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Article

Best Companies to Work For

Linda T. Kennedy, Sarah Ryther-Francom

November 1, 2008


Keeping your company moving full speed ahead can be tough on today’s bumpy economic road. As the Utah Business 2008 Best Companies to Work For illustrate, avoiding the business potholes that put some companies in a rut includes keeping your employees happy and healthy. This year, Utah Business searched the state looking for companies that are doing just that: keeping their employees smiling on the job. These companies encourage top performance with unique benefits, employee recognition programs, educational opportunities and more, keeping their businesses running smoothly on the road to success. From monthly parties to competitive salaries to foosball in the break room, small to large companies are making sure that their employees are members of a team, and for some companies, part of a family. Each of the companies featured in the following pages underwent a rigorous survey process administered by South Jordan-based Allegiance Inc. Benefits and company policies were outlined by a company representative, and a percentage of employees from each company were surveyed to see if the company truly made the grade. Responses were scored and the top companies from four categories—micro, small, medium and large—were named this year’s Best Companies to Work For. Join us in recognizing these companies that go the extra mile for their employees. Micro Companies mediaRAIN At mediaRAIN, a full-service interactive, marketing, advertising and PR firm in American Fork, the 25-member workforce considers themselves more of a family than a company, only with less fighting. “Not many can say they’d invite their boss to their next LAN party,” says Amy Hatch, project manager at mediaRAIN. “Less have scored off an assist from the president of the company at roller hockey. Honestly, one of the best parts about working at mediaRAIN is the down-to-earth attitude our management takes.” Hatch says mediaRAIN’s flat management structure allows employees to work together as peers, which allows them to be independent and take responsibility for their work. Most communication is discussed within the project management group and then comments and suggestions are solicited from all employees. “There is a strong sense of individual empowerment without chaos. Its flat hierarchy makes it easy to get things without bureaucracy and the projects are the best in the business,” says Hatch. Survey Highlights • A flex spending account and paid life insurance policy for employees. • A 401(k) plan and paid time off accrual available to part-time employees. Prince Perelson & Associates Companies that provide employees opportunities to work as entrepreneurs within the company aren’t common, but employees at Prince Perelson & Associates (PPA), a Salt Lake-based recruiting agency, say they’re doing it. Employees work under a merit-based accountability structure and are trusted to manage their time and responsibilities in a way that works for them. “PPA has a beautiful lack of management,” says Brook Clark, a recruiter at PPA. “Employees are given the opportunity to build their own ‘businesses’ within the company and create areas of specialty that interest each of them individually.” Clark says PPA’s physical environment is open and has an aesthetic quality that lends to collaborative communication among employees, which she says leads to increased business opportunities and employees who feel truly valued. “The organizational design of the company is driven by employees and supported by management, not the other way around.” PPA has an advantage when hiring their employees, since recruitment is their specialty. Typically, the company scouts potential hires before there is an actual opening. “As a recruiting agency, we know the importance of swiftly hiring individuals who stand out among their peers,” says Hatch. Survey Highlights • Incentives include company trips, cash prizes and gift certificates. • Company paid workshops and advanced training courses. Love Communications Since Salt Lake-based advertising agency Love Communications opened their doors nine years ago, they’ve gained a reputation for “sharing the love” with their employees and clients. Today, the company has lost only a few of its original employees and receives numerous applications from people wanting in on the fun. “Our company generally receives resumes whether we are hiring or not,” says John Youngren, vice president for strategic communications at Love Communications. “We work hard to make sure even those we don’t hire are treated fairly and with dignity.” And when a candidate gets hired, he or she is welcomed into a company that celebrates employees with employee of the week recognitions, summer and holiday bonuses, summer barbecues, a book club, Christmas parties and cocktails after work. Love Communications acts on the belief that the company’s success is based on the happiness and productivity of its employees. When there are issues, an employee’s need for improvement is usually discussed in an informal meeting before further evaluations or a parting with the employee, which Youngren says has only happened on two occasions. “Our atmosphere is open, vibrant, good-humored and energetic,” says Youngren. “And the model for that type of behavior is exhibited from the top down.” Survey Highlights • 401(k) contributions, even if the employee doesn’t opt in. • Year-end cash bonuses as well as contributions by the company to a profit-sharing program on the employee’s behalf. Management Recruiters of Salt Lake City It’s not very often a job candidate will be encouraged to bring his or her significant other to a final interview, but at Management Recruiters of Salt Lake City, an executive and management search firm, it serves a purpose. “We have a family-first mentality within the organization and there is no question that home is the top priority,” says Dirk Cotterel, CEO and president of the company. “It is expected that when our staff