Every time I go to Trader Joe’s, the man or woman at the check-out gives me a big smile and makes some sort of personal comment, like “You’re making tacos this weekend, huh?” or “Those cookies are so good.”
I once asked an employee if they were required to talk to customers.
“Nope,” he said. “We’re just friendly!”
Trader Joes—along with Whole Foods, In N’ Out, Chipotle, Shake Shack, and Starbucks—has realized something really important: if you treat your employees well, they’ll be happy. And when your employees are happy, generally your customers are, too.
But businesses in the food services industry aren’t the only ones with great employee programs. Many retailers, like H&M are hopping on the “perk” bandwagon and starting to offer unique employee benefits, while others, like REI, have been providing these programs all along.
Want to support these retailers? Check out the five with the best employee policies and benefits:
1. Build-a-Bear Workshop
It turns out, Build-a-Bear is family-friendly for more than just its plush toys. In addition to the regular medical benefits, employees and their families have access to a 24/7 nurse line and complementary counseling services.
Plus, all employees receive a paid day off on their birthdays, and at headquarters, team members return the next day to find their desks strewn with gifts and decorations. During “Bear Builder Appreciation Day,” all the part-time associates who’ve been with the company for at least three months get an extra average day’s pay.
Employees can also win full scholarships to the schools of their choice, get paid time off for volunteering, and depending on their location, take advantage of on-site dry-cleaning, lunch and learn programs, and “bring your dog to work” policies.
This corporation really wants its employees to stick around, so it’s strongly pushed promoting from within. More than a third of team members at its corporate office actually began as store associates. In the last five years, more than 4,500 H&M employees were promoted.
According to Think Progress, H&M’s employees make at least $9.48 an hour, which is $2.23 higher than the federal minimum wage. The company’s full-time and part-time employees have average wages of $12.03 and $10.76, respectively, compared to national average of $10.29.
H&M is also an industry stand-out for its time-off policies. As soon as they start, full-time employees get three weeks of paid vacation, seven paid sick days, and six paid holidays. They also get parental leave pay and medical and dental insurance.
When REI does well, its employees do well, too—each year, thanks to the company’s profit-sharing plan, team members take home an extra 5-15% of their base pay.
In addition, everyone who uses public transit can get 50% of their costs covered. Plus, almost every REI location has bike lockers, towels, showers, and storage to support those who commute to work by bike. The company also has an “Employee Grant Challenge,” which gives employees the funds they need for a challenging outdoor adventure.
It doesn’t stop there. Twice a year, REI employees get a paid day off to get outside or volunteer. To encourage its team members to continue their education, the company provides tuition reimbursement. And if you get a promotion and need to move, REI will help with the relocation expenses.
4. L.L. Bean
This sportswear company has racked up an impressive number of rewards for its employee-friendly policies: Fortune 100 ranked L.L. Bean the 56th best company to work for in America, Great Rated! included the company on the “20 Great Workplaces in Retail” list, and AARP named the company the best employer for workers over 50.
It’s easy to see why L.L. Bean is always winning accolades. Employees enjoy lots of professional development opportunities, from tuition reimbursement and temporary assignments to in-house classroom training, online training, and certification classes.
Team members also get complimentary outdoor recreation trips (thanks to their automatic membership in the Employee Outdoor Club), along with huge discounts on paddle-boarding, fly-fishing, kayaking, and other “outdoor adventure” programs. In addition, there are “Outdoor Experience Days” made a part of employee life which means even more company-provided activities in nature.
When they want to plan their own excursions, employees can borrow from L.L. Bean’s huge stock of gear in its Use Room. Employees also get access to several cabins and tent sites in the Rangeley Lakes region of Maine.
Nordstrom’s pay and benefits have been called “unparalleled in the industry.” Back in 2011, the average hourly salary for a retail salesperson was $12—at Nordstrom, it was $19.18. When you added in commission, some salespeople were making upwards of $200,000 a year.
Plus, Nordstrom doesn’t forget about its part-time employees. Usually, this segment of the working population receives little to zero benefits, but Nordstrom’s part-timers get health insurance, a 401(k), life, disability, and accidental death insurance, paid time off, and adoption assistance.
There’s also a strong emphasis on work-life balance; every year, employees can apply for a six-week unpaid sabbatical, and the fashion retailer promotes a lively environment by holding Fashion Fridays, ugly sweater contests, Movember festivities, and parties.
All these awesome benefits have helped Nordstrom land on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For four years in a row.
Aja Frost is a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a regular contributor to Her Campus, The Prospect, and her college newspaper. Her work has been featured on xoJane and The Huffington Post. The only thing she loves more than writing is dessert. Follow her on Twitter: @ajavuu.