Being a farm boy from the heart of the Rangitikei, George Anderson always thought he’d be a vet, or at least be involved in the agricultural industry. That was the plan when he started a Bachelor of Business Studies at Massey University, but as university progressed he found himself moving away from the agricultural side and more to the commercial side of business. He graduated in 2011, having majored in Human Resource Management and Entrepreneurship and Small Business.
“I found my strengths and interests lay in dealing with people, which naturally led me to human resources,” he told SupermarketNews.
That being said, his introduction to the world of HR was something of a fluke. After university, faced with the uncertainty of what to do in the future, Anderson secured a graduate role in HR at Restaurant Brands, assisting across the team and dealing with iconic brands such as KFC, Starbucks and Pizza Hut. After the programme finished, he began working with Mitre 10.
“It was my first bit of exposure to the co-op world,” he explained. “It was based in the Glenfield Mitre 10 Mega, and I was also supporting two other stores in Auckland.”
After nearly three years at Mitre 10 he worked at Chorus NZ, wanting to move away from the retail world. However, an offer from Foodstuffs piqued his interest. “I was really missing the innovative and entrepreneurial flair that a co-op has to offer.”
As HR Business Partner for Anderson helps owners of these stores drive their culture and be “great community employers.” His experience growing up in Taihape shapes his approach to his job.
“Coming from a small town I have seen first-hand the way Four Squares make a difference in communities and how much small rural towns rely on Four Squares,” he said. “This makes it an awesome opportunity to be a part in ensuring that our stores are great places to work and helping the owner-operators of stores to become leaders in their community.”
Anderson’s dedication to Four Square is more than just an emotional bond – the keen rugby fan is fuelled by competitiveness. He wants to get Four Square to the point at which the brand is recognised not just in New Zealand but internationally as a preferred retail employer. He wants to take on the “big dogs” of the industry, including Four Square’s bigger Foodstuffs brothers. “I want our employees to feel that the skills and experiences that they gain in our stores are recognised as not only credible but sought after.”
HR can take up a lot of time, including difficult compliance tasks that can be difficult for owner-operators to navigate without experience or expertise. In his role, Anderson helps them grow in confidence in this area so they can spend more time on the rewarding side of staff management, such as culture and engagement.
Anderson has found the biggest challenge to be the promotion of grocery careers as more than just a job or a gap-filler, particularly away from the main centres. “There are some really structured development opportunities that can lead to great technical skills such as management, bakery and butchery or even store ownership, all of which are hard to recruit and attract top talent for in our rural areas.”