The New Way to Work

By promoting a workplace environment that emphasizes team effort and lifelong learning, Shane Sabatino has become a key player in The Brick’s home-furnishings empire

Shane Sabatino maintains workplace balance by getting employees to buy into “The Brick Way,” which consists of teamwork, excellence, attitude, and innovation.
Shane Sabatino maintains workplace balance by getting employees to buy into “The Brick Way,” which consists of teamwork, excellence, attitude, and innovation.

Every morning, Shane Sabatino wakes up with one key insight. “I ask myself, what can I do today to help employees?” says the senior VP of human resources for home-furnishing retailer The Brick Group, aka The Brick. It is this motivation that has enabled Sabatino to be a key player in The Brick’s success as one of Canada’s leading retailers.

Much of Sabatino’s effectiveness can be traced to his foresight in maintaining a sense of workplace balance. “I strive to be the voice of the employees while also balancing the needs of the organization,” he says.

Key to this approach are Sabatino’s efforts to have employees buy into what he calls “The Brick Way”—a process that begins on day one of orientation. “New employees come to understand and appreciate the key values of The Brick Way, which are in teamwork, excellence, attitude, and innovation,” says Sabatino. “It’s how we treat employees, and it’s how employees provide the best service possible to our customers.”

This customer-service excellence is measured in finite ways. “When we see families smile as we deliver our products, we know that we’ve succeeded through The Brick Way,” Sabatino says.

Maintaining this high level of service perfection is at the core of Sabatino’s HR expertise. “We focus on earning the belief of our workers in our corporate culture,” he says.

This is accomplished through team-building events such as employee barbecues, holiday lunches, and company initiatives within the community. For instance, in 2012, members of The Brick staff worked with the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate to build a home for a Stratford, Ontario, family in need of decent housing. The Brick also donated the funds to make this home a reality. A similar effort is planned for 2013.

By encouraging employees to view themselves as team members dedicated to achieving the best results, Sabatino fosters an environment that consistently reinforces what he calls “a high belief in excellence.” His leadership style further promotes this focus on service perfection. “My emphasis is on inspiring, motivating, and educating staff,” he says.

He recruits staff members who “want to learn and grow,” he says. “They are always looking for ways to improve their performance, to realize their full potential in the workplace and every aspect of their lives.”

Further, Sabatino creates an atmosphere for learning in the workplace. “I provide my team members with direction, but how they achieve is up to them,” he says. “I’m there if they need me, but for the most part they are given the opportunity to learn and grow in doing their jobs.”

Recruiting and maintaining such motivated staff are key challenges now facing not only The Brick but other Canadian retailers as well. “Looking ahead, there is likely to be a huge war for qualified talent,” says Sabatino.

Nevertheless, he is confident that The Brick—aided by his own intuition and talent—will come out ahead. “We’ll be the place that when our employees proudly talk about what they do for a living, their family members and friends eagerly ask, ‘Are there any openings for me at The Brick?’”