A Better World and a Better Workplace
Last month, the Society for Human Resource Management and The Great Place to Work Institute published their list of the 50 Best Small and Medium Companies to Work for in America, 25 of them with between 50 and 250 employees, and 25 with between 251 and 999 employees.
In addition to listing them in HR Magazine, they highlighted some of the things these companies have done to earn that title. Whether you’re large or small, much of what they’ve done is replicable. There are creative perks and benefits, and much of their effort is about acknowledging, recognizing, training and appreciating employees, and about good communication.
We’ve chosen some of their offerings, segmenting them into several sections.
At several of these companies, including Sage Products, a medium-sized firm in Cary, Ill., employees are invited to luncheons or breakfasts with senior management. At Insomniac Games Inc. in Burbank, Calif., the CEO starts each morning by talking with every employee. Every week that VML in Kansas City, Mo., has been in business, employees have gathered for an information-sharing meeting with the president. Employees gather for monthly chats with the president at Archer Malmo of Memphis, Tenn., that include question-and-answer sessions. At Calibre in Alexander, Va., employees elect representatives from each department to meet quarterly with management to share concerns and serve as a sounding board for new ideas. The CEO hosts “renewal lunches” for employees with five years experience to discuss the company and what motivates them to perform.
At Triage Consulting Group in San Francisco, operating decisions are made by “squads” of employees at every organizational level. At Chronicle Books in San Francisco, every employee can attend Editorial Board Meetings and can provide suggestions for book ideas. The company’s Public Works Group, made up of employees and senior managers, meets monthly to discuss and enhance the quality of life in the workplace. At Hypertherm of Hanover, N.H., teams create their own mission statements and have the power and budget to implement process improvement ideas. Of some 3,000 suggestions received each year, more than 70 percent are implemented.
At the Spokane Teachers Credit Union in Liberty Lake, Wash., the “Idea Desk” allows employees to submit and track ideas for improvement through the company Intranet; “Ideas to Action” brings staff and managers together monthly to review new ways to meet the organization’s strategic goals. And at The Hospice of Marion County in Ocala, Fla., employees developed the mission, their business cards display it and one component of their performance evaluation is tied to it.
At Navigator Systems in Addison, Texas, there is no limit on vacation. Employees are trusted to do their work and take time as needed. Said one employee, “I have seen no abuse of this policy and even believe people work harder with it.”
Employees at Triage Consulting coordinate their own open-invitation activities like annual ski trips and the Triage Tennis Open. At Insomniac, when programmers work late during a production crunch, ice cream hour provides a respite; the campus offers basketball, volleyball, a putting green and a gym. Kahler Slater in Milwaukee, Wis., uses a pontoon boat for conferences and rings a ship’s bell when a major success occurs, an award is won or a baby born to an employee. “We laugh a lot,” says one employee, “but work incredibly hard.”
At ESP Pharma Inc. in Edison, N.J., all-employee trips and meetings keep team spirit high. Employees call themselves “a huge family” that dedicates its time to saving lives. At Ribelin Sales, perks designed to build team spirit include blueberry-picking days, fishing trips, karaoke nights and blackjack tournaments. At The Integer Group in Denver, “Wind-Downs” provide an afternoon opportunity for employees to enjoy food and music with coworkers; the company talent show has them entertaining each other. The North Island Credit Union’s senior executives take a “Polar Plunge” when annual goals are met, and team Survivor Challenges include bowling in the aisles and chair races.
At Empower MediaMarketing Inc. in Cincinnati, employees are recognized at a series of Employee Appreciation days during which company officers serve breakfasts, prepare lunch, sponsor happy hours and deliver notes to all employees, telling them how much they are appreciated. Employees also get an extra day of paid time off. At Root Learning in Maumee, Ohio, hand-drawn portraits that capture the personality of each employee grace the office lobby.
Everyone at Handango in Hurst, Texas, is given the opportunity to say thank you to others in the company, and employees who embody company principles can receive public recognition and prizes from coworkers. At Genencor International in Palo Alto, scientists’ published articles are bronzed and given prominent space in the office.
