Breakouts - Schedule
Friday, June 9, 2017
10:30 a.m - 12:00 p.m.
101: SALES GROWTH IN A DOWN, COMPETITVE MARKET
Amy Campbell, Senior Marketing Manager, Lakewinds Food Co-op
Tim Reese, Board President, Lakewinds Food Co-op
Dale Woodbeck, General Manager, Lakewinds Food Co-op
Lakewinds Food Co-op shares strategies and tactics to stay black in a red market by investing in and leaning into their core differentiation: values. By investing in and nurturing the local farm and maker community, producing healthy options for the time-stretched shopper, and creating internal alignment through a robust Open Book Management program, Lakewinds is integrating its internal and external activities according to five core values that were created to organize progress on Ends.
201: Strengthen Member-Owner Participation through Board Communication
This workshop will help directors, GMs, marketing teams and others think about the board’s communication tasks, what’s required to strengthen its relationship with the ownership and ways to help make its communications most successful, such as structuring board meetings to making time for ends dialogues with owners, creating a formal board communication plan that is connected to the annual marketing plan that can benefit the relationship between the board and the marketing/communications team and harmonize the board voice with the brand, and strengthening board holism by developing the co-op narrative together.
301: Governing and Leading in times of stress: A Panel and Small Group Discussion Workshop
Thane Joyal, Consultant, CDS Consulting Co-op
Mary Alice Smalls, Board President, Seward Community Co-op
Joshua Youngblood, Board President, Ozark Natural Foods
Governing and leading well is a challenge in the best of times. But during challenging circumstances, governing and leading well can become an art. In recent years, some co-op boards have wrestled with governance challenges such as divisive elections, criticism and challenge from members because of concerns about staff treatment, GM performance, proposed business changes, and more. This session’s panel is made up of board members from co-ops who have recently been confronted with, and overcome a governance challenge. Each panelist will describe the challenge they faced and the steps taken toward resolution of the challenge, including the structures and partnerships used by the governing group to help the co-op resolve the conflict.
401: Two Expansion Case Studies: Successfully Navigating Financing Your Expansion or Remodel
Brenda Pfahnl, Director of Programs & Senior Loan Officer, Shared Capital Cooperative
Dorian Gregory, CPA, Loan and Outreach Officer, Cooperative Fund of New England
Phyllis Bruno, Chief Financial Officer, Common Ground Food Co-op
Brandon Kane, General Manager, GreenStar Natural Foods Co-op
Jacqueline Hannah, Assistant Director, Food Co-op Initiative
This session will provide cooperative staff and board members with the tools necessary to navigate financing the debt portion of your expansion or remodel. Presenting two case studies of recent cooperative expansions, this session will provide both the cooperative’s and the lender’s points of view. In addition to the expansion stories, content will include lessons learned, tips for others to consider, and how to get the project closed as smoothly as possible while navigating the inevitable bumps along the way.
501: Food Cooperators Build Bridges to Food Justice
This session will present and utilize CoFED’s Equity Toolkit framework to demonstrate how food co-ops can demonstrate our commitment to the values that guide and differentiate us, our North Star. The Equity Toolkit presents metrics that build structure and culture to bolster more equitable outcomes in retail stores and the broader community. We will then elucidate this framework with real-life applied examples from the food co-op world, such as learnings from Daily Groceries’ partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Athens, Georgia and FirstHand’s profit-sharing model with cooperative and social enterprise development in Central Appalachia. We hope to present a vision for and examples of how food co-ops can leverage their economic resources to grow solidarity economies and become more embedded in social justice efforts, thereby building more inclusive and attractive businesses.
601: Grocery Industry Basics for Boards
Most people want to serve on the Board of their local food co-op because they believe in the co-op’s values, not because they want to be grocers. And yet, once elected, they find themselves making decisions about a business in an industry that they frequently know very little about. Effective Boards are responsible for setting strategic direction for their organization; how can they do this without at least a basic understanding of the industry in which their co-op operates? This workshop will look at major external trends in the national food system, such as sales growth trends, distributor and producer consolidation, and the growing footprint of conventional stores, as well as internal strategies grocers use to stay competitive, such as margins, inventory turns, and sales per labor hour. We’ll also talk about todays’ co-op consumer, and how their choices affect a co-op’s bottom line.
