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Employee Retention: Advice From Companies Named Best Places to Work in the Pet Industry

By Julia L. Rivera//October 2, 2023//

Employee Retention: Advice From Companies Named Best Places to Work in the Pet Industry

By: Julia L. Rivera//October 2, 2023//

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Over the last decade, work culture has drastically shifted and companies are changing the ways in which they foster a healthy work/life balance. Remote and hybrid work models are more prevalent as companies are helping to reshape work culture after the pandemic.      

Although some companies are focusing their efforts on employee retention, the Global Workplace Study by Gallup, a global analytics and advice firm, showed that 59 percent of employees experienced “quiet quitting” in 2022, indicating a sense of detachment from their roles. Conducting anonymous surveys can give insight into the mindset of employees, allowing companies to make changes before they are left scrambling to replace unhappy employees.   

The organizations on the Pet Age Best Places to Work program have given their employees the freedom and space to express their feelings about their workplace and in doing so, have created an environment where employees can flourish both professionally and personally.  

Based upon participation with the Best Places to Work survey from BridgeTower Media firm Best Companies Group, the organizations in the 2023 program are listening to their employees and implementing initiatives aimed at a healthy workplace. 

Working in a small team can be an added stressor as few people need to wear many hats. However, for 5Strands Affordable Testing has made sure its team directly benefits from their hard work. From profit-sharing and pension plans to company outings and incentives throughout the year, the company makes it a point to give back to its employees.    

Founded in 2017, 5Strands Affordable Testing is a leader in bioresonance technology, a safe, non-invasive form of assessing energetic alignments in the body, to help identify intolerances for both people and pets. With labs located in the United States, 5Strands is able to provide quick and affordable findings on food and environmental intolerances in pets.   

A unique aspect of 5Strands is that its employees can benefit from the company’s farm. As one survey respondent noted the company provides free fresh eggs and vegetables to its employees. In addition to fresh produce, 5 Strands also offers its team holistic, bio resonance treatments. 

With performance reviews more than twice a year, employees at 5Strands are able to meet with their managers to discuss their progress and potential. For years, having regular performance reviews has been proven to benefit both the company and the employee. Deloitte’s 2022 High-Impact Performance Management research showed that ratings and reviews are useful and eliminating them is not the answer. The reviews allow the company to weed out underperformers and cut down on labor costs while also providing an opportunity to reward, encourage and challenge employees. 

The Deloitte research also found that individuals and teams drive high-impact performance management through effective feedback and in-the-flow development.  

For some companies, such as Colorado-based Outward Hound, offering programs to provide relief for their employees outside the workplace is a priority. As a leading brand for more than 20 years, the company aims to enrich the lives of pets and their families worldwide with innovations that make tails wag and put smiles on faces. Originally started by Kyle Hansen, Outward Hound has expanded and is made up of mission-focused trailblazers in the pet industry. 

Outward Hound employees noted that some of the aspects of working at the company that make it one of the best places to work are its “education compensation and tuition reimbursement programs, employer-sponsored Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which may provide counseling for marital, parental or financial problems and/or assistance for specific conditions, healthcare enrollment starting the first day of the next month after being hired as well as offers employees 100 percent paid FMLA if needing to seek mental health resources.”   

While the company clearly shows its appreciation for its employees, their family pets are not forgotten about; Outward Hound provides a pet-friendly work space as well as 100 percent employer paid veterinary discount plan and pet prescription plan.   

Kathleen Donatello was looking for natural ways to heal her two dogs without the use of medications when she began experimenting in her kitchen with hemp, herbal ingredients and complementary botanicals. Not long after, Chilled Black Dog Inc, better known as Austin and Kat, was born. 

The company has come a long way from its grassroots beginnings as a vendor at a Saturday farmer’s market in Maine. Now, Austin and Kat can be found in over 1,000 independent pet shops across the country. At the heart of the company is its Seattle-based “makery,” where every product is crafted by hand by the Austin and Kat team using the highest quality ingredients.   

With a smaller team, Austin and Kat, is able to foster a tight-knight approach to innovation, meaning the employees are able to see the fruits of their labor. A company employee explains they are offered profit-sharing and employee stock ownership plans, and “really cares about making this a great place to work.” 

The Deloitte research found that high-performing organizations instill a sense of progress and growth in their workforce, using pay for performance to differentiate and reward. An Austin and Kat employee notes that the company “gives us more paid time off and keeps us informed about what’s going on.”

Recognized as a top performer by the Pet Sustainability Coalition for aligning its practices with the globally recognized sustainable development goals, Austin and Kat is now shifting its focus. This year, the company’s initiatives encompass good health and wellbeing, gender equality, decent work and economic growth and responsible production and consumption.  

A survey respondent says that while Austin and Kat works to improve the world around it, this year they are dedicated to creating opportunities for our team and our community, emphasizing workplace diversity and advocating for increased living wages. 

More than 130 years ago, the workplace landscape did not look even remotely close to what it is today. Although it was founded in 1892, the policies and values at W.F. Young (WFY) reflect the modern work culture. 