This list is long and inventive, from on-site yoga and monthly massages at Archer Malmo to 100-percent paid health care including vision, mental health and dental at Navigator Systems, Johnston McLamb in Chantilly, Va., and Northeast Delta Dental of Concord, N.H. Northeast also covers 80 percent of tuition costs for both undergraduate and graduate courses, up to eight per year, and offers free fruit, a book club and after-hours use of the office for employees’ personal events.
Ribelin Sales Inc. of Garland, Texas, matches 401(k) contributions dollar for dollar up to 7.5 percent of pay, and Sage matches the first 10 percent; there have been no layoffs in that company’s 34-year history. Advanced Financial Services in Newport, R.I., has on-site “Kids Rooms” where school-age kids can entertain themselves while parents work.
The on-site gym at Acuity, an insurance company in Sheboygan, Wis., is open 24 hours, and employees get a $500 allowance each year to join a health club. There’s also a fully stocked pond where employees and their families can fish and take home their catch. (Turnover is 2 percent).
At Kyphon Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif., employees can get up to $7,500 a year for their children’s college tuition, books and fees. At Eileen Fisher in Irvington, N.Y., workers are given $1,000 a year for physical and mental self-improvement, and spa days for special recognition.
BMW of Woodcliff Lake, N.J., offers 100-percent paid health premiums for employees and dependents and a lifetime benefit of up to $30,000 for fertility treatments (and free or discounted BMWs).
B.I.N Sales & Marketing Inc. in Norwalk, Conn., gives its employees six paid holidays, and in addition offers four weeks of paid time off in an employee’s first year, adding a day each year up to ten years. Unused PTO is carried forward from year to year, up to 65 days.
At B.I.N. Sales, 95 percent of employees have a flextime schedule; 65 percent telecommute.
At Insomniac, yearly bonuses, based on royalties, have been as high as 50 percent of base pay. Employees at Advanced Financial Services in Newport, R.I., get profit-sharing bonuses that average 24 percent of salary. The bonus program at Pacific Service Credit Union in Walnut Creek, Calif., pays up to 16 percent of annual base pay for all employees if organizational goals are met. At Handango, all employees are eligible to receive a bonus of up to 30 percent of their salary. Last year, Keller Williams Realty International Inc. of Austin, Texas, shared more than $1 million of company profits with employees, an average of more than $13,500 per employee. At Hypertherm, profit sharing payouts over the past five years have averaged 18 percent of base pay.
Analytic Graphics of Exton, Pa., develops employees by providing formal training, offering speaking opportunities at colleges and conferences and allowing them to create their own development opportunities. In the past year, nearly a third of employees took on a new role in the company. At Keller Williams, employees have “411 Goal Setting” meetings with managers weekly to review goals. Genencor provides internal Ph.D. programs, on-site training and workshops, specialized off-site courses and education assistance.
At Kyphon, 41 percent of vice presidents, directors and managers have been promoted from within, and at Holder Construction in Atlanta, Ga., 82 percent of job openings were filled by internal promotions. Graniterock, in Watsonville, Calif., has a “Try-A-Job” program that lets employees explore careers in other job functions. And Mitretek Systems in Falls Church, Va., hands out $2,500 to every employee who completes a master’s degree; $4,000 for a doctorate.
The Dixon Schwabl Ad Agency in Victor, N.Y., asked its employees to design a new work environment that reflects its values of openness and creativity. The new office has a soundproof “scream room,” an air hockey table for impromptu tournaments and a metal slide from the second floor to the lobby.
Employee volunteers at Pacific Service Credit Union oversaw $150,000 in donations and sponsorships last year. At Synapse Group in Stamford, Conn., employees are given 16 hours of paid time off to volunteer each year. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in Waterbury, Vt., provides 48 hours. Says one employee, “We walk the talk. We truly care, and want to make this a better world to live in.”
That could be said for the management of all of these model companies.
This information was compiled by Susan Seitel, president of Work & Family Connection, and was reprinted from the Web site, www.workfamily.com. Work & Family Connection is located at 5197 Beachside Drive, Minnetonka, MN 55343, (800) 487-7898.