Build-A-Bear Workshop

What You Should Know

Employees say working for Build-A-Bear Workshop is just as fun as it sounds. Not only do staff members enjoy helping kids and others customize stuffed animals, the company keeps them happy with birthdays off and frequent "thank yous" through programs with names like Atta Bear, the Teddy Awards and Wowidays. Team members love the atmosphere. By a large margin, they say it's welcoming and allows them to be themselves. Plus, the company's headquarters welcomes dogs in the office and lines up amenities like onsite massage therapy and fresh produce sales from local farms. People who click with this playful culture tend to stay a long time. As in many organizations, though, some employees say they'd appreciate a greater share of the company's profits. "Everyone who works here truly cares about what they're doing," one employee says. "Managers show great appreciation toward associates and the work that we do. It's a happy place to be."

WHAT THEY DO

Build-A-Bear Workshop is a make-your-own stuffed animal retail-entertainment company. Its 400 stores worldwide offer children and other guests the chance to choose and personalize their own teddy bears. 

Website: www.buildabear.com US Headquarters: St. Louis, Missouri
US Sites: 242 Major Locations: St. Louis, MO; Groveport, OH; New York, NY; Anaheim, CA; Pittsburgh PA
Stock Symbol: BBW US Employees: 3273
US revenues: $302.22 million Worldwide revenues: $379.07 million
Employees worldwide: 4264 Founded: 1997
Industry: Retail

FORTUNE's 100 Best Companies to Work for ® 2014


Great Challenges

How much responsibility would I have? What kind of support is there for professional development?

Great Rated! conducted an anonymous survey of randomly selected employees to assess the quality of the workplace challenges the company provides. At Build-A-Bear Workshop, 79 percent of employees report the company often or almost always provides needed training, fair promotions and personally challenging work. Another 15 percent report the company sometimes provides these opportunities, for a combined positive rating from 94 percent of employees in the Great Challenges category.

Build-A-Bear Workshop employees work in make-your-own stuffed animal stores, the company's headquarters and distribution center. The business has approximately 3,273 employees in the United States, where they operate 242 locations.

A majority of employees (78 percent) say they carry a lot of responsibility in the organization, and most (88 percent) also say that managers trust them to carry out these responsibilities without micromanaging them. For 89 percent of employees, their work at Build-A-Bear Workshop is more than just a job: The chance to provide a fun experience for families provides special meaning.

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At Build-A-Bear Workshop, 80 percent of employees feel they receive the training and development they need to further their careers. While it is often difficult for companies to ensure that promotions are awarded fairly across organizations, at Build-A-Bear Workshop, 79 percent say that promotions consistently go to those who best deserve them, exceeding what one can typically expect even at the very best companies in the country.

Supporting Employee Development

  • Average annual training for part-time hourly employees: 15 hours
  • Average annual training for full-time salaried employees: 53 hours
  • Build-A-Bear Workshop's ScholarBEARship program gives $1,000 scholarships to up to 20 employees each year. The company also offers training workshops and modules on a variety of topics, like goal setting and personnel management. 
Early on in my career at Build-A-Bear Workshop, I attended an internal leadership class that provided me with key tools to shape my management style. Over the course of my almost 12 years with Build-A-Bear Workshop, I have held a number of positions from working in the store, to web fulfillment, to supporting our teams from the corporate level at Bearquarters. During this time, there has been a plethora of opportunities to grow and develop both professionally and personally.

Great Atmosphere

What would my colleagues be like? How do people have fun? How formal a workplace is it?

At Build-A-Bear Wokshop, 90 percent of employees say they often or almost always enjoy their colleagues and find their workplace to be fun and cooperative. Another 8 percent sometimes benefits from these qualities, for a combined positive rating from 98 percent of employees in the Great Atmosphere category.

Build-A-Bear Workshop's employees work primarily in the company's 242 retail locations throughout the United States. Most are mall-based, but some employees work out of the distribution center (known as the Bearhouse) outside Columbus, Ohio, or the company's head office - affectionately called Bearquarters - in St. Louis, Mo.

Fun and Celebrations

  • Build-A-Bear Workshop is so committed to employee celebrations that it recently held an International Day of Party Training for employees to share new ideas and activities. The company hosts a chili cook-off, office sports, a summer picnic, a Halloween costume contest, food truck visits and more. New babies and marriages are celebrated with gift cards and showers. 

