It’s not always just about the money

While it’s common for people to put themselves through university by working in retail, it’s rare to attend university right at the store. But that’s exactly the kind of opportunity that exists for employees of Future Shop, and just one partof the overall compensation and benefits package the company offersto attract and retain the volatile retail workforce.

{mosimage} The retailer surveys the marketplace every two years to ensure thatit’s “where it should be” in terms of compensation. “We have to be in the ballpark,” says Sue Voigt, Future Shop’s director, HR, leadership and communication. “But it’s the total package that makes us an attractive employer of choice.”

Future Shop offers a rich array of benefits that “helps contribute to balanced lives, general well-being, and supportive personal and professional relationships,” its web site notes. A brief selection of benefits includes:

  • Lifestyles Flexible Benefits Plan
  • extended health coverage;
  • dental coverage;
  • life insurance;
  • long-term disability insurance;
  • accidental insurance;
  • health spending account;
  • administration of group RRSPs;
  • employee stock purchase plan;
  • registered education savings plan;
  • employee discount purchase plan;
  • group home and auto insurance discounts (auto insurance not applicable in certain provinces);
  • laser eye surgery discounts in B.C. and Alberta; and
  • short-term disability pay.

Sales associates are on a commission-based pay system, says Voigt, and eligible for rewards recognition called Circle of Excellence (COE). The top 10 per cent get to go on an all-inclusive trips with their significant others. This year the COE team is going to the Mayan Riviera in Mexico. COE members also get points to cash in on merchandise.

The retailer is also just in the process of rolling out total-rewards statements for its 10,000-plus employees for the first time.
However, the real success story behind Future Shop’s ability to attract new talent, and to keep turnover low, is its training and development program. The retailer has strategically chosen to go after those who are, or want to become, general  managers of Future Shop’s 130-plus stores across the country.

Dubbed Future Shop University, the training focuses on individual development and on helping employees to understand what kind of leader they are. The in-house university program has adopted the Strengths-based organization model, in which participants learn how to discover their top five talents, or strengths.

“A lot of the time in review and in development programs, the focus is on fixing our weaknesses,” Voigt notes. “Instead, this approach leverages and builds on what they’re great at doing.”

Future Shop’s internal training is also tied in with the University of Phoenix’s extended learning program, allowing participants to earn accreditation from the training taken.

Employees can also take up to six levels of  leadership training right at each store. Most Future Shop sales associates are young, but Voigt says that it’s possible for many of them to  grow within the company, from sales to store general manager, in four to five years. And each of the stores, Voigt points out, are multimillion-dollar enterprises. The company itself is  growing, not only in the number of stores across the country - and now internationally as well - but by developing new business opportunities, such as home theatre installations and other new services.

In-store staff are considered subject experts and are offered special projects and opportunities to develop themselves further. For example, one high-potential district manager became involved in a special project to implement a customer satisfaction survey.

Store managers receive bonuses based on the financial success and results of their stores. Their increases are also tied to the engagement of their customer and store associates. Each year, the company conducts surveys on associate engagement,  in order to measure and score their participation levels. To date, associate participation in these surveys is at 80 per cent.

“Future Shop invests millions in this kind of leadership  development,” Voigt says, “but the payout is also large.”

The company has seen an overall trend  in lower turnover, and management turnover is very low. Moreover, the company’s investment means that they have strong potential leaders already waiting to take on store management. Overall turnover improved 10 per cent over a two-year period (in March 2006 it was at 70 per cent; in March 2008, 60 per cent). Management turnover improved from 20 per cent to 12 per cent over that
same period is very low.

Future Shop has included a recruitment video on its web site with more information for potential employees. Check it out at