December 1, 2009

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I Love My Job

Add up all the stories about the economy’s impact on people and you’ll likely...Read More

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I Love My Job

Best Companies to Work For 2009

By Linda T. Kennedy

December 1, 2009

Add up all the stories about the economy’s impact on people and you’ll likely find most of them are about employment. Many who still have jobs have smaller salaries and reductions in benefits. Others wonder if their career dreams are reachable, as several industries buckle under the recession’s weight. But there are several companies in Utah that, despite economic challenges, retain their employees and help them develop as if the company’s future depends on it. Utah Business is enthused to honor 16 companies in our Best Companies to Work For program. Step through the doors of these companies, which vary in size and industry, as we give you a behind-the-scenes look at what they’re doing and how their employees feel about it. Each honored company was determined by their employees who participated in a survey that tabulated points on criteria such as benefits, growth and development opportunities, and culture and workplace environment. The results overwhelmingly illustrate that creating a work/life balance, developing skills and fostering relationships is critically valued among today’s workforce. Meet the Utah businesses that are confronting today’s challenges, and whose employment practices reflect that investing in people is the cornerstone of success. Opportunity to Grow Comcast If good communication is a two-way street, then Comcast employees are on it. Comcast Market Vice President Rodrigo Lopez says the company engages employees in two-way communication about everything from company goals to employee ideas about how to improve the business. “We have found that the more employees know, the more committed they are to helping the company succeed,” he says. Comcast employees say numerous opportunities for learning, growth and creative expression are provided by the company. “Management provides an atmosphere of availability and openness,” says one employee. “They have an open-door policy that really feels like that—open. They are frequently seen around the office and any question whether big or small is met with a willingness to help.” Comcast also helps its employees with tuition assistance for business-related courses and offers NCTI (National Cable Television Institute) courses at no cost to the employees. “I have personally enjoyed the benefits of being trained inside Comcast and receiving a raise because of it,” says another employee. “All of the training was paid and provided for by Comcast.” Mountain America Credit Union Mountain America Credit Union (MACU) CEO and President Sterling Nielson says that what sets his institution apart from others are engaged employees. “Employees with high job passion help our members find solutions to the complex financial issues they are facing in this economy,” Nielson says. “Therefore, we know it is critical that we continue to focus on employee job satisfaction.” For Nielson, that meant traveling throughout MACU offices to meet employees and inform them about the credit union. “Sterling took the time to talk to the employees before and after the meeting, getting to know them and their concerns,” says one MACU employee. “It was a great example of how the employees at MACU are more than warm bodies.” Employees also rave about MACU’s training opportunities; the company offers employees 100 percent reimbursement on business courses if a B- or better is earned. “Employees have the opportunity to learn skills that not only impact their ability to grow at Mountain America, but that they can use throughout their career and personal lives,” says Kristina Anderson, MACU communications manager. Protiviti When the economy rebounds, the Salt Lake branch of Protiviti, a global business consulting and internal audit firm, says it will need all hands on deck. So retaining their talent is crucial, says Rachel Giustina, Protiviti communication specialist. Employees say the company is doing a good job of keeping them happy. Even with a small staff, development opportunities exist for employees to grow from being a consultant to a manager and eventually a managing director. The company also helps employees achieve education by allotting work hours for additional schooling and reimbursing tuition expenses. “Our succession path is very well defined and measurable,” says a Protiviti team member. “It’s not the kind of company that you get stuck behind someone else waiting for them to get promoted or leave the company.” Giustina says the company keeps people engaged by focusing open communication on the staff’s careers and development, not just on how the economy is affecting the company. “Our work environment is fast-paced with continuous learning, so our people ramp up their skills very quickly.” The results, many employees say, are opportunities to work with some of the market’s leading experts. “I feel like I’m constantly being mentored, instead of being constantly managed and supervised,” another staff member says. “There is a mutual benefit in helping others progress in this company so it creates a positive circle of development.” Squire and Company Ask any employee about