Replacements Wins "Best Place To Work Award!"
By Leigh Somerville
The Business Journal
McLeansville - Knowing the names of all of his 600 employees says something special about an executive.
Knowing the names of their pets says even more.
Bob Page, president of Replacements Ltd., can boast of both because he's fostered an atmosphere where employees are like family, and pets are, too. Pets are welcome at work, and employees are encouraged to get out - whether to visit their children's schools or to serve in the community.
Those philosophies are among the many reasons Replacements Ltd. is this year's recipient of the Crown Award in The Business Journal's Best Places to Work competition.
"When I started Replacements 21 years ago, one of my motivations was I hated my job," Page says. "It is important for people to enjoy what they do for a living, to feel useful and to be personally satisfied. It's not just about money, but about how they feel about themselves and how other people make them feel."
Page's vision of a work environment where all people are treated equally has led him to offer everything from classes in English as a second language during working hours to domestic partner benefits for all employees long before it was fashionable.
Executive Vice President Scott Fleming says the company has a spirit of comaraderie and teamwork that is nurtured by that culture.
"Bob has created a culture of fairness," Fleming says. "This is as diverse a workplace as you can find. We have the best of both worlds: a growing company and a spirit of a family atmosphere."
Replacements tries to spread its spirit throughout the community, and it does so with more than just words of encouragement.
To make it easier for workers to participate, Replacements pays employees for time they devote to Anytown, a Center for Community Justice program that teaches high school students about diversity, social justice and how to impact their community positively.
Replacements excels in the people development category through its tuition reimbursement program and sponsorship of employees in Other Voices, a Greensboro chamber leadership development and community building program. Two employees also have participated in Leadership Greensboro.
Back at work, Replacements is developing a year-long new hire care program to supplement an existing orientation program that provides support beyond the first 90 days of employment.
Funds equal to 1 percent of sales are budgeted for each department to allow participation in professional seminars each year. Employees benefit from OSHA safety training, CPR and First Aid classes, fire safety training and job-skill training taught by four staff trainers.
"A lot of people have not had previous training somewhere else, and they want to learn and grow, and we like making that opportunity available to them," Page says. "The more they learn and the better they become, the better we will become as a company."
Employees are alerted to development opportunities and may post for jobs that interest them. The Job Flex system allows employees to work in any department in the company, based on business need.
That cross training is a crucial tool for a company where just about anyone might answer the phone when business is busy, including Page.
"It is beneficial because they learn a great deal about what is going on in other departments," Page says. "We like to think of it as teamwork here. If one area is behind, we flex people into that area. The more a person knows about our business, the more valuable they are to us."
On the family friendly front, Replacements offers both an on-site counselor and an off-site Employee Assistance Program, as well as a company nurse. The company provides flexible spending accounts that allow pre-tax deductions for child care, and employees also receive four hours of Parent Education Leave each year to enable them to attend school-related functions with their children. Mothers have flexible maternity leave and a lactation room available when they return to work.
The work environment at Replacements encourages commitments to causes greater than selling tableware. Employees are allowed time during work to plan and participate in charitable events. After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, employees made and sold red, white and blue lapel ribbons. The $7,000 raised during the campaign was donated to benefit victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
While intended to serve the greater good, the policies also yield a fringe benefit for the company that's hard to measure.
"This philanthropic spirit binds the employees," Fleming says.
Reach Leigh Somerville at (336) 631-8571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in the July 26, 2002 edition of The Business Journal Serving the Greater Triad Area. Copyrighted 2002 by The Business Journal, 336-271-6539.