By J.D. Booth
November 5, 2009
Good times and not so good, it takes people to run an effective organization. The smart companies, those who’ve not only seen both extremes but understand how to learn from the challenges they face, know and understand that “doing the right thing” as far as dealing with staff is even more important when the chips are down.
This year more than ever, it’s a jungle out there. But as we were reminded once again, when it comes to those selected as one of the 101 Best and Brightest Companies To Work For in Metro Detroit, there are still lions ready to roar.
And trends as well, among them the adoption of telecommuting; some 76 percent of respondents to a 101 survey (conducted by the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Center for Research and Service) saying they offer the freedom to work from remote locations (up from 68 percent just a year ago), clearly an advantage when it comes to achieving a higher degree of work-life balance. The vast majority of winners-95 percent- offer special assignments or other forms
of job enrichment.
On the employee side, engagement was seen to be a key reason for workers to stay with their employer-88 percent of respondents at 101 companies said they were satisfied in that regard.
Trends aside, this year’s winners still have their own stories to tell.
Elite Winners of 101 Best and Brightest Companies To Work For Named
The elite winners of the 10th Annual Metropolitan Detroit’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For were announced at the awards event on Oct. 29, 2009 at The Dearborn Inn. All 101 Best and Brightest winners were celebrated for their achievement in 11 categories: Communication, Community Initiatives, Compensation and Benefits, Diversity and Multiculturalism, Employee Education and Development, Employee Engagement and Commitment, Recognition and Retention, Recruitment and Selection, Work-Life Balance, Small Business and the “Best of the Best” Award.
Of the 11 award categories one elite winning company was selected from each category. Elite winners are selected based on their high scores and then named an Elite winner in their respective category.
Elite Award winners of 2009, one in each category, include:
Ernst & Young LLP (Detroit)
Fifth Third Bank (Southfield)
Turner Construction (Detroit)
Henry Ford Health System (Detroit)
McGraw Wentworth (Troy)
Easter Seals of Michigan (Waterford)
Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment, Inc. (Livonia)
The Rehmann Group (Troy)
Netarx (Auburn Hills)
Arrow Strategies (Bloomfield Hills)
The highest award, “Best of the Best,” was presented to Arrow Strategies of Bloomfield Hills, MI, for excelling in all categories and because of its dedication to human resource strategies that reward employees with not only competitive compensation and benefits, but also through open communication, work-life balance, diversity, community initiatives, and other key factors.
The 101 Best and Brightest event was sponsored by WDIV-Local 4, WXZ-TV Channel 7, AT&T Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Corp!, Davenport University, DTE Energy, Strategic Staffing Solutions, Detroit Athletic Club, McGraw Wentworth, HRAGD, and The Harvard Drug Group.
The 101 Best and Brightest Companies To Work For are presented annually in three markets: Metro Detroit, Western Michigan and Chicago. Nominations are now being accepted for 2010. Visit www.101bestandbrightest.com to obtain an application.
A full-service benefits agency, AGIS focuses on cross training as both an opportunity for its employees and as a plus for its clients. Indeed, everyone in the office is more than proficient in at least two positions, says Michael Nixon, president of Michigan operations. If those skill-building efforts make AGIS staff marketable outside the 31-year-old company, no one seems to be worried. “I don’t think a lot of employees today expect to retire from the company they currently work for,” says Nixon. “We see more job jumping as the years progress and that forces HR to do several things; really work at being the best place to work at in metro Detroit and implementing outside resources to help evaluate potential new hires.” Nixon says while compensation may be important to employees, it’s not everything. “Employees want to land a position with a company that not only has an excellent compensation package but is also a stable, comfortable place to work. HR plays a large role in creating and perpetuating the company culture.” Bridget Johnson, director of operations, echoes that thought: “We pride ourselves on being a place where people want to work. It’s great for an HR person like me to actually receive calls from people wanting to come work us before we even have a position open!”