what they value most in today’s workplace and you’ll most likely hear flexibility and growth opportunities. And many employees at Squire and Company say their company excels at providing both. “As a CPA firm with unavoidable crazy, busy season hours, Squire still manages to do a great job of encouraging and allowing employees to have a much needed work/life balance,” says Ray Chipman, manager at Squire and Company. “Squire partners have set a good example for me of how to get all the work done on time and also make time to spend with family and complete other important activities within our community.” That might be attributed to the training employees receive at Squire. The company conducts internal training for its employees on a monthly basis, but everyone is also given a training budget for additional training each year. Add that to an atmosphere of camaraderie and Squires doesn’t have to worry about employee retention. “I have had many opportunities to leave the firm and the reason I stay always comes down to one thing: I love the culture here! Leaving would mean giving up too many associations and friendships that I value,” says one employee. More Than a Warm Body ConnectPR In some companies, employees complain they feel like machines, moving from one task to the next. But not at ConnectPR, according to Neil Myers, president and CEO. Myers says taking care of employees is the companies core value. “A well-run manufacturing company will have a preventative maintenance program to keep its equipment in top working order. As a service company, that effort goes into your people.” At ConnectPR, that means profit sharing, cell phone and home Internet compensation, multiple health plan choices, vacation time roll-overs, and annual pay increases. Even during the recession, management put employees first by taking pay cuts to limit the economy’s effect on the staff. Schedules are flexible, and during the holidays the office closes for the entire week. “This is especially important in Utah, where family life is so important,” says Myers. “We work hard during the day, but I would prefer to see an empty parking lot at night, because that means our people are at home with their families, where they belong.” When employees come back to work, the small company offers advancement based on efforts, not position vacancies, say its employees. “Within the company, everyone has a great opportunity for growth and to move up the ranks,” say ConnectPR employees. DoxTek, Inc. DoxTek knows employees feel anxious about the economy, but the company does what it can to ease worries in its office. “We work hard to provide employees with regular reports on the health and success of the company as well as individual performance reports based on our expectations,” says Michael Miles, president and CEO at DoxTek. “In providing a positive and uplifting work environment as well as being open about the health of the company, we can allow employees to work and perform well and have fewer distractions and anxieties.” Offering employees 12 paid holidays and 12 paid personal days every year probably helps, along with flexible schedules and providing the tools for remote access. But smaller perks, such as Friday afternoon gaming time, free snacks and drinks, and recreation center memberships are just as important to DoxTex employees. “It is a nice feeling that you can work without so much pressure,” says one team member. “The management team makes me feel that I really belong to this group and my contributions are acknowledged.” “I couldn’t ask for a better company to work for,” says another employee. “The management team really makes us all feel like we’re part of a family—that we all have something to offer that’s unique. We’re all an important part of the team.” Williams Northwest Pipeline The days when you could find employees retiring from the same company they started their careers with are almost gone. But many employees at Williams Northwest Pipeline are an exception. When one employee was asked what benefit they wished the company offered, the reply was, “turning back the clock to work for the company longer,” explaining that during 36 years with the company, Williams helped the employee obtain two college degrees. “I can’t think of anything that I want that they don’t offer,” says another employee in regard to the company’s pension plan, fitness facility, on-site cafeteria, casual work environment, telecommuting, health benefits, including Mayo Clinic support, and service awards. “I think it is great to see so many employees who have been here more than 20 or 30 years,” another employee says. “It is evidence to me that the company cares about its employees and the employees know it is a great place to work.” Williams CEO Steve Malcolm says it make senses to invest in employees. “Our employees are the heart and soul of the culture here at Williams. Through their innovation, imagination, skill and dedication, they drive to meet our company goals every day.” Marriott Vacation Club International Marriott Vacation Club International says there’s a difference between having happy employees and “actively engaged” employees. “While it is important that our associates are happy, it is even more critical to our success that they are actively engaged,” says Ron Essig, vice president of Global Owner Products and Services at Marriott