1:30 p.m - 3:00 p.m.
102: ONLINE GROCERY DELIVERY STRATGIES
Sarah Mastrorocco, Instacart
Nick Nickitas, CEO, Rosie App
John Tashiro, General Manager, City Market/Onion River Co-op
Grocery retail is undergoing dramatic shifts driven by changing consumer needs and expectations, technology advancement and a fierce competitive environment. In this session e-commerce vendors and food co-op peers will share their experiences implementing online shopping and grocery delivery services to their members. Topics will include: analysis to determine if this service is right your co-op, due diligence, and lessons learned.
202: Co-ops and Community: Thriving Together
Co-ops have long been the vanguards of social and community impact through retail grocery. It’s in our DNA: the seventh co-op principle, “concern for community,” is an inherent part of the co-op identity. Unfortunately, competitors have been co-opting this distinguishing characteristic, knowing that it appeals to informed consumers. And it’s not just greenwashing: our competitors are truly making significant strides in sustainability. Co-ops can remain the leaders in this important and distinctive arena if they are able to effectively convey authenticity. Join us for a discussion on how co-ops can more effectively measure the impact they have, set goals for continual improvement, and effectively tell the story so that customers can make informed decisions and spend their money where it truly makes a difference to their communities.
302: Beyond In-Store Tabling: Best Practices and Brainstorming for Better Board Engagement
Brian McDermott, Chief Storyteller, GrowthWorks Inc.
Gerry Sexton, GrowthWorks Inc.
This collaborative session will give board members (and GMs) from across the country the opportunity to share stories about how they successfully connect with co-op owners and other stakeholders, and to put their heads together about how to take that work to new levels. The session will focus on sharing engagement and education tactics boards have used effectively, and on brainstorming and idea building about how to go beyond the most traditional practices – everything from how to jazz up the face-to-face “in-store tabling” events to community focus groups on critical co-op issues.
402: Price & Promotions Strategy: How to differentiate your CO-OP
Kevin O’Donnell, Prepared Foods Consultant for CDS consulting Co-op & Operations Manager for Hunger Mountain Co-op
This session will describe how a strategic approach to product pricing and promotion can support organizational goals. The objective will be the process of developing a template for your co-op and how to implement the strategy, outcomes include: value to co-op shoppers for the entire store, create a favorable price image, attain financial results, and create consistency.
502: NORTH STAR BLACK COOPERATIVE FELLOWSHIP ANd Community Wealth building with Nexus Community Partners
This session will highlight the newly launched, North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship, a 4-month, cohort-based program, that will provide participants with a history of cooperative economics in the Black community nationally and in the Twin Cities. Many people know very little about the successful wealth building efforts in the Black community, and that economically successful Black communities and individuals were targeted, systematically undermined and were the victims of violence from bombings to lynchings because of their participation and success in the business community. This fellowship will debunk those myths, reclaim our history and build cooperative economic support.
602: Take the First Step to Following YOUR North Star – Cooperative Governance Basics
Whether you are part of a co-op that is newly formed, recently opened or long established, your co-op will benefit from a board that understands and practices good governance! In this session we will look at the elements needed for effective governance, such as trusteeship, future focus, delegation and accountability; the foundation and pillars on which you can build cooperative success, and tools, resources and techniques you can use to excel. All this in just over an hour – don’t be late!
3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
103: NCG Revealed!
Karen Zimbelman, Senior Director of Membership and Cooperative Relations, National Co+op Grocers
Since 1999, U.S. food co-ops have been putting the ideals of “cooperation among co-ops” into practice through their own second-level co-op, National Co+op Grocers. Today, NCG, owned by 138 U.S. food co-ops, brings together over $2 billion in purchasing power. Come learn more about how NCG works, what it does, and how it makes a big impact in the operations and success of its member and associate co-op partners. Join us for a quick-paced overview of NCG now and its plans to continue to strengthen the food co-op as a sector and a movement. Anyone is welcome to join this session – those involved with co-ops that are already part of NCG, as well as those considering joining in the future.
