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What Retailers Can Learn from Room & Board's Workplace Culture

Fortune, in partnership with Great Place to Work, named Room & Board as one of the top retail workplaces in the country. Your furniture or lighting showroom may not have as many locations or the same staff size, but there are ways to reinterpret Room & Board's strengths for your own store. Here are a few.

Alison Martin
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Corporate offices at Room & Board
Photo: Room & Board

Fortune magazine and Great Place to Work named Room & Board the fourth best retail workplace in the U.S. Through a survey of 665 employees (out of the 868 employees), the company, founded in 1980, received great feedback, with 94 percent of respondents saying that they were proud to tell others they worked for the company. 

Today's retail workplace faces some big challenges when it comes to creating a productive environment. On the one hand, the labor market is tight, and there is more competition for skilled sales employees. They expect more from their employers and they're not hesitant to leave companies that they feel don't align with their values or offer competitive pay and other perks.

Your furniture or lighting showroom may not have the staff size or 31 locations that Room & Board does, but you can learn a lot about what it takes to keep employees happy and motivated with their work. Here are a few tips.

Financial compensation includes both today and tomorrow

In 2019, Room & Board estimates most of its full-time employees will make between $40,000 and $47,000 annual, depending on the job and where they live. Additionally, the company's 401(k) program matches up to 50 percent of the first eight percent a staff member contributes each year. Last year, 94 percent of employees participated in the company's 401(k) program. Room & Board also offers savings accounts for post-secondary education, and they have a financial planner available to all employees by phone and email as well as store visits.

As the retail labor market tightens, employees have more leverage to ask for better compensation and benefits from their employers. The companies that treat employees as disposable will suffer and find themselves turning over employees every few months.

Your store may not have all the financial capabilities that Room & Board does, and that's okay. Meet with your own financial planner or adviser and see what you can do to add a few financial perks to your company. If you don't have a 401(k) plan, look into it or look for other savings plans to help your employees prepare for retirement. 

Great communication matters

At Room & Board, 95 percent of employees said the company has great communication, a truly underrated skill. 

Communication goes beyond knowing who to call when an employee needs to take a sick day. Policies and procedures change all the time, and employees find it frustrating when they change without any notification.

There's no one right way to perfect communication, but here are a few ideas for your store:

- Send out a weekly email at the beginning of each week: Tell employees everything they need to know, anything from new policies to holiday hours. 

- Start using Slack: The communication app allows for each department to have their own channel, basically a group chat, where everyone can talk and share information. Add yourself to every official channel (employees may create their own separate channels) and disseminate information through each official channel for each department. 

- Designate a space in your offices for informational postings: In a central location, install a cork board and post announcements to it in real time. You should still be using email and other digital forms of communication, but a board is just another way to ensure employees will get all the information they need.

Of course, you can never force employees to check emails or Slack channels, but once you get into a habit of posting information in one consistent format, then your employees will learn to check those first. And those that don't? Likely, they'll be heading for the door anyway.  

A little recognition goes a long way

Each Room & Board store receives $100 per person per annual year to be spent on parties, lunches and other celebrations throughout the years. Stores can spend that money however they like. Some choose to do smaller parties throughout the year, while others save the money and do a larger holiday bash towards the end of the year. Celebrations are also held for profit sharing as well as retirements. Some even create their own events, such as the Denver delivery team which has a “Going the Extra Mile” award to recognize their peers’ accomplishments.

Employees like to see some recognition for all their hard work throughout the year, so if you're only thanking employees at the holiday party in December, they may not be feeling the appreciation during the 11 other months of the year.

Look for opportunities to do something a little extra special for your employees throughout the year. You might start an employee of the month program and give the winner the best parking spot in the lot or maybe he or she gets a special meal during a shift. When you meet your sales quota for the month, celebrate with a catered lunch. Find a way to call out employees who go the extra mile for your customers. If you reward them, they will be more likely to reward you back in loyalty.


What do you find most interesting about Room & Board's recognition? Share with us in the comments.

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