Caring and Support

  • The company offers flexible scheduling and compressed workweeks to its headquarters employees, along with telecommuting for those needing extra time to handle issues at home. Store managers who can't work a 40-hour week have the option to work part-time while retaining their benefits. Employee events also raise money for a fund that helps co-workers facing financial hardships.
People celebrate special events around here.
91%
 
It's the overall sense of team that is felt within this company that makes it such a special place to work. It is felt from our basic part-time associate positions all the way through corporate. I have worked retail for quite some time now and can honestly say this is my forever home!

Demographics



Percentage minorities in workforce


Percentage of executives that are women




Great Rewards

What kind of perks and benefits are part of the employment package? What is the work-life balance like? Does the company appreciate hard work?

At Build-A-Bear Workshop, 79 percent of employees often or almost always find the company compensates them fairly, provides special and unique benefits, supports their work-life balance and shows genuine appreciation for their contributions. Another 13 percent reports they sometimes receive these benefits as well, for a combined positive rating from 92 percent of employees in the Great Rewards category.

There are so many unique things that make BABW a great place to work. I love that they offer convenient services such as on-the-spot oil changes, massage services and yoga at the office. We are also offered a compressed workweek which really helps working parents spend more time with their little ones. The Atta Bear program is a great way for co-workers to publicly recognize each other for a job well done. The list goes on!

COMPENSATION BY THE NUMBERS

$34,174 Average salary and additional cash compensation for Assistant Workshop Manager $47,477 Average salary and additional cash compensation for Chief Workshop Manager
20% 401(k) match of employee's salary, up to 1% of an employee's contribution 75% Company-paid health coverage for employees
43% Company-paid health coverage for dependents 20 hours Weekly hours at which part-timers receive health care coverage

COMPENSATION PROGRAMS

  • 401(k) or 403b plan
  • Pre-tax savings account

PERKS TO MAKE LIFE EASIER

  • Free beverages during the day
  • Massage therapy
  • Fitness classes
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Onsite package/mailing service
  • Discount ticket sales
  • Weight Watchers meetings

WORK-LIFE BALANCE BY THE NUMBERS

22 days Holidays & vacation days after one year of employment $3,000 Adoption benefit

WORK-LIFE BALANCE PROGRAMS

  • Flexible schedule (95% use it)
  • Compressed workweeks (95% use it)
  • Job sharing
  • Lactation rooms
I am able to take time off from work when I think it's necessary.
93%
 
People are encouraged to balance their work life and their personal life.
87%
 
I truly feel that Build-A-Bear Workshop understands the concept of balancing your personal life with your professional life to benefit both the individual and the company. 

HEALTH INSURANCE COVERS

  • Dental care
  • Prescription drug subsidy
  • Alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, homeopathy or chiropractic
  • Vision care
  • Mental health care

ONSITE HEALTH BENEFITS

  • Breast cancer screening
  • Cholesterol tests
  • Flu shots
  • Subsidized offsite gym memberships
  • Skin cancer screening
  • Blood pressure screening
  • Complete biometric screening

Great Pride

What inspires employees' company spirit here? Do people stand by their teams' work? What impact do people have outside the organization?

At Build-A-Bear Workshop, 90 percent of employees report that they often or almost always carry meaningful responsibilities within the organization and are proud of their accomplishments, community impact and the company's reputation in the world. Another 8 percent report that they sometimes experience this pride as well, for a combined positive rating from 98 percent of employees in the Great Pride category.

Build-A-Bear Workshop is committed to bringing teddy bears to life for the children and other guests who visit its stores. The company has sold over 125 million stuffed animals since it was founded in 1997. 

I'm proud to tell others I work here.
92%
 
I feel fortunate to work for a company that creates a product that has deeper meaning than being 'just a stuffed animal.' What we create also creates memories and enhances special moments of the lives of our guests. It is a pretty awesome feeling to know that you were a part of something that big!

Supporting the Community

  • Philanthropic donations in the last year: $1,732,000
  • Build-A-Bear Workshop participates in a variety of charitable and outreach programs. In the past, these have included adopting families during the holiday season, raising money for cancer research and United Way fundraisers, such as trivia nights and putt-putt golf through the office.
I feel good about the ways we contribute to the community.
90%
 
This is a company with heart. We care about the community and are able to give back. I love the fact that, when all is said and done, my job is to 'play with a purpose.' I have had so many opportunities over the years to make a serious impact on others, and that is very rewarding.

Great Communication

How easy is it to talk with managers and get the information I need? Will managers listen to my input?

At Build-A-Bear Workshop, 86 percent of employees say they often or almost always experience a free and transparent exchange of ideas and information within the organization. Another 9 percent sometimes has this experience as well, for a combined positive rating from 95 percent of employees in the Great Communication category.