203: Together We Grow: Member Loan Campaign Builds Community + Success
Kathleen Casey, President, Ambler Food Coop and Co-chair, Member Loan Campaign
Laura Morris Siena, Weavers Way Board member and Co-chair, Member Loan Campaign
Crystal Pang, Marketing Director, Weavers Way Co-op
Weavers Way Co-op and Ambler Food Coop, a start-up co-op, teamed up in Fall 2016 to conduct a campaign that raised $1.5 million in unsecured loans for an expansion to Ambler, a community adjacent to Weavers Way’s market area of Northwest Philadelphia. This campaign combined effective use of communications, including social media, as well as micro-targeting of prospective lenders, with good old-fashioned outreach. Board members of both organizations worked effectively with volunteers in addition to Weavers Way staff, including the GM, Communications, Membership, Finance and IT staffs to maximize efforts which resulted in 4% of Weavers Way’s 6,000+ members and nearly 20% of Ambler Food Coop’s members making loans. Attendees will explore the key elements of this campaign with a goal of making it easy for them to adopt lessons learned in their own communities and with their own co-ops.
303: Davis vs. Davis: Case Study of Internal Strife and Recovery
Carolee Colter, Consultant, CDS Consulting Co-op
Steve Kobs, (former Interim General Manager, Davis Food Co-op), General Manager, New Leaf Market Co-op
I’talia McCarthy, Operations Manager, Davis Food Co-op
Karen Rich, Board President, Davis Food Co-op
Competition arrives in Davis, California and the co-op struggles to respond. The departure of one general manager, then another, challenges perceptions and spawns a staff lead “Save the Co-op” petition to remove the Board. What else could go wrong? Lots. Learn how multiple organization weaknesses caused crisis and how each issue was addressed and resolved.
403: The Ins and Outs of Co-op FinancING: Learn from the Experts in a Speed-Networking Format
Betsy Black, Loan and Outreach Officer, Cooperative Fund of New England
Estee Segal, Loan Officer, Capital Impact Partners
Brenda Pfahnl, Director of Programs & Senior Loan Officer, Shared Capital Cooperative
Nathan Hixson, Loan and Investment Manager, LEAF
Brian Misenheimer, Senior Vice President, National Cooperative Bank
In this participatory session, attendees will have the opportunity to step back and think about financing in concert with lenders who each have a long-standing commitment to supporting the development of cooperatives throughout the United States. This session will give established and new co-ops an opportunity to explore financing options in a fast-paced, personalized setting. Explore your co-op’s strengths and weaknesses in approaching a lender, based on the five C’s of credit used by lenders. Learn how to identify what criteria are most important to your co-op, considering the various aspects such as rate, term, flexibility, cooperative principles. Participants will move around the room, meeting in small groups with each of the lenders for discussion and exchange of information. Learn how co-op lenders differ from conventional sources and how this competitive difference can help your coop in the long run.
503: Community Partnerships and Nutrition Incentive Programs: Addressing Food Security at Your Grocery Cooperative
Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services, Willy Street Co-op
Willy Street Co-op is leveraging partnerships in their community and with their owners to pilot creative strategies and nutrition incentive programs that are making a real impact for those with low income. In this session, participants will learn about Willy Street’s experience in implementing the Women, Infants and Children program at their new location and community collaboration to support customers with lack of traditional transportation for buying groceries. Additionally, participants will hear about FoodShare education, in-store registration, their Double Dollars partnership with local government and farmers markets to support shoppers using FoodShare/QUEST, and the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program created with a local food bank and health care providers to make stronger connections between accessing nutritious food and health outcomes. This session will provide details on project piloting, funding, preliminary outcomes, how Willy Street is engaging owners and the community, and how these programs are changing the way we think about grocery cooperatives meeting the needs of our owners and community.
603: Open Book Management: In Real Life!
You've heard about the revolutionary world of Own Book Management now experience it for yourself at CCMA! Join us for an Open Book Management forecasting meeting! OBM is a dynamic and transformational way of managing a business, where employees at all levels are informed, involved, and empowered to understand the financial bottom line (profit) as well as they understand the other two (people and planet) and to make change happen. The change is measured, reported, and discussed in regular meetings (also known as forecasting meetings or "huddles") on a "scoreboard" and everyone is invited to participate! Open Book culture builds employee engagement, empowerment and strong relationships throughout the organization. Join us to hear real stories from your peers, learn best practices for building a strong OBM culture at your co-op and experience a full-fledged forecasting meeting.
