoes online. The Employee of the Year receives a coveted pair of yellow-and-black Vans, with the name of their reward printed on the shoe.
Sinelli says he was surprised to discover employees all chose yellow-and-black shoes–the chain's signature colors–even though their choices were unlimited.
The shoe program has become the foundation of Which Wich's incentives for workers, a move Teresa Siriani, president of the People Report, a provider of HR metrics, benchmarks and trends for the foodservice industry, calls brilliant.
Younger workers want their rewards to be brand names, they want them customized and they want them immediately, she says. Sinelli's shoe program meets all three criteria, plus being able to order them online fits their style of acquiring stuff in real time.
Selecting the brand's color for shoes, People Report's Siriani says, is the employee's way of showing their appreciation and loyalty to the brand. Wearing the customized shoes is their badge of honor.
Siriani says Sinelli shared a story with her about a key employee who was terminated for cause. He had been awarded two pair of shoes during his tenure, which he returned to Sinelli saying, "I don't deserve these." "Jeff has them hanging in his office as a reminder," she says.
The reason the incentive is so powerful, she adds, is that it combines twobrands, his own, plus the shoe manufacturer's. Since he orders hundreds of shoes, Nike now adds Which Wich's logo to the shoes employees order.
The program has also caught on with shoe manufacturers. At the time of the interview, Sinelli said he had six boxes of unopened shoes on his desk, five from Nike and one from Adidas.
Sinelli's footwear of choice is also yellow-and-black athletic shoes. "When we sold our house I had so many pairs of these shoes in the closet, prospects always commented, 'What's with all the yellow-and-black shoes?'" he said.
Another branding opportunity?