Alison Abbey, human resources (HR) manager at Stewart’s Shops, which operates 357 shops in upstate New York and southern Vermont, brings 17 years of HR experience to her role and excels at building relationships, prioritizing employees’ needs and ensuring they are set up for success at the company.
At Stewart’s Shops, employees are referred to as “partners” because they own 40% of the company through its employee stock ownership plan. But the term is also one of the many ways Stewart’s Shops conveys its respect for the important contributions of its front-line workers.
“I really enjoy being a resource for people. It is important for me to create an honest and trusting relationship with our partners,” said Abbey. “It is important to give people a voice and allow them to be heard. Listening and having empathy goes a long way in building relationships with partners.”
CStore Decisions is recognizing Abbey as one of our HR Award recipients because of the way she connects with partners, ensures their voices are heard and supports their needs, while continuing to create a safe and comfortable work environment.
Commitment to HR
After graduating from the State University of New York with her bachelor’s in business management, Abbey began working with the recruiting company Robert Half International. While with the company, it was her job to identify the best overall fit for a company and candidate. This is where her passion for helping people began.
After spending a few years as a recruiter, Abbey wanted to do more in HR, which landed her a position at Stewart’s Shops.
“My first position at Stewart’s Shops allowed me to be part of the entire process of onboarding someone from applicant to partner,” Abbey explained.
Now in her current role as the personnel HR manager, she is responsible for overseeing all of the day-to-day operations related to payroll, training and benefits administration for Stewart’s Shops’ partners. Along with managing the HR department, Abbey works with district managers when they are dealing with partner situations. She also works with the operations team to understand turnover trends, ensuring pay is fair and creating ways to improve partner retention.
When the pandemic hit, people were forced to decrease their communication with others. Once everything returned to normal, Abbey ensured that the voices of Stewart’s Shops’ partners and customers were heard and respected.
“Stewart’s created an ice cream flavor called ‘civility’ to emphasize that understanding and respect towards one another can go a long way in improving interactions with both customers and fellow partners,” said Abbey. “We are in a people business and interacting with customers keeps our partners’ jobs interesting and stimulating.”
Also, when gas prices increased, Abbey and the HR department made sure partners were able to get back and forth to work when needed. In 2022, Stewart’s Shops partnered with a local transportation company to offer free bus rides to its partners. This benefit was available whether employees were commuting to and from work or taking the bus for personal reasons.
“The high price of gasoline was one reason we created this program, but we also share partners between shops, and this allowed our walkers to help in shops that were not in walking distance,” said Abbey. “This helped with both recruiting and retaining partners, knowing they can save money on gas and limit how often they drive their vehicles.”
“The goal of the HR department is to support our shops operations team and try to make their work life as easy as possible,” said Abbey. “We have an advantage over other companies because we are in control of the human resources process, which allows us to help our partners without having to rely on a third party.”
All-in-all, Abbey wants to continue ensuring Stewart’s Shops remains a desirable employer by understanding its partners’ needs and making changes as necessary.