Saturday, June 10, 2017
104: Co-op Consolidation: In a Competitive Market Choosing Cooperation
Carolyn Buzza, Board President, Eastside Food Co-op
Amy Fields, former General Manager Eastside Co-op and currently NCG Central Corridor Advisor
Marjorie Hegstrom, Board President, Wedge Co-op
Josh Resnik, CEO/General Manager, Wedge Co-op
Alex Slichter, Board President, Linden Hills Co-op
With the mainstreaming of organics and money flooding into new retail concepts, co-op grocery stores are being met with increasing competition from new “super naturals,” revamped conventional players, and everyone in between. In facing this competitive dynamic, three independent co-ops in the Twin Cities considered consolidation. Come hear the story about the consolidation efforts of the Wedge, Linden Hills, and Eastside Co-ops – which ultimately passed at the Wedge and Linden Hills.
In this interactive panel, you will hear about how the co-ops went from idea to action in developing a consolidation plan. We will start by talking about the competitive dynamics in the marketplace and how the idea for consolidation came about and started to get momentum. As part of the discussion we will talk about the various forms of cooperation that we evaluated from strategic partnerships to joint ventures to mergers to consolidation – and explain some of the benefits and challenges of each. Then we will share the various stages of due diligence that the boards and operations went through to test out the idea – from a legal, financial, cultural, and governance perspective. We’ll then talk about the owner engagement phase and discuss how we talked about the consolidation with our owners and how we responded to feedback on the plan.
We will share how Linden Hills and the Wedge ultimately landed on a consolidation, discuss our processes for implementation and give an update on how our integration efforts are going.
204: Revolutionizing your Co-op Education Program
Jess Pierce, Director of Marketing, Wedge Community Co-op
In 2016, the Wedge made a dramatic shift and completely revamped our education program to reach a broader audience and create more inclusivity. The shift yielded dramatic results that drove an attendance increase of over 400%, engaged owners and drove new acquisition to our Wedge Table location. The new programing aligns strategic focuses on ownership engagement, education, accessibility and community; is fun and welcoming, but also informational and educational by connecting people to the stories and people behind their goods; and reduces barriers to attendance (cost, registration, etc.) During this session we’ll share the rationale behind the shift, outcomes, useful tips, and lessons learned during our first two years of programming.
304: Oversight, Foresight and Insight: Trends in Board Governance
Ann Hoyt, Professor Emerita, University of Wisconsin – Madison
Join Ann for a lively discussion of trends in board governance since the 1980’s. She’ll share her reflections on Policy Governance and what it has contributed to governing in the 21st century; her work on stages of board development that mirror stages of cooperative development; and her current work on “Generative Governance” based on the “Governance as Leadership” model introduced by Cait, Ryan and Taylor.
404: Standing out in a changing landscape: Cooperative Customer service as the key to organizational success
Now is the time to differentiate ourselves from our competitors and it has become increasingly important that our leadership and management teams are able to articulate customer service as a core value and develop training and systems that will set co-ops apart from other shopping experiences. In order for food co-ops to create a true service culture that will “wow” consumers, we need to go beyond half-day skill-building workshops for floor staff. Facilitating change within our organization requires assessing the strengths and weakness of our current customer service protocol and how we engage stakeholders at all levels of the organization. To accomplish lasting transformation, it’s imperative that co-op leadership has a clear vision and plan for the type of customer service they want to provide to their consumers. Attendees will engage in a critical discussion about the unique challenges and opportunities of cooperative customer service. We will lay out the steps to develop a customized customer service training approach by fully utilizing our cooperative advantage. This workshop will focus on creating lasting cultural change within all levels of an organization and strategies to rise above the competition.
504: Everybody Welcome: Q & A with Seward Co-op
We will explore the strategies that we use to create an atmosphere of invitation. Unpacking "everyone is welcome" will allow attendees to learn what welcome means to different people. The workshop will also suggest strategies that are not as effective and how to improve upon these allowing each attendee to see how they can set our best foot forward.
604: Get Started on Succession Planning Now!