is at work, they’re focused on work and when they’re at home, they’re focused on home.” Employees are encouraged to take time out of the day for family priorities such as school performances, while at the same time, they’re encouraged to work an extra hour on a weeknight for the long-term impact it can have on their paycheck and rewards. “In the last year, 90 percent of our staff, both sales and support staff, earned week-long, all-expense paid trips, including employee and spouse or their whole family, to exotic locations like Cancun, Alaska, Hawaii and Italy,” says Cotterel, adding that Management Recruiters provides technical systems and a technical support staff that make it so employees can work from almost anywhere. Survey Highlights • Coverage for alternative health care, such as acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopath, etc. • On-the-job training programs. AxisPointe, Inc. Imagine being taken to lunch at a nice restaurant in a limousine, followed by a shopping spree at a local mall with a few hundred dollars to spend on yourself. For AxisPointe, Inc. employees who are members of the company’s “Champion’s Club,” this dream is a reality. “[The Champion’s Club] was just to encourage employees to spoil themselves rather then use the money to pay bills or have a spouse spend it,” says Andrew K. Smith, president of the company. Smith says AxisPointe rewards employees who come up with ideas to affect the company’s bottom-line: revenue. AxisPointe employees are also owners of the company, so their new ideas and creative approaches to problem solving translates to their personal wealth when the company succeeds. AxisPointe’s company culture is young and energetic and it’s not uncommon to see four-wheelers through the halls now and then. “We work hard, we move quickly and everyone benefits,” says Smith. So how do they minimize stress? The company will occasionally have massage therapists at the office. Survey Highlights • Paid leave for females and males when a child is born. • Paid access to on-going classes in office applications and software. Small Companies Grant Thornton LLP At public accounting firm Grant Thornton, employees always come first. “We have a passion for caring for our people,” says Gordy Haycock, managing partner. “At Grant Thornton, we care about the whole person. We recognize that our team members bring so much to the company, making it strong. It’s our privilege to invest in the lives of those who care about us.” One way the company invests in its employees is by keeping them healthy. Beyond offering them a state-of-the-art workout facility, employees who commit to a healthy lifestyle receive a $600 health and wellness credit each year; so far, the company has given its employees and partners $2.75 million collectively. The company also invests in its employees by helping them grow through its Career Development Task Force. Employees are mentored and given the opportunity to find a career path that suits them within the company. “I have really enjoyed the culture that is at Grant Thornton,” says one employee. “I am very proud, and express it to others, of the fact that I am an employee here.” Survey Highlights • PerformaceManager system enables employees to initiate feedback from supervisors on their performance. • Flexible Work Arrangement policy allows employees to develop a work plan and schedule to fit their individual needs. Software Technology Group When CEO Jeff Soderberg started Software Technology Group (STG) in 1996, he was determined to build a company that valued its employees as individuals. And he says that the company’s “people come first” philosophy is what has led STG to success. Today, the company remains committed to its employees and their families by promoting a work/life balance, enforcing a strong teamwork culture and simply trusting their employees to do their jobs well. “Trust is the major component STG has in place to encourage employees,” says Soderberg. “We have a phenomenal staff and they are given latitude within their roles to approach assignments and tasks in a professional, thoughtful manner. It is important to note that in our culture, collaboration is very important. Software development is a team effort. Our staff recognizes this and works together.” And employees agree. “STG treats its employee’s as an asset,” says one employee. “Personal failures on projects are not treated as ‘the end of the world’ but more as a learning experience. STG encourages the career growth of their employees and does their best to keep them as they grow.” Survey Highlights • To kick-off the holidays, the company awards a trip to an employee. • Employees are given bonuses for personal achievements and longevity in the company, as well as for referring new employees and clients. SIRE Technologies With a 96 percent retention rate, SIRE Technologies knows what it takes to keep employees smiling on the job. Executives say that key to any strong company is open communication between employees and management coupled with promoting a work/life balance. The company ensures that employees have plenty time to devote to their lives outside of work by offering flexible work schedules, telecommuting opportunities and a 9/80 program, which lets employees work nine hours for nine days and take every other Friday off. And employees who move away from the company’s Salt Lake-based headquarters don’t have to hunt for another job; SIRE Technologies allows them to work remotely from any location, even out of the country. “I enjoy the freedom of my time at work to get my tasks done each day. Most companies have tight, strict deadlines on tasks. Here we still have deadlines, but they are a little more flexible so we can get the task done right the first time,” says one employee. “A well-balanced employee is a good employee, and we found that we could increase productivity and decrease employee turnover by providing our employees with the possibilities to keep their commitments and to find a balance between their work and family life,” says Kris Painter, CEO and