University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business hosted Executive Next Practices’ ReInventHR Summit, an event to discuss HR’s Key Role in dismantling barriers to innovation, inclusion, and productivity. Working Wardrobes’ Chief Executive Officer, Bonni Pomush, and Chief People Officer, Derek Benson, were invited to showcase the strategies behind Working Wardrobes, an Orange County Business Journal Best Places to Work. The nonprofit’s success was shared with experts in the HR field seeking to follow suit with the best practices of Working Wardrobes. 

Event topics included: 

  • HR’s key role in dismantling the barriers to innovation, inclusion, and efficiency 
  • Organizational adaptability during market turmoil 
  • Hybrid vs In-person work – what is the winning formula? 
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging (DEIB) – building an inclusive talent pipeline 
  • HR tech integration and simplification 

As a result of creating a positive work culture, in 2022 alone, Working Wardrobes’ Glassdoor score increased from 2.5 to 4.3, a remarkable achievement in addition to the organization earning the title of Best Places to Work in 2021 and 2022 by the Orange County Business Journal. As a Workforce Development nonprofit, Working Wardrobes is as committed to their own staff as they are to the clients they have the honor of serving and preparing for careers. 

Working Wardrobes Successful People Strategy

1. A People-First Approach

Working Wardrobes emphasizes “individualization and dignity,” focusing on putting people at the heart of everything they do – for clients, volunteers, supporters, and with each other. Working Wardrobes holds annual goal setting and semi-annual evaluation conferences such that each team member knows confidently how they are contributing to the overall purpose of the organization and its strategic initiatives. All individuals in the company are empowered to celebrate and recognize each other’s contributions company-wide and the communication-culture displays high emotional quotient (EQ).  

2. A Focus on Open Communication

Effective communication is essential to building a positive work culture, and Working Wardrobes takes this seriously. To foster open communication, Working Wardrobes holds monthly All Team Meetings where all employees can share their thoughts and ideas with leadership and other departments.  

Working Wardrobes is always looking for ways to improve its work culture. The organization regularly conducts employee surveys to gather feedback on what is working and what is not. Based on this feedback, Working Wardrobes implements changes and improvements that benefit employees and the organization. Additionally, the organization’s leaders meet individually with every staff member four times annually: a stay interview, skip-level conversation, annual goal setting and performance evaluation, mid-year performance feedback/check in. These conversations ensure the organization is developing its own workforce, is promoting from within, and employees feel valued and empowered to give their best at work.

3. Recognition and Incentives

To motivate and engage employees, Working Wardrobes ensures that employees feel valued and appreciated for their hard work, leading to increased productivity, job satisfaction, and overall performance. Employees receive personalized birthday messages and gift cards on their birthdays, celebrate work anniversaries at All Team Meetings and have opportunities to receive incentives throughout the year for completing trainings, rewarding attendance, completing special initiatives, and more. 

4. Embracing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

Working Wardrobes celebrates the diverse backgrounds and experiences of its employees, creating a sense of belonging and community within the organization. To promote a more inclusive work culture, Working Wardrobes has implemented several initiatives, including cultural competency training programs, adding Juneteenth holiday, emphasizing and encouraging authenticity, and employee bonding events wherein individuals have the opportunity to really get to know each other.  

Working Wardrobes’ success in creating a positive work culture is a result of its people-first approach, focus on communication, commitment to diversity and inclusion, and continuous improvement. By prioritizing its employees’ well-being and development, the organization has created a culture that fosters growth, innovation, and success. It is no wonder that Working Wardrobes has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in 2021 and 2022, and that industry leaders are looking to the nonprofit as a model.