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Question: Part Five Video Case Hot Topic: Employees with Passion Hot Topic Incorporated, located in City of…

by | Nov 30, 2023 | Posted Questions

Part Five Video Case
Hot Topic: Employees with Passion

Hot Topic Incorporated, located in City
of Industry, California, is a retailer that licenses various
products, such as T-shirts, clothes, and accessories geared toward
alternative and pop culture with an emphasis on modern music
trends. The average age of the employees at Hot Topic is 25 years

Hot Topic Incorporated reaches its
customers through its two retail store lines—Hot Topic and its
sister store, Torrid. Hot Topic offers a myriad of cultural items
as well as accessories and clothing aimed at a younger market
segment. Torrid is a fashion store offering modern, trendy clothing
catering to plus-size women. The organization has been cited on the
“Best Small Companies” and “Best Companies to Work For” lists many
times over its 20-plus year history.

Former CEO Betsy McLaughlin believes
that the culture at Hot Topic is based on a passion for a concept.
For Hot Topic, that passion is music, and for Torrid, it is
fashion. McLaughlin says that the passion for the products and the
inspiration behind them is what makes Hot Topic different from many
others, and the passion that drives the culture is shared across
all levels and positions of the organization. In fact, McLaughlin
claims that music inspires not only the products they sell, but
also store design and even the people they hire.

Hot Topic has a unique corporate
culture, but structurally does not differ tremendously from other
organizations. Employees are fiercely loyal to the firm as a result
of the great working environment where they feel they can “fit in”
and be appreciated for what they contribute to the organization.
One example of how Hot Topic encourages fitting in is its “concert
reimbursement” program. Employees can attend a concert and bring
someone with them, fill out an expense report, and be reimbursed
for the cost of their tickets. The only requirement for this
benefit is to submit a “fashion report.” The culture also values
collaboration, open communication, and empowerment, and is
perpetuated by a lack of walls and doors in the corporate
headquarters. Everyone works in one big room and shares space,
taking emphasis off hierarchy and promoting collaboration and open
communication. The employees are supported in risk-taking decisions
when taking care of the needs of customers. This gives employees a
feeling of inclusion and empowerment to make decisions.

Hot Topic has grown from 15 stores just
15 years ago to nearly 800 stores today. This provides a ready
applicant pool to allow the company to hire for corporate jobs from
within—a practice that has the worker bring her or his sense of the
corporate culture to the new job. Employees are kept satisfied
through such perks as cell phone discounts, on-site massages,
health fairs, scholarship reimbursement, and “employee of the
month” programs. Another interesting and no-cost perk offered to
employees is the “9/80” program. This program allows employees to
work 80 hours over 9 days—giving them a three-day weekend every
other weekend.

Senior executives talk to employees and
customers to learn in what direction they want Hot Topic to go.
This along with all of the innovative ideas and programs provides
Hot Topic with a unique culture that helps keep their employees and
customers satisfied and loyal.

Questions for Discussion

1. What makes Hot Topic so successful
as a retailer? What makes them so popular with their employees? How
can they keep their success going?

2. How does the idea of no walls and no
doors in the corporate headquarters encourage the culture Hot Topic
is trying to perpetuate? Do you think you would like to work in
such an atmosphere?

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