Vacation. “Actively engaged associates are learning every day and striving to provide the highest levels of customer service to our owners and guests. At Marriott Vacation, that means providing employees with opportunities for growth and development. Many employees who start at entry level are promoted to managerial levels, especially since most of the company’s positions are filled internally. “Even with the economic downfall, my company continues to offer opportunities to promote,” says one employee. “Marriott Vacation Club still gave raises this year along with paid days off it you exceeded expectations.” Essig says giving Marriott Vacation associates the tools they need to do their job has always been fundamental to the companie’s philosophy. “Fully engaged associates will stay with you through tough times as well as good times.” Penna Powers Brian Haynes Working with a staff that feels like family might seem too good to be true, but employees at Penna Powers Brian and Haynes (PPBH) say it’s a reality for them. “Family-like is the only way to describe the atmosphere,” says an employee who works for the advertising, public relations, interactive and public involvement firm. “Everyone treats each other with respect and there is freedom to be good-natured and to have friendly joking banter,” says another staff member. Stephanie Miller, the company’s public relations director, says the firm’s partners host monthly summer barbecues, holiday parties and other impromptu celebrations. “The adage ‘work hard/play hard’ is put into practice daily at our agency,” she says. “Most of us work 11-plus hours day after day, but the partners recognize the hard work and they keep PPBH a great place to work.” That includes compensation days for overtime work, flexible scheduling and generous vacation time. The showers and bike storage the company installed are also unanimously appreciated. “Happy employees are as much the product we provide as our finished ad campaigns, Websites or PR counsel,” says John Haynes, PPBH managing partner. “We have always tried to have a workplace that fosters happy employees.” Committed to Health Equitable Life & Casualty Insurance Company If a great company culture are the little things that make employees’ lives better, Equitable Life & Casualty Insurance Company’s efforts make a big difference, say company employees. “I have had job offers for a larger pay scale, however, even my husband appreciates that it’s worth a bit less money for the peace of mind of working for such a wonderful place,” says an enthused team member. Flexible schedules, yearly health assessments, access to a 24-hour gym, bus passes, salary advances and attendance awards help employees feel that working for Equitable Life is an equitable career choice. But Equitable Life’s strongest attribute, staff members unanimously say, is working for a company that cares about them personally. Equitable Life places every employee’s picture in a photo album, listing the department the employee works in, his or her spouse’s name and hire date. “We take care of each other and value the opinions and accomplishments of all,” says an employee. Other employees say cohesiveness exists despite a diverse cultural staff. “It’s as secure a feeling that I think any employee can have.” “Equitable’s employees are its number one asset,” says CEO Rod Ross. “We give them the flexibility to have a healthy balance between work and life.” SelectHealth It makes sense that a company that provides health plan benefits would be concerned about the physical health of its employees. At SelectHealth, there is an onsite health nurse, fitness center, and employees have access to massages and yoga classes. A sports court also encourages physical activity. But even with the company’s numerous offered resources, employees say SelectHealth values employee health on a higher level. “I have never worked for a company that strives so hard to provide education for its employees,” says one employee. “There are constant trainings, e-mails with tips and monthly education meetings.” Jason Burgess, communications director at SelectHealth, says a work/life balance is a major initiative and includes personal interest classes for employees. Through Intermountain University, employees can learn about personal money management, parenting tips and feng shui decorating. “Since the level of employee engagement translates directly to superior performance and service to our customers, it is more important than ever to recognize our employees and create an environment where they can do their best work,” says Pat Richards, president and CEO of SelectHealth. Sysco Intermountain One happy Sysco employee says the company provides just about everything but an espresso machine in the employee break room. But it is stocked with free beverages and fresh fruit every day. And healthy food is always offered at working breakfast and lunch meetings, fitting for a company whose business is distributing food products to restaurants. “Sysco Intermountain truly excels at providing their employees with an engaging health and wellness program,” says Scott Mann, human resources director. “This year has included bi-annual blood drives, SL County Corp games participation, and health fairs that focus on exercise, body composition and nutrition.” Not only do employees enjoy the interest Sysco shows in their health, but