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What They Do
Run a chain of 254 stores in the United States where customers make their own bears and other stuffed animals.
Headquarters: St Louis, Missouri
Annual Revenues: $306 Million.
What Makes Build-A-Bear Workshop Great
Sure, working at a Build-A-Bear Workshop is a job — if you call it work to help a child at a birthday party make a bear. In fact, employee after employee says that being on staff at Build-A-Bear Workshop is often closer to a hobby than a job, "because you get to play and have a blast every time you are there," as one says.
Working with stuffed animals and children makes work not just fun, but gratifying, too. "I have made bears to celebrate, to console and just because a bear is a powerful thing," one employee says. "I am so grateful to work at a place that I want to - smiles are contagious!"
Nine in 10 Build-A-Bear Workshop employees agree that the nature of their work gives it special meaning and makes it more than "just a job."
Not only does working at Build-A-Bear Workshop feel like more of a calling than a job, employees say they love the fact that they can be themselves and be accepted, respected and appreciated by co-workers and bosses. "The team I work with is like my family," one employee says. "We care about each other professionally and personally and I've never had that at another job." In all, 94 percent of employees say people care about each other, and 92 percent agree the company shares a "family" or "team" feeling.
This sense of teamwork has been especially important for Build-A-Bear Workshop in the last year. The 17-year-old retailer has closed a number of its U.S. mall-based stores, and the St. Louis company has announced plans to close additional locations, and remodel existing stores. The company's management has attempted to make downsizing go as smoothly as possible for its 3,300 full- and part-time workers by announcing store closings internally 60 days in advance, giving store-based employees an opportunity to transfer to a different location, and giving people a bonus for staying through the closing date.
At least one employee says that while it's never easy to hear bad news, management has done an exceptional job explaining why the downsizing is happening and minimizing the impact on staff. "Providing that context provides great credibility for the senior team," the employee says.
Despite these challenges, the positive group at Build-A-Bear Workshop say they have reason to show resounding support for the business and its future: 92 percent of employees believe management is competent at running the business, 90 percent say people would only be laid off as a last resort, and 88 percent say management has a clear view of where the organization is going and how to get there.
Fundamentally, employees at this retail chain feel that managers respect them. Whether it is the recognition they receive through their awards program, personal and professional support provided by managers and teammates, or just the chance to enjoy the trust placed in them that they can do their work without being micromanaged, the vast majority of Build-A-Bear Workshop employees feel their managers have their back.
"Build-A-Bear Workshop allows me to be me. I have worked for other companies and never before was I so free to be myself. It is nice to be able to use your own mind and make your own decisions for what is best for not only yourself but for the store too."
The company also works hard to be inclusive amongst its staff, offering, for example, paid birthdays off not only to full-time employees, but all part-time employees as well. More than one employee appreciates the fact upper management wears the same uniforms as those employees in stores, and that managers will often roll up their sleeves and work alongside everyone else in the workshop.
Three-quarters of Build-A-Bear Workshop's staff agree that they are paid fairly for their work, but some would like to earn a larger share of the company's overall profits and supplement the personal rewards of working there with greater financial ones.
Nevertheless, Build-A-Bear Workshop's employees generally are upbeat about their work, colleagues and the environment in which they work, with nearly nine in 10 saying that they consistently look forward to coming to work each day. "Fun," "play," and "happiness" are at the root of most employees' description of their workplace.
"Everyone who works here is just so happy all the time," shares one employee, illustrating a common theme. "You can't be angry or sad here as an employee because when you walk in everything on your mind goes away and you just embrace the contagious happiness of the staff and the children we serve. I work with amazing people and that is what makes this company a great place to work."
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