Winery Enhances Workplace Culture   View email in your browser

Ambitious Effort Boosts Retention
October 2017

Brian Talley with the family farm's weekly harvest

Despite an off-the-beaten-path location in Arroyo Grande, California, Talley Vineyards has no trouble keeping and retaining employees. “It’s one of the things I’m really proud of,” says company president Brian Talley. “Between Talley Farms and Talley Vineyards, probably 50 people have worked with us for 20 years or more.” The Talley family’s philanthropy and generous employee perks create a workplace culture that enhances performance, Talley believes. One company initiative, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) endeavor, has grown well beyond the initial vision. Brian Talley explains:
 
How did the CSA project come about and how successful is it?
 
My family has farmed here in coastal San Luis Obispo County for 70 years. About seven years ago, we decided to grow a vegetable patch for a farm stand, but we didn’t have the resources to get the farm stand open. So we had a bunch of produce and decided to take the wine-club concept and do something similar. People came to the winery to pick up an assortment of vegetables we had grown, and the next thing we knew we were delivering to drop-off locations. At the end of the season, people kept asking, “When is this going to start next year?” It caused me to write a business plan to do this as a serious initiative. 
      We now have about 5,000 subscribers and about 50 drop-off locations in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties. Sixteen Talley Vineyards employees subscribe and receive the boxes at cost. We also operate a weekend produce stand now, and on Monday morning, we take anything left over and set up a little free farmers’ market for employees. It works well for our farmworkers, who are not inclined to subscribe to the CSA box.

Lunch hour: Shared meals bring Talley staff closer.

What a nice perk for employees. What else would they say they like about working here?
 
For a long time, we’ve had a weekly lunch for our winery staff, including every full-time employee plus whoever is working the tasting room that day. And we’ve started doing a bi-weekly all-hands meeting just before that lunch. It’s a great way to share what’s going on, and I’ve learned over the years that our employees really value time together. 
     
I’ve long been interested in creating a great work environment. I think happy people do better work, and for us that means making better wine. I was recently at a conference with other business leaders and there was much discussion about the importance of positive workplace culture in attracting and retaining the best talent and how this enhances the bottom line over the long run. At the same time, the general public is paying more attention to these issues in terms of companies they want to do business with.
 
You make a “charity wine” that raises money for farmworker assistance. Tell us more about that.
 
My wife, Johnine, and I felt our county needed to do a better job of supporting farm workers, the people who make our industry possible. In 2004 we established the Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers and started making Mano Tinta (“Red Hand”), a charity wine to support this effort. We produce about 250 cases that we sell direct to consumer. It sells quickly; our tasting room manager jokes that people don’t even have to taste it. We donate our staff time, and suppliers donate bottles, labels and corks. Growers and wineries have donated grapes and wine, which makes for a true community effort. The more we can drive our costs down, the more we can contribute. 
     
The Fund is an endowment held by the Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County. Our portfolio is around $750,000. We give annual grants to nonprofit organizations that benefit the farmworker community. Partnering with the Community Foundation has given us a great structure because they handle all of the compliance and administration and manage the money. We focus on raising money and choosing which nonprofit organizations to give it to.
      One of the beneficiaries, the SLO NOOR free clinic, is run by doctors who donate medical care. Often farmworkers aren’t aware of these resources, that there are people trying to help them.  Part of what we try to do is direct resources to places where people need them most. We recently made a contribution to the Assistance League, which puts together backpacks with school clothes for kids, and we ensure that they’re directed to the parts of the county with significant communities of farmworkers. 
      People spend the majority of their time at work, and increasingly they want to know that their work has meaning. We hear from our employees that they appreciate these efforts to help others and are proud to come to work every day.


Copyright 2017 Wine Institute

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