Meet Luke Harris: L&B Front-End Supervisor
Luke Harris started working at Lunds & Byerlys three years ago, when he was 15. The fact that he would be getting a job — any job — came as a surprise.
“I got home from school one day and my mom was like, ‘I applied for a job for you,’” says Luke. Was she concerned about his motivation level? Did she think it was time he got some real world experience? “I don’t really know,” laughs Luke. “I think she saw a “Now Hiring” sign at the store and thought, ‘Might as well.’”
What started as an unexpected parental push quickly became a rewarding part of Luke’s life. Just as quickly, Luke became a vital part of the Wayzata store. He started as a bagger and, only five days into his new job, a manager saw his potential and asked him to be a cashier. “I was a cashier for nine months,” says Luke. Soon, he was eager to help even more. “I started doing more and asking what more I could do,” he says. His initiative didn’t go unnoticed and, at 16, he was promoted to front-end supervisor. “I was extremely scared, but I was like, ‘Let’s do this,’” he says.
He learned a lot. “I learned how people meshed together and how I should portray myself as a person. I learned that managing people triple my age is tough and confusing, and, with coworkers my own age, I had to learn how to separate being their friend that day from being their direct supervisor that day.” At times he’d have to coach the people he managed on how to improve their customer service. “I’d have to say, ‘You did this’ or ‘You need to work on this aspect of how you relate to the customer’ because that is why they come into the store, for the L&B feel.”
During his time as a front-end supervisor, Luke would sometimes fill in for employees in other departments. If someone in the grocery or bakery department went on vacation, for example, he’d step in. One week he helped out in the online department and the ordering process piqued his interest. He asked if he could keep pinch hitting in the department. His managers said yes. When the pandemic hit and the store got a large influx of orders, “my managers were like, ‘You’re gonna stay here!’” he says. Today he runs the online department with coworker Kandy Schute.
Maintaining the Lunds & Byerlys Feel in a Time of Crisis
One of Luke’s top priorities as the online shopping supervisor is making sure the online shopping experience matches what people have come to expect when they visit a Lunds & Byerlys in person, or when they’ve ordered online in the past.
First, he established an online accountability procedure. “We needed a common denominator for accountability,” he says. Now all employees in the online shopping department have to add their initials to a task checklist when they complete a task, like bagging the groceries or cashing out an order. This helps Luke and Kandy know what went smoothly and what didn’t, and how they can help employees learn from their mistakes.
Luke has also implemented ways to make the online process more personal for shoppers. “When the volume of orders increased, the old way we were doing online shopping wasn’t very friendly for customers because we weren’t built for it,” he says. He trained other employees how to answer the phone and help customers to the best of their abilities. He created flyers to let customers know that real people still fulfill their orders. “I want customers to know that an actual person picked out their items,” says Luke. Other flyers are added to bags when shoppers have requested an item but it is out-of-stock because of the pandemic.
And when we make a mistake — for example if a customer has to drive back to the store for a forgotten item or to make a return — he makes sure our empathy goes beyond just words. “I make sure people get a box of chocolates or a gift card if they have to come back to the store,” he says.
A Bright Future
This fall, Luke will attend Iowa State University for industrial engineering. “The core of industrial engineering is efficiency and looking at processes and thinking, ‘How can I do this the best way?’” This is exactly what he’s had the opportunity to do at Lunds & Byerlys and he’s grateful for the real-world experience honing his analytical skills.
He’s also grateful to be a Russell T. Lund scholarship recipient. Each year, 10 student employees are awarded $3,000 toward the cost of college. He won the scholarship on the strength of his GPA and transcript, as well as an essay he wrote on challenges he’s faced and how he’s dealt with them. He wrote about his journey learning to handle customer and employee relations at the store.
Luke has nothing but praise for his managers at Lunds & Byerlys, who have always worked to accommodate his academic schedule and help him find a good balance between work and school. “They do whatever it takes to help me manage school and work and keep my mental health intact,” says Luke. He hopes to keep working nights and weekends this summer while doing an internship at a medical technology company and getting ready for college. “I wanna try to keep working,” he says. “I love this place.”
What about his physical health? Is he worried or scared to come to work during the pandemic?
“I’m really young — a lot of us here are really young — and I see it as our duty to help people who can’t come into the grocery store,” says Luke. “Having that younger immune system, we need to use the youth we have to help those who don’t have it anymore.”