From mall stores to ballparks, Build-A-Bear Workshop aims to prioritize employee communication across its dispersed locations. Most employees (89 percent) feel managers keep them informed about important issues and changes. The same percentage of team members also agree that their leaders make expectations clear. Staff members broadly say they feel comfortable communicating with their managers, with most (88 percent) reporting that they can ask any reasonable question and get a straight answer. In addition, a majority of employees (86 percent) say managers genuinely seek and respond to suggestions and ideas. 

No matter what level of management you are asking a question, they personally answer it, all the way up the ladder. I've never considered other companies I've worked for to be as open-door as it is here.

Great Bosses

What are managers' leadership strengths?

At Build-A-Bear Workshop, 85 percent of employees say their managers often or almost always act with integrity and care, are competent in their positions and provide clear directions and vision for the organization. Another 10 percent say their managers sometimes display these characteristics, for a combined positive rating from 95 percent of employees in the Great Bosses category.

Build-A-Bear Workshop employees widely appreciate the caring, fun atmosphere their leaders encourage at the company. Team members also paint a picture of an organization that is well run. In fact, a large majority of employees (92 percent) describe their managers as competent and ethical, while 89 percent say their leaders have a clear view of where the organization is going and how to get there.
They give us an opportunity to give feedback on a weekly basis and actually implement ideas that are submitted. They also take product ideas from employees and customers into consideration when making new products.

Great Perks and Programs

  • Dogs in the Office: Employees are encouraged to bring their dogs to work at the company's headquarters. Build-A-Bear Workshop even brings in catered treats for its canine friends on National Take Your Dog to Work Day. 
  • Birthdays and Anniversaries: All employees can take a paid day off on their birthdays, and team members at headquarters find their desks decorated and adorned with snacks. Employees also receive a special Collectibear on their anniversaries with the company, along with additional gifts for milestone years.
  • Recognition and Rewards: The company's Atta Bear program encourages employees to hand out small thank-you notes with detachable lottery tickets to recognize their co-workers. Winners drawn at the end of every month receive company-branded gifts. Each September, managers host a company-wide Bear Builder Appreciation Month with gifts and treats, and individual stores host competitions and parties throughout the year.
  • Holiday Treats: During the busy holiday season, the Wowidays program delivers treats, lunches and prizes to its hardworking store employees. These include company items, drinks and small cash bonuses. All employees also receive a collectible bear. 
  • Concierge Service: Employees can take advantage of Build-A-Bear Workshop's concierge service, which helps handle chores like dry cleaning, oil changes and more. Dogs at the company's headquarters even have services of their own, including discounted grooming, day care and a bus service to take them there.

Employee Quotes

Great Rated! collected feedback from Build-A-Bear Workshop employees via an anonymous survey. Following are common reasons employees said they appreciate their workplace.

"Build-A-Bear Workshop is like a huge family spread across the entire world, all looking out for one another and rooting for each other's success. When you run into another employee, even from another country, you are instant best friends and have a million things to talk about because we are all from the same culture."

"I appreciate the fact that BABW is team-centric. A store's success (or opportunity) is based on the entire team’s performance. I have worked in other retail stores where team members were singled out based on their performance (mostly poor performance) and it was not good for morale. At BABW, we win as a team and we lose as a team, but we are always a team. This creates an environment unlike any I have ever experienced in the workplace."

"It is just overall a great place to work. It never feels like a job, but something that I enjoy doing and I take pride in working here."

"Build-A-Bear Workshop provides families and friends with a unique experience that brings them closer together and very often provides them with great happiness. It's an honor and a privilege to be associated with a company whose mission is bringing joy to its customers' lives."

"One of the many things that I appreciate about BABW is the fact that they give us a fund every year to treat and reward our team with food and prizes, in addition to the extra prizes and incentives they give out throughout the year. I have never worked for a retail company that has such a strong appreciation for every single person no matter what position they hold. I am so grateful that my career landed me here and I plan on being here for many more years!"

"We are encouraged to play in the workshop to find new ways to interact with guests. Ideas are heard and considered, whether from the field or from a corporate partner. This is a very open and inclusive company which truly staffs the best people for the job regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. It is comforting to see a business truly practice these values."

"Build-A-Bear Workshop truly fosters an environment where people can learn and grow together and have fun at the same time! We are encouraged to 'play with a purpose' with our guests and team members to get any job done. The company trusts us to make decisions to go above and beyond for our guests and will back us up if necessary. I can't see myself working for any other organization but Build-A-Bear Workshop."