President. “We hope to foster a culture where employees work hard and play hard and are enjoying their work environment so we as a company may grow together.” Survey Highlights • The company remains committed to the community, raising funds for the MDA Summer Camp and buying wheelchairs for children with MDA. • Employees are encouraged to pursue educational opportunities at SIRE University, which helps them learn additional hard skills for future promotions. Utah Food Services Utah Food Services (UFS) employees are considered part of a growing family. As one employee says, “Utah Food Services is a great company to work for. I’ve been in the business for 33 years and never worked where I felt that my family comes first. Never has there been an issue if I need a day off or an emergency occurs and I need to leave. They support everything I do.” And just as a family is ready to offer care and support, at Utah Food Services, employees are always given the first consideration. To help employees grow, the company pays for training in any necessary area for the employee to complete his or her job and almost always promotes from within. And besides the usual benefits, the company provides meals to workers at only $1 a day and also allows employees to take food home for their families. “[Robert Sullivan, CEO and president] takes care of his employ-ees, from profit sharing to meals at each shift provided to the staff,” says one employee. “Management also does all possible to ensure a safe and productive work environment. UFS truly is a family.” Survey Highlights • The company works with TURN Community Services to offer individuals with disabilities jobs in the company; the company also aids their rehabilitation. • Employees are frequently given bonuses during the company’s numerous busy seasons. Medium Companies Marriott Vacation Club International Although employees at Marriott Vacation Club International, the timeshare ownership division of Marriott International, can also work at home, many choose to come into the office anyway. “A certain number of slots are made available each year and we always have more openings available than associates who want to work at home,” says Ron Essig, vice president, global owner products and services for Marriott. Maybe that’s because all employees have their own, non-traditional, linear workstations they can personalize to feel more at home, and both the workstations and chairs are ergonomically correct and can be adjusted. Employees might also like working at the office because they can utilize their Guarantee of Fair Treatment policy (GFT), the oldest policy at Marriott (established in 1927) that states no manager is too busy to hear what an associate has to say. Survey Highlights • 12-week, on-the-job paid training program for new hires. • Cross training, job shadowing, free e-learning online classes, benefit and health fairs and tuition reimbursement up to $5,000 per calendar year. Worker’s Compensation Fund At Worker’s Compensation Fund (WCF), dealing with problems is not a problem. “Employees are encouraged from the very top to make decisions that are in the best interest of the customer and not to worry about making mistakes,” says Peggy Larson, senior vice president of marketing. “Our CEO has commented that there is no decision any of us could make that would cause the company to go broke.” WCF’s claims department is set up in teams including marketing, safety, auditing and underwriting experts that work together to handle claims, questions and problems. A team is assigned to each customer so that the various components work together to handle the customer’s needs. While WCF employees work to solve customer’s problems, the company covers their own by requiring all employees to take a one week vacation and making time off for personal needs easily available. Also, some employees work from home, are on four-day work schedules or job share. Survey Highlights • Optional health coverage plans such as cancer policies. • In-house safety and ergonomics personnel that work with employees having problems or needs. Staff Care At Staff Care, a company that matches qualified independent contractor physicians with health care organizations requiring temporary physician service, so much attention is given to training and professional development, the company only promotes from within. “There is great opportunity for advancement,” says Lisa Buckworth, director of corporate recruitment. “We have an absolute team environment.” Considering Staff Care has grown 20 to 40 percent annually since it was established in 1992, without debt or a reduction in workforce, Buckworth predicts the office will double in size in the next few years. Their strong retention could be attributed to their weekly department, regional and leadership forums for sharing ideas and business practices. When staff expressed concern with rigid work hours, within one quarter a more flexible schedule was offered with an emphasis on productivity as opposed to hours worked. Also, Staff Care conducts many employee recognition programs such as Producer of the Year, Most Influential and Rookie of the Year. Survey Highlights • EAP (Employee Assistance Program) provided to each employee and their family members. • Healthwise program to assist employees in managing health and fitness. Goldman Sachs Beyond providing great health insurance benefits, flexible work schedules and a state-of-the-art wellness program, what makes Goldman Sachs stand above other companies is its commitment to its employee’s professional and personal growth. “Goldman Sachs offers many challenges and doesn’t spread them out based on tenure, but allows all of its employees to take on challenging projects and initiatives based on interest and willingness,” says one employee. Goldman Sachs executives say the company continually aims to reward talent; in fact, the firm has the highest revenue per employee in the industry. The company also promotes a strong collaborative work environment, where employees are actively solicited for ideas. Additionally, the company