in others throughout the community as well. The company is one of the leading contributors to the Huntsman Cancer Society. “Our company donates to many causes in the community and we are encouraged to become involved,” says a Sysco employee. But mental health is a focus, too, with stress reduction seminars and financial counseling to help employees deal with the recession. “We understand that if you care about the overall well being of your employees and their families, then those employees will respond and care about the company they work for,” says Sysco CEO Tom Kesteloot. Work Hard, Play Hard Doba Doba, an online drop-ship source to wholesale products for small- and medium-sized businesses, is passionate about entrepreneurs—so passionate that the company recruits kids with lemonade stands, pays them to set up shop in the office and serve everyone glasses of lemonade. “They make us feel good by contributing all they can to the community,” says a Doba team member about the company culture. “We are constantly doing something to give back.” But Doba also gives back generously to its employees, they say. Among performance bonuses, a game room and a paid vacation day for their birthday, Doba co-founder Jeremy Hanks creates other special occasions for his employees. In November, he camped out overnight at the Draper In-N-Out restaurant to be one of the first through the door on opening day. He bought 50 burgers and fries for Doba employees. “Drove them down and hand delivered. We had an In-n-Out double double burger brunch,” Hanks said on Twitter. “Doba’s culture is the way we think life is best lived—casual, fun, challenging and just a bit crazy,” says Blaine Nielsen, Doba president. Mozy If you think it’s time to find a job where you can chill, Mozy, a local software company, might have what you’re looking for. For one thing, you’ll always have something to wear, since T-shirt give-a-ways, one employee says, are constant. “I already have six Mozy shirts and I’ve been here nine months,” says one employee, who also says that the “very chill” culture allows him to wear shorts and sandals to work, fitting attire for enjoying the bean bags in the office. Free drinks and snacks round out the Mozy experience. “It’s part of the little things we do to create a desirable work environment,” says Vance Checketts, Mozy general manager for the Utah office. Checketts says the company treats employees well not because it’s afraid of losing them, but because it wants to invest in them. “Our developers work hard to tackle some of the most technical challenges, but when it comes time to take a break, you’ll see them jamming out to Rockband in the break room.” Mozy is definitely for the young employee, or at least the young-at-heart. “Initially, the culture spooked me,” says an employee. “The walls are orange and we have funky billboards everywhere. But there are lots of young people who are very hard-working and motivated to get the job done.” Nu Skin If you start a career at Nu Skin, a company that sells cosmetics, nutritional supplements and technology services, you’ll hear this phrase often: be a force for good. It’s one of the values Nu Skin employees practice and a day is set aside every year to focus on it. In an annual “force for good day,” employees participate in service projects for underprivileged children in the community. “It’s a day where my family and I can enjoy a volunteer opportunity,” says a Nu Skin employee. Employees can also participate in other charitable opportunities, such as a payroll deduction to purchase nutrient-dense food for malnourished children. “A community service project is part of the new employee orientation and training,” says Adrian Call, Nu Skin public relations manager. “Nu Skin employees work hard and serve often, but they also understand the value of being optimistic and having fun.” That includes top executives. Nu Skin President and CEO Truman Hunt, and other company executives, dressed up and performed as the Beetles at this year’s Halloween party. ThomasArts Would you put your hands in a bucket filled with tarantulas if there was cash in it for the taking? If the answer is yes, then you may want to apply for a job at ThomasArts, a marketing communications firm that goes all out for holidays. Braving bugs for money at Halloween is just one of the celebrations ThomasArts throws to maintain its creative culture. But the company also keeps the creative juices flowing with numerous initiatives toward employee health and wellness. ThomasArts pays 100 percent of health insurance premiums for employees and dependents. Preventative care and stress reduction is also advocated; an annual health fair provides flu vaccinations onsite and employees can workout in an exercise room. Employees say the company also cares about employee’s personal issues if they could interfere with work. “This is the family approach in a corporate world,” says one employee. ThomasArts president and CEO, Dave Thomas, says that ultimately the employees are the business. “Our employees infuse the voice and the soul in the work we provide our clients. Treating our employees’ right facilitates the creative process that ultimately leads to groundbreaking ideas.” So, if you do have an unfortunate incident with the tarantulas at Halloween, the company has you covered.
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