Total Rewards Program Earns Indigo Top Employer Title
The retail industry is constantly changing, and fi nding and retaining top talent is a challenge all retailers face. Indigo Books & Music Inc. – banners include Chapters, Coles, The Worldʼs Biggest Book Store, and Indigo – has created a total rewards strategy that is not only successful, but has branded the retailer as one of the ʻTop 100 Employers in Canada,ʼ according to a MediaCorp survey published in 2005.
Indigoʼs environment is based on the chief executive officerʼs vision and passion for product, customers, and employees. Heather Reismanʼs management style is interactive. She shares her strategies directly with the 6,500 employees through what she calls ʻThe Traveling Road Show,ʼ where she visits eight or nine cities across Canada to meet with staff. The meetings are held in movie theatres and attendance is always high. Reisman encourages feedback from all Indigo employees and even makes her personal email accessible. She personally responds to every suggestion and comment.
This interaction “really helps employees understand how their contribution is directly linked to the strategy and direction of the company,” says Tova White, senior vice-president, human resources and organization development.
Acts On Feedback
Most importantly, Indigo acts on the feedback it gets. Employees comment on everything from benefi ts and recognition rewards to personal issues and broken equipment. As a result, the retailer tweaks its strategy and benefi ts annually.
“Weʼve enhanced our benefi ts plan coverage based on employee response,” says White. The company offers two benefi ts plan choices for employees. One is a full health and dental plan and the other is a health spending account (HSA). All employees have core benefi ts such as longterm disability, AD&D, and out-of-country coverage. Part-time employees who work more than 20 hours a week are also eligible for benefits.
The full health and dental plan offers more coverage while the HSA is more suitable for employees who have coverage elsewhere or donʼt use benefi ts very often. The company also offers an RSP program, a DPSP company match of three per cent.
The continuous improvement of company benefits and perquisites is not totally based on feedback, however. Indigo keeps track of its employee demographics, benefits usage, and costs to make sure its total rewards program is suitable and current.
Employee recognition is an important feature of the Indigo total rewards program and stores regularly hold contests. “Contests are really successful with our employees to energize them and get them focused on what the prime goal is for that month,” says White. “We also have a program where employees are recognized for their customer comments, a scholarship program, and long service awards.”
An employee discount is a big incentive for attracting talent because most people who want to work at one of the Indigo banners are book lovers. “We offer up to 40 per cent off on products. We also allow employees to take products home as long as they return them in saleable condition.”
Training is another essential part of Indigoʼs strategy. “We have an umbrella company called Indigo U (for University) which consists of three main groups of training – manager leadership, sales and service, and product knowledge. We have curricula in all those areas. There are also some specialty courses around technical training.”
Managers must take the leadership program which includes a foundations course and training in performance management and managing teams. The customer experience representative course is also essential. “This is our orientation program that takes a sales associate from day one through the three-month probationary period.”
More training programs are in development.
Indigo is also launching a newsletter to keep employees up-to-date on the total rewards program. In addition to providing employees with information, the newsletter will be used to promote details of the program.
“Right now, we are trying to promote our employee assistance program so employees know what it offers and feel more comfortable about calling the confi dential number.”
Ultimately, itʼs not just about attracting and retaining talent, says White. “We would do these things even if we were the only retailer around. Itʼs about creating a culture of trust and mutual respect.”
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