Innovations born at WFY make a positive difference in the lives of animals around the world, and employees are able to come to work knowing the impact their work makes, while also being appreciated. A survey respondent noted that the company understands the importance of employee health both physical and mental and has adapted a hybrid work schedule with flexible schedules and start times, with employees starting any time between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. as long as they complete eight working hours per day.   

A pet friendly office, the WFY headquarters also features indoor and outdoor space with a range of equipment. Time is set aside daily specifically for meditation and working out, with the indoor workout room available to all employees for group or individual exercise.    

In the workplace, WFY encourages employee professional development, whether it be leadership training or reimbursement for classes and certifications.  

A WFY employee notes that office surprises keep moral high “from ‘Worksgiving,’ and BBQs to homemade bagels from the office mom.” 

Since its inception more than 20 years ago, ZIWI has been at the forefront of the pet food market. Founder Peter Mitchell created the brand after being inspired by the health aspects of feeding a raw food diet along with the convenience of dry pet food. 

Behind ZIWI’s success is a culture created around bringing talented people into a space where they are enabled with the tools and resources to succeed and have fun while doing so. After receiving last year’s Best Companies Group survey results, ZIWI listened to the feedback from its employees and updated its policies.   

This year the company added more than five initiatives to show that they are truly hearing the opinions of their employees. A ZIWI employee explains that the company added extra mental health days to its calendar, increased its PTO minimum, added an extra work from home day each month, increased frequency of pets visiting the office, rolled out flex time so employees can make up work rather than using PTO for appointments and offers late starts. A ZIWI survey participant also notes that the company shows it cares by hosting an “employee appreciation week.”   

As a member of its North American team, ZIWI employees are educated on the history of the company, the pet industry itself, Maori culture since it works with a team in New Zealand and ways of working within the office. A survey responded notes that a perk of working ZIWI is its connection to New Zealand as employees are able to travel to the country. 

When Nate Thomas and Seth Kaufman founded BSM Partners their focus was making a difference in the pet industry. The company’s services include research, product innovation, FSQAR, nutrition services, veterinary services, transformation, operations support and engineering. 

The employees at BSM Partners are critical to its success and are treated accordingly. Before the pandemic hit the world, BSM Partners employees were already working remotely and were trusted to arrange their working hours around what fits best their family needs and the needs of BSM customers.  

With remote working conditions, communication is key to success of projects, but also employee happiness. The company believes and trusts in its team, and conducts formal surveys more than twice a year along with mentoring and business education.   

A BSM Partners employee says the aspects that make it a best place to work are the “animals at work, gatherings (physical or online) between colleagues to socialize and tips for relieving stress through meditation, walking, book clubs and more.” 

Before the pandemic hit the world, BSM Partners employees were already working remotely and were trusted to arrange their working hours around what fits best their family needs and the needs of BSM customers. With remote working conditions, communication is key to success of projects, but also employee happiness. The company believes and trusts in its team, and conducts formal surveys more than twice a year along with mentoring and business education.   

Originally founded in 2009 by Michael Landa, Nulo is rapidly growing, quickly becoming a household name for premium dog and cat products. The company is a growth leader in the pet specialty channel with products ranging from high-meat kibble recipes to freeze-dried raw diets, human-grade bone broths and functional treats and supplements.  

It’s motto, Healthier Together, doesn’t just apply to the furry pets they serve, but also those behind the scenes.   

The Nulo team is a group of pet lovers on a mission to help pets and pet parents live healthier together, but without compromising their own lives. Word hard, play hard is certainly apparent in the Nulo office as employees are given constant reminders that they are appreciated. A survey respondent explains that employee appreciation ranges from pickleball games at the office and random Thursday happy hour to work from home Fridays and summer hours. Nulo also provides flexible hours and Free or discounted tickets to local family entertainment or sporting events. 

According to a Nulo employee, the dog friendly office, happy hours and holiday-themed parties are a few things that make it one of the best places to work. 

A leading online retailer, manufacturer and distributor of products and solutions, Aperture Pet & Life offers its customers the products and resources they need to create thriving ecosystems. Aperture Pet & Life is an integrated company for some of the largest brands in the aquatics industry, including Bulk Reef Supply, Neptune Systems, EcoTech Marine and AquaIllumination.  

While the company is continuing to grow, recently entering in an expanded partnership with The Florida Aquarium, its employees are also poised to thrive. Aperture invests in the growth and development of employees, creating opportunities across the company for team members to grow, explore new functions and learn new skills. 

In addition to cultivating a culture of continuous learning and personal growth, Aperture Pet & Life also aims to create an enjoyable, productive work environment with options to work from their pet-friendly office, or “work a hybrid schedule to accommodate the unique working styles and life demands,” according to a survey participant.  

While working conditions can be ideal, the struggles of life often get people down and Aperture Pet & Life wants to help. The company offers an employer-sponsored Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which may provide counseling for marital, parental or financial problems, and/or assistance for specific conditions.  

For years, conducting regular employee opinion surveys has been on evidence-based lists of high-performance human resource practices. Internal research from Facebook advocates for keeping these surveys for three reasons: They’re still great predictors of behavior, they give employees the chance to feel heard and they’re actually a vehicle for changing behavior.