While Ajilon Consulting is not alone in having its business challenged during the difficult economic times, its management is nonetheless focused on two things: finding another assignment for those whose engagements are ending and keeping an engaged and productive workforce for those that remain. As CEO Jeff Rupp explains, Ajilon’s field manager program plays a key role on both fronts. “These are employee relations representatives who work with employees throughout their Ajilon careers to address issues and concerns, assist with career development, evaluate performance, and help ensure that when their current client engagement ends that they are presented to new opportunities. They have been instrumental in listening, guiding and assisting employees who have remained in their positions.” In the meantime, Ajilon Consulting is working with its parent company, Zurich-based Adecco, to implement a global talent inventory, opening the doors to candidates who may be eligible to take on a senior level role in another country, an initiative that may have local implications since it creates talent pools for North American positions. Rupp says employee wants and needs are evolving back to basics. “Many are looking for a stable and solid company that can withstand the ups and downs of the economy. They want a company that can provide them with a regular paycheck and solid benefits. They want to work for a company that will be there now and in the future.” Even with that trend, Rupp sees that changing again. “As the economy improves we anticipate employees will start to focus on higher salaries, career opportunities and growth. If they don’t feel they are getting that at their existing company then they will start looking for other employment. Staying connected to your employees and responding quickly to their changing requirements will assist in retention.”
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Built on a non-profit business model, the health care consulting organization provides both objective research and client-centered consulting services. Says CEO Lincoln T. Smith, Altarum is unique in a number of ways. “Our internally funded and contract research agenda shapes our core consulting services, ensuring that those services are insightful and technically rigorous. And our consulting practice keeps our research program rooted in the real world- the world that our clients are facing today.” Smith says Altarum’s approach-understanding the larger environment in which problems arise and for which sustainable solutions can be crafted-is one that’s valued by clients. He also says the diversity of perspective and background found in Altarum’s staff is matched only by the diversity of clients it serves and the challenges it addresses across the continuum of health and health care programs. “We have many voices within the Institute but only one purpose: to deliver comprehensive, systems-based solutions that improve health and health care.”
Farmington Hills, Mich.
With a high percentage of its senior-level leadership approaching retirement age, Amerisure’s focus in the last year has been succession planning, including the development of high performing, individual contributors, initiatives that are aligned with the company’s guiding principles. CEO Richard Russell points to Amerisure’s focus on excellence and “optimizing customer relationships through amazing service” as being key to its enduring stature. Among the initiatives: a Champions Through Excellence Program, which recognizes those that meet or exceed high standards.
For CEO Jeff Styers, recognition for Arrow Strategies is something that “speaks volumes about the company as a whole.” That recognition is often centered on the firm’s attention to work-life balance. “We have increased the perks that are offered to our employees and we are always looking for ways to enhance our employees’ lives. We plan to continue this trend and will continue to view our employees as our most valuable asset,” says Styers. “The expertise and professionalism of our employees is just a couple of reasons we have received such recognitions.”
What do you do when you’re forced to not only reduce staff, but cut pay and benefits for those remaining? At ASG Renaissance, the moves came with a healthy spirit of open communication, says CEO Lizabeth Ardisana. “We’ve been open and honest with all employees on how the company is doing and they appreciate hearing the truth,” she says. “ASG has always fostered open and honest communication and maintaining that level of communication is even more crucial today.” That ongoing dialogue continues, as does the open door policy Ardisana had established long before the economic downturn. And she’s continually looking for ways to help employees navigate the stormy waters. “We’ve offered low cost services such as financial planning sessions; flu shot clinics, and the company regularly distributes and posts informational materials,” she notes, adding that there are key differences today in the relationship between employee and employer. “More and more employees want a voice in decisions,” says Ardisana. “They also want to know how their contributions affect the overall goals of the company.” ASG routinely forms focus groups or distributes short surveys, using the information when setting up new programs or making changes to existing ones. One move has been the implementation of a system that streamlines the HR function, cutting down on the time (and expense) of filling out numerous forms and freeing up time for more strategic initiatives.