provides numerous avenues for employees to raise concerns anonymously, including a 360 degree review process. “I enjoy the access to managers at all levels of the firm, the value the firm places on it’s employees, the ability to effect change, and its promotion and compensation program which rewards good performance,” says one employee. Survey Highlights • An Employee Relations Group provides a communication channel for employees seeking advice or assistance about sensitive issues related to their job or work environment. • The company offers its employees out-of-the-norm perks, which include $360 in wellness expenses covered annually, free milk and VIP tickets to special events. Large Companies Comcast Comcast employees don’t just work for the company, the company also works for them. Beyond offering free digital cable, high-speed Internet and discounted phone services, Comcast employees are offered competitive wages, top-of-the-line health benefits and educational opportunities. And its not just employees with longevity who are privy to these benefits; new employees receive 28 paid days off during their first year, which includes holidays, vacation and flex time. And with rising fuel costs, many Comcast employees are smiling knowing that their commute isn’t costing them a penny; the company maintains a fleet of more than 430 vehicles that eligible employees can use free of charge. As one employee puts it, “Comcast has been a great company. Not just for the free Internet and cable TV I receive, but also for the atmosphere and the camaraderie I share with my co-workers. The management team also shows a vested interest in my development within the company. I see myself working a long time with Comcast.” Survey Highlights • The company has a 24-hour fitness center and enables each employee to participate in Weight Watchers at no cost. • The company offers a WellnessNow program, which aims to help employees deal with stress, health concerns, depression and weight management among other issues. SelectHealth Employees cite flexibility and growth opportunities as the top reasons they enjoy coming to work at SelectHealth each morning. “Opportunities for growth and development are what keep me here,” says one employee. “I am challenged every day. I learn something new every day.” Another employee adds, “We focus on getting the job done and not just putting the hours in and they enhance our sense of professional achievement and value us rather than just being another warm body occupying a seat.” While the company aims to help their employees achieve professional goals, the company also works to keep its employees happy and healthy outside of the office; in fact, all employees receive health insurance benefits. “I enjoy the opportunity to work for a company that truly values its employees,” says another employee. “All I can say is thank you for the opportunity to work for a great company!” Survey Highlights • Employees are vested in a pension plan after five years of service. • Through Intermountain University, employees can take a variety of personal interest classes, such as money management, parenting tips and feng shui decorating. CHG Health Care Services At CHG, putting people first isn’t just the company’s philosophy, it’s integrated into every aspect of the company. “Putting people first is real, it helps the growth and development of employees and leaders,” says one employee. “I’ve been developed more at this company than anywhere I’ve ever worked before. They really focus on growing their employees.” Because CHG executives believe that there’s nothing more important than helping employees professional and personal growth, more than 80 percent of the company’s leaders were promoted from within. The company also considers communication--sincerely listening to its employees--central to the company’s success. For example, when management received results from an employee focus group, in which employees suggested that more company events, environmentally-friendly practices and flexible schedules or telecommuting would effectively engage the workforce, the company took action, launching a green initiative and approving flex-time and telecommuting schedules. Survey Highlights • The company has an employee appreciation week, providing employees with free massages and special activities throughout the workday. • The company also provides an Employee Advocacy Program (EAP) that helps employees with referrals to counseling services and assistance with questions related to child care, parenting and school programs. Mountain America Credit Union Mountain America Credit Union (MACU) recognizes employees may be nervous on their first day at work, so they provide lunch for new hires hosted by a member of the executive staff. “Throughout the [employee’s first] week there are additional opportunities to meet with members of our executive staff,” says Kristina Anderson, internal communications manager. “During a meet-and-greet, senior staff members share their stories of career success. Since we have several executives who worked their way up from the position of teller, this is very motivating and supports our philosophy of promoting from within.” MACU’s commitment towards investing in leaders led to instituting their our own apprentice program in which leaders have the opportunity to join cross-functional teams and research and present solutions to various credit union issues. Anderson also says that in addition to encouraging work opportunities, they also give opportunities for “play,” as well. “Our live-work-play motto helps frame the many activities we do to help encourage employees to strike a positive balance between work and home,” she says. “Our family Bees night had over 900 employees and family members [in attendance].” Survey Highlights • A company self-funded, short-term disability program and company-sponsored wellness events. • Employee access to an online university with career enhancing modules including computer skills and conflict resolution.
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