Carolee Colter, Consultant, CDS Consulting Co-op
Be prepared for when your key people move up or move on, or you need to staff a new store. But getting started on succession planning can be daunting. This session will introduce a step-by-step planning approach to identifying and developing successors for all management team positions. You can get started on plans for your own team right in the workshop. Colter will share job-specific templates for development planning for department manager and store manager positions. You’ll meet in small groups to work on your real-life plan.
10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
105: Regional Marketing System
Ben F. Burkett, State Coordinator for MS, Federation of Southern Cooperatives
Cornelius Key, State Coordinator for GA, Federation of Southern Cooperatives
Pam Madzima, Director of the Rural Cooperative Development Program, Federation of Southern Cooperatives
Building a self-sustainable cooperation among cooperatives model to effectively develop a southern regional marketing system consisting of limited resources, socially disadvantage, and economically disadvantaged farmers. The presentation will focus on a case-study of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives current marketing contracts with food cooperatives in the Midwest where producer co-op members are marketing to food cooperatives. The discussion will focus on the supply chain being used, the challenges and risks involved; and how other food cooperatives can be involved.
205: Food Safety Crisis Management - Lessons Leaned from Boise Co-op's Food-Borne Illness Outreak in 2015
In the Spring of 2015 the Boise Co-op experienced the largest Salmonella Outbreak in the history of Idaho, with close to 300 customers and staff affected. This session will discuss the subsequent crisis management from both communication and operational aspects. Attendees will be given tools to bring back to their organizations regarding food safety, such as best practices, standard operating procedures and future focused departmental planning. Additional discussion will cover Board and Operational communication on critical operational issues and techniques to recover from an organizational crisis.
305: Building a Strong Board. Explore practices for board perpetuation, including recruiting, qualifying, electing and orienting directors
This workshop will touch on all Four Pillars of Cooperative Governance: Teaming, Accountable Empowerment, Strategic Leadership and Democracy as we explore building a strong board by strengthening the perpetuation process. We will share a range of co-op stories, trends, tools and tips and provide ample time for brief small group conversation to help participants explore the content and to pull from the wisdom in the room. Participants will learn how co-ops get the word out to member-owners about the opportunity for board service, tips on orienting and educating about the board’s job prior to candidate deadlines, the desired qualities and characteristics of directors and candidates, trends in qualification and vetting processes for both candidates and incumbents, and how co-ops provide information about candidates so members can make informed choices. This workhop will explore trends in elections, including providing access to all member-owners by way of variety of ballot options… electronic, paper, combination as well as trends in orienting new directors.
405: Making Change at Rock Bottom: Saving New Leaf Market in 12 Steps
Opening a second store one year ago overwhelmed New Leaf Market and took it the brink of collapse. Learn how productivity was restored, our recovery from a cash crisis, and what we did to increase sales and membership. Hear what worked and did not work as well as the catastrophic effects of failing to act. Participants will learn techniques to successfully implement and community the most difficult operating decisions, how New Leaf managed a rapid cash loss, and tips on pricing strategies for members, product and rewards that increased traffic.
505: A Conversation with Dr. Monica White
Dr. Monica White, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin- Madison
Join this workshop to continue the conversation with keynote speaker Dr. Monica White. This informal workshop will provide a candid and broad open-form audience discussion.
605: Getting off to a Great start with Your NEW GM
In recent years, food co-ops have seen an unprecedented degree of turnover in the General Manager position. Hiring a new GM is among the most consequential decisions that a co-op board of directors is ever called upon to make. Boards typically invest an enormous amount of time in the hiring process, but they don’t always have a great game plan for building a strong relationship with the new GM once someone has actually accepted the job. Yet the stakes are high for getting it right, for many reasons. In this workshop, we will look at some core principles and practices, from both a governance and an HR perspective, that can help a board to set the stage for success in this critical new relationship. The workshop will touch on topics such as fostering a culture of openness and trust, establishing practices for accountability and performance evaluation, and working through early mistakes and missteps. We will share stories and lessons learned “from the field” and welcome a lively and interactive discussion with session attendees.
106: Implementation of In-store GE Labeling
Trudy Bialic, Director of Public Affairs, PCC Natural Markets
In 2012, PCC committed to labeling all genetically engineered foods in our stores by 2018. As we near the launch of our labeling program, we’d like to share our rationale for making this commitment and our approach to identify GE-risk products in our stores. This presentation will cover a brief history of the movement to identify GE foods, including creation of the non-GMO Project, the passage of four state labeling laws, and the federal labeling law signed last summer. We’ll share PCC’s approach to labeling and the resources available to other co-ops seeking to make a similar commitment.