Baker Tilly Virchow Krause
Formerly Virchow Krause, Baker Tilly Virchow Krause is a full-service accounting and advisory group. Detroit Regional Managing Partner Craig Nelson says the ability of the firm to connect to local businesses with refreshing candor and clear industry insight sets the firm apart. The firm has specialized expertise and global reach in audit, tax and management consulting support. An independent member of Baker Tilly International, the world’s eighth largest network of accounting firms, the local office delivers access to market-specific knowledge in more than 110 countries.
To be clear, Barton Mallow’s Ben Maibach III understood that not making the tough decisions an economic downturn necessitated would ultimately have had a long-lasting negative impact on employee morale. “One of the ways that we hope to avoid that is by keeping employees informed,” says Maibach, who is using the results of an employee opinion survey that showed the need for more communication. With initiatives such as a blog where employees can “see” company executives on their travels and an intranet that contains a wealth of information on the company, including recent project “wins,” the strategy appears to be working.
BDO Seidman, LLP
Historically, the biggest barrier to BDO’s success was in not following through on its human capital retention programs, says CEO Jack Weisbaum. “That’s it. We’ve got to be able to recruit, we’ve got to be able to retain and we’ve got to be able to groom future leadership to be the backbone of this firm. It’s people and nothing else.” As a result, BDO has made it a top priority to discover and implement new and innovative ways of retaining top talent in a workforce that is diverse in gender, age, ethnicity, values, etc. The initiatives include BDO Flex, a work+life fit strategy, BDO L.I.F.E., a wellness program, and the BDO Women’s Initiative, which aims to foster an environment rich with opportunities for personal and professional growth for all employees. “We have also put mechanisms in place, such as our annual employee survey and a very active employee suggestion program, to constantly monitor the changing needs and wants of our workforce.” With a workforce that is constantly evolving, growing and expanding, Weisbaum says BDO must be on the cutting edge. “Companies are compelled to implement policies, strategies and initiatives to keep the workforce happy and productive. BDO’s efforts on this front are a top priority within the firm. In the last six years, we have implemented numerous large-scale employee-focused initiatives that aim to meet and exceed our employees’ expectations.” Weisbaum says a shift to a focus on human capital is among the most significant HR strategies in recent years.
Royal Oak, Mich.
Who better to address the workplace stress pressures brought on by an economic downturn than a hospital? When it comes to Beaumont, the challenge was met head on with its MyOptimal Health Program, which provides support to employees facing the physical and emotional results of stressors both at work and at home. Another initiative-mySupport-serves as a clearinghouse for stress and depression resources housed on the Beaumont intranet. “Many people live with high levels of stress and depression and think it’s normal,” says CEO Kenneth J. Matzick. “We provide Beaumont employees with resources and online tools to help them become aware of what’s going on in their life and connect them with resources that can help. The mySupport Web page is one of the most popular resources on the Beaumont Intranet.” Matzick says the relationship between Beaumont and employees has become increasingly collaborative. “Employees are more empowered to voice their opinions.” And Beaumont is using modern communication tools such as the Internet, social networks, and e-mail access to do its part. Messages include enhanced communication regarding the business of health care, the financial and environmental issues affecting the delivery of care, and the response of the organization to those realities. “These initiatives reinforce the shared responsibility that exists between employees and leaders, who work together for the care of our patients and the success of Beaumont as an employer and provider of choice.” Also on the agenda: a flexible work environment with programs and resources to help them manage work and family/home responsibilities. In response, Beaumont has implemented flexible scheduling options, choices in health care benefits packages, domestic partner benefits, personal health coaches and incentives for living a healthy lifestyle, an annual total rewards statement to assist in long term financial planning, and educational opportunities within the organization to improve performance and help employees learn and grow in their careers.
Blue Care Network of Michigan
As the premier managed care plan in Michigan, Blue Care Network’s purchasers, members, physicians, unions and employees are partners in maintaining and improving health. Led by CEO Jeanne Carlson, Blue Care Network has a mission of people helping people to promote health and peace of mind through high quality care and service, as the organization strives for excellence. Its values include integrity and honesty, family and personal life, personal accountability and empowerment, helping and caring, quality and excