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How To Make Your Furniture Company Cool.

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By Dr. Jan Ferri-Reed 

All we seem to hear in the news is the doom and gloom of unemployment and the continuation of the economic downturn in housing, industrial expansion and job growth.  On the other hand, there are still good news stories out there of companies that are expanding, hiring and growing.  And, even better news, some of these growing companies also seem to "get it" that the focus needs to be on both financial growth as well as people growth. 

In our book, Keeping The Millennials: Why Companies Are Losing Billions In Turnover To This Generation And What To Do About It we identify 10 Cool Factors, the workplace enhancers that attract and retain top talent - especially young talent.  They are:

• Fun work environment with social networking
• Creative communications
• Feedback and recognition
• State-of-the-art technology
• Creative perks
• Corporate values
• Redesigned cubicle workspace
• Workspace flexibility
• Compensation and benefits
• Career development

One growing company that many furniture retailers can learn from is the Heartland Restaurant Group, a Dunkin Donuts brand specialty restaurant, headquartered in Pittsburgh PA. This chain embodies a cool workplace while building market share and revenues.The sales process for furniture and food are not that similar at first glance, but when companies make an effort to create a fun workplace. the benefits in terms of improved morale and customer service can be dramatic.

First and foremost Heartland provides it workers with a fun and pleasing work environment. From the first day of training conducted with restaurant staff before the store is opened Heartland stresses guidelines very thoroughly and instills corporate values in its employees. "Yes is the answer, now what is your question" is the mantra for treating "guests," not customers, with the utmost respect. Such service is only fitting to a company that practices open communication and strives for a high level of employee satisfaction.

One of the biggest things that separates a Heartland restaurant from its competition is its great customer service. To get prepared for their opening day, the employees at the new Dunkin Donuts simulated a typical day complete with people ordering in the dining area and the drive through. The fast-paced practice was trial run designed to give workers their first taste of a busy day. No matter how many gallons of coffee had to be brewed for the exercise, the employees would agree that the experience was invaluable and will go a long way now that they’re open for business.

Heartland Restaurant Group is more than just a chain of restaurants. It is a unique company where career development and a focus on employee retention inspire an employee's best effort. If you take care of your employees then they take care of the rest. Heartland offers the opportunity for people to work their way up the ranks in the restaurant and in the corporate headquarters group. Close to 350 jobs were created by Heartland in the Pittsburgh region just this past year alone.

The driving force behind this fun and enjoyable work experience is the Fun Squad. With its origins stemming from the Employee of the Month award, the Fun Squad enlists one representative at each restaurant to oversee fun, enjoyment, and open communications at each location. No matter which generation of worker, the Fun Squad makes sure all employees are encouraged to participate and reap the benefits of working for Heartland Restaurant Group.

Who then becomes a member of the Fun Squad? The representative at each restaurant is nominated by coworkers based on a positive, upbeat attitude and demonstration of leadership qualities that help make the restaurant a pleasant place to work and a guest-fanatic focus.

The philosophy is simple for Heartland, make work glamorous. Have enjoyment filter down from the top management to frontline workers so that every employee will put the company's best face forward to guests in the restaurants. Employ those who love to serve and the company will set itself apart with a pleasing environment and great customer service.

Jan is a seasoned consultant and President of KEYGroup®, a 30-year international speaking, training and assessment firm and co-author of Keeping the Millennials:  Why Companies are Losing Billions in Turnover to This Generation and What To Do About It.  Jan has presented a variety of programs to thousands of managers and employees in a diverse range of organizations across the globe.  Jan’s work focuses on creating productive workplaces and retaining talent while increasing the bottom line.  She does executive consultation, facilitation of senior level, planning and team building retreats and keynoting at corporate and association events.

Representative clients for whom Jan provides services include GlaxoSmithKline, MARC Advertising, DelMonte Foods, The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation, US Steel Corporation, Volkswagen-Audi-Porsche, Pitney Bowes, MTV Networks, Merrill Lynch and UBS-AG.
Publications and media that have called on Jan and KEYGroup® for advice and guidance include Industry Week, TIME, Diversity Executive, NPR and Forbes, to name a few.
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