206: Everything is Better with More Members; Membership Growth as a Path to Greater Engagement with Your Community
Ben Sandel, Consultant-Member, CDS Consulting Co-op
I think it is fair to say that all our co-ops strive to strengthen our connections to our communities, both as a way to better discern and serve community needs and as a strategy to thrive. The process of intentionally increasing membership can serve both those benefits. It involves reaching out, listening, stretching, possibly adjusting or re-focusing our vision and yields a stronger co-op with more shoppers, more input and greater knowledge of community needs and desires. In this workshop we’ll explore proven paths to membership growth, tools, techniques, messaging and scheduling. We’ll go over building awareness, bringing people up the ladder of participation, reaching more parts of our community than we may be currently, and other aspects of community engagement as a path to more members. These concepts work for startups and established co-ops and can be implemented with limited funds. Come join us for an expansive conversation about expanding our co-op membership and better serving our communities!
306: Scenario Planning: Developing Insights to Have Foresight
Recognizing the need to create a rigorous, strategic practice to consider trends and changes in the competitive landscape, the board of directors at Outpost Natural Foods leveraged their annual retreat, and included members of the management team, to undertake Scenario Planning. Scenario Planning is a strategic planning tool that helps organizations identify potential futures in order to have flexible plans in place to nimbly allocate resources to manage potential threats and capitalize on opportunities. The retreat resulted in a yearlong board study process where working in committees, board members took on key, high priority issue areas to develop further expertise. Join this session to learn about scenario planning, how the board of directors implemented the process for their retreat and their insights from the process.
406: Priced to compete: Pricing strategy for strong food co-ops
As the markets our co-ops operate in has gotten more and more competitive, it’s increasingly vital for co-ops to have a well-informed and effective pricing strategy. This introductory workshop will cover the essentials: what is a pricing strategy, how do co-ops shape and hone their pricing strategy, and why is a pricing strategy critical for all food co-ops. We will also provide a brief overview of the essential tools and tactics used by successful co-ops to create a positive price image in key areas. This workshop will provide useful background for all co-op leaders – paid staff, management, as well as volunteer leadership (board and committee).
506 Thriving in a White Co-op World: Strategies and Support for People of ColoR
Jade Barker, Consultant, CDS Consulting Co-op
Martha Whitman, Consultant, CDS Consulting Co-op
While U.S. food coops have long believed ourselves to be welcoming to all, very few people of color participate in our movement. Why might that be? Whites and non-whites often have startlingly different perspectives on the role of race in our culture and institutions. When people of color who’ve experienced racism personally try to work alongside folks who’ve been enculturated to dismiss, disbelieve, or misunderstand our experiences, it can create considerable stress for us; what strategies can we use to cope? If people of color are to survive and possibly thrive in a movement without a shared understanding of racism, we need opportunities to express our different experience in an environment of support and understanding. This workshop will allow those co-operators who feel safe enough to identify as people of color an opportunity to gather, vent, strategize, and offer mutual support, and to help manage the intense pressures we experience as a result of being non-white in an overwhelmingly white world.
Participants will have an opportunity to share the extent that race has impacted them, explore some of the challenges of being racially different from the co-op norm, and will walk away with tools to help them build personal resilience and be able to be more fully engaged in both transforming and strengthening our cooperative institutions.
606: Use of Fair Trade Principles in Store Management: rights of co-op employees and the process of employee unionization
Alexia Kulwiec, University of Wisconsin Extension, Department of Labor Education, School for Workers
Michelle Miller, University of Wisconsin Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems
This panel is intended to educate managers and cooperative board members about fair trade principles and how they are related to labor union organization. This panel workshop will introduce a framework for domestic fair trade: certification, negotiation, coalition-building, and policies that support fairness in our food supply chains. We will discuss how these principles apply to cooperative retailors, including employees’ rights to organize and the process pursuant to the National Labor Relations Act. You will hear from two cooperatives who have discovered benefits from their employees’ unionization, including formal mechanisms to set wages and benefits, investigate complaints, and ensure fairness and consistency in the workplace.