"The most unique thing about BABW is the compressed workweek. Having every other Friday off is a great perk! Also, being able to take your dog to work is very unusual and it has a very calming effect on the workplace!"

"Management is very flexible, encouraging and engaging. My hours are flexible and I am able to participate in compressed workweek which gives me the opportunity to do things that need to be done during business hours on Fridays I have off without having to take personal time off. Additionally, I feel that my input is heard. I am not afraid to voice my opinion and even senior management takes my opinion into consideration. Everyone at this company is friendly and open to feedback. People here are also very supportive during times of success and during harder times in people's lives. When someone experiences a loss or celebrates a birthday, birth or wedding, people always organize events to help and support them."

"We are a company focused on providing a life-long happy memory for each guest who builds a bear with us. No matter where you work in our organization, the purpose remains the same."

"Build-A-Bear Workshop is special for many reasons! We bring smiles, happiness, laughter, tears, joy, adventure, a sense of belonging, safety, to the firsts and sometimes the lasts of life experiences. The stories that come from our store teams are amazing."

"It is unique because there is no other place where kids could have a hand in making and personalizing their own toys. Seeing their happy faces as they get to take home their new friend is without a doubt my favorite part of working at BAB."

How to Get Hired

We asked Build-A-Bear Workshop for some inside information on how to get hired at the organization. Here is what they had to say.

What key characteristics tell you a prospective employee will be a great fit for your company?

We look for a variety of characteristics and skills in our associates but key to our business are traits that support our core values: An applicant must demonstrate a desire to strive for and achieve results that are bigger and better. We want associates who are curious, like to learn and who are open to new ideas and concepts. We strive to hire diverse people that are respectful, value individuality and practice being inclusive. Applicants must be able to work on a team and collaborate in a positive way with others. We give back to our communities so we want associates that are willing to lend a helping hand to others when needed. We look for people that celebrate our successes, individually and on a team. Above and beyond our core values, we need associates that are high energy, outgoing and play with a purpose.  

What can prospective employees do to get your attention?

If you are interested in employment with us, shop at a store and let our management team know. Demonstrate your enthusiasm for our business and your knowledge of our products. Show passion for work in a creative way – it’s all about play with a purpose. Here are a few examples of enthusiastic applicants: An applicant made an animal that represented him with a custom recorded sound for an introduction and a cub condo colored and personalized with the applicant’s name! A resume was presented on a padded felt cushion and matched our brand in yellow and blue with red stitching. An applicant for a graphic design role submitted a can of Spam with a custom label as a resume. Spam stood for "seriously professional artist and manager," and the label contained a comprehensive ingredient grid that identified the daily allowance of various skills.  

Are there any unusual or especially rigorous steps of your hiring process that candidates should be aware of?

As a store applicant, be prepared to participate in a group interview and be ready to act out how you will play with our guests when they shop. At our World Bearquarters, you’ll complete a thorough battery of pre-employment assessments to evaluate you as a match to the requirements of the position. While some may consider it an intense process, we find it invaluable to ensure that the right person fills the right role in order to be successful and add value to our business. When new associates complete the 90-day orientation period, and hear the summary feedback from the assessment process, they usually say, “All that from answering those questions on a computer? Wow, I can’t believe how well that information matches me or what others have told me about how I work. It’s amazing!”

Are there any positions or types of candidates you are particularly focused on hiring in this coming year?

We always want bright people who are high energy and customer-centric. We keep current postings on our careers website at www.buildabear.com/careers. We are in a turnaround phase for our business and our results for our efforts are showing! It’s a great time to be a BEAR!   

What should interested candidates do to find out more and get started?

For a retail sales or store management position, applicants can visit any store in person and complete an application. Alternatively, interested store candidates can also apply online. Applicants for our World Bearquarters in St. Louis, Mo. or our Bearhouse in Groveport, Ohio should also apply online at www.buildabear.com/careers. You can find detailed information about the many benefits and perks we offer in the section called Why You Should Become a Bear. You can also learn about us at Great Rated!.

30Average number of applicants per opening65%Total voluntary turnover in past year
105991Applicants in past year119Openings in past year
9%New hires by employee referrals

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With a playful culture and caring co-workers, employees say working for Build-A-Bear Workshop is just as fun as it sounds.

%94

Great Challenges

%98

Great Atmosphere

%92

Great Rewards

%98

Great Pride

%95

Great Communication

%95

Great Bosses

Legend
Often or Almost Always
Sometimes

This review is based on 848 employee surveys, with a 95% confidence level and a margin of error of ±2.90. It was published on Oct 31st, 2014. Our methodology

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