Client Spotlight on Jim Shanahan, HR Manager and Kristina Graci-de Luna, Director of Recruiting:
Nurturing Inner Child Key to Recruiting/Tenure for Gymboree
It’s 3 p.m. do you know where your employees are? If you work at The Gymboree Corporation headquarters in San Francisco, California, they’re probably having their milk and cookies or maybe even enjoying cappuccinos and some fresh air on the company’s private sun deck. Director of Recruiting, Kristina Graci-de Luna and HR Manager, Jim Shanahan are part of a team responsible for recruiting, retaining and developing Gymboree Corp. employees who are as productive as they are playful.
Putting the Fun in Function
While they have different responsibilities, Kristina and Jim share the conviction that what’s behind Gymboree Corp.’s success is no secret: it’s just a really fun place to work. “It’s not only about keeping employees happy and satisfied, but also about working in the same spirit as the children that our products are targeted to,” says Jim.
There’s a lot of planning and work involved in creating a work environment that is conducive to play, imagination and results, but Gymboree Corp. has clearly succeeded. The teams that work in the San Francisco office, including Marketing, Store Operations, Accounting, Real Estate Development, and Design can be found hard at work even as they appear to be playing.
As a company that has made ‘Snack Time’ an official employee perk, Gymboree believes in encouraging the inner child in each of its staff members and not just with wholesome pre-bedtime goodies. The recipient of numerous ‘Best Place to Work’ awards, Gymboree’s corporate headquarters, or ‘home office’, means business when it comes to making fun the order of the day. “We're very playful,” says Chairman and CEO Lisa Harper in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “There's a lot of laughing in the halls. We're very focused on execution at the same time, so it's kind of a yin and yang experience, where people are really about delivering, but having a great time doing it."
A Great Place to Grow
“The entrepreneurial spirit is very strong here,” explains Kristina when asked how productivity remains so high despite the very casual corporate culture. “It’s not for those who believe in rigid work practices, but rather for creative, innovative people who can wear 18 hats in one day. We believe in having people enjoy what they do. Looking across the organization right now, tenure is very long. People come aboard, and find that this is the place to develop their careers.”
“Our philosophy is that the employee is the driver of his or her own destiny,” adds Jim. “Each member of the company has a choice when it comes to their career paths, and we encourage them to grow and achieve as much as possible.” To help employees develop their careers, Gymboree Corp. provides funding or assistance for approved educational courses.
And when success does come for individual employees, it’s cause for celebration and everyone in the building is invited. “Each month,” says Jim, “everyone at the home office gets together to celebrate victories ranging from increased sales to employee promotions.” According to him, promoting from within are first options the company considers when trying to fill open positions. “There is no shortage of opportunities. We want our employees to be the first to take advantage of the growth offered by the open positions and look at our internal resources before looking elsewhere.”
“In instances where we don’t have employees who may fill a position, we have a very robust referral program people who work here are more than happy to introduce us to their family and friends,” says Kristina. According to her, employee referrals have accounted for 160 new Gymboree Corp. members who now work at either the home office or at their stores.
The Partner with Precise Results
When the company does decide to outsource, they often call AppleOne, specifically Mary Ann McLinden, Assistant Manager of AppleOne’s San Mateo office. “Mary Ann has been a great staffing partner,” says Kristina. “She is as knowledgeable about our culture as we are. Her understanding shows in her ability to be able to send the people we need quickly, and through her and AppleOne, we have been able to quickly fill a wide range of positions.”
“I love working with Gymboree Corp, because you can feel the dynamism and creativity the minute you walk into their office,” says Mary Ann. “It’s easy to find quality people for them because everyone loves to work there.” According to Mary Ann, AppleOne has an associate on assignment virtually every workday of the year, with some of them moving on to become full-time employees. At present, there are seven AppleOne associates on assignment at The Gymboree Corporation.
The Gymboree Corporation is an international family of specialty retail brands that design, manufacture and retail unique, high quality merchandise for children ages newborn to seven. As of January 29, 2005, the Company operated a total of 648 stores: 579 Gymboree® retail stores (551 in the United States and 28 in Canada), 55 Janie and Jack® retail shops and 14 Janeville stores in the United States. The Company also operates online stores at gymboree.com and janieandjack.com, and offers directed parent-child developmental play programs at 528 franchised and company-operated centers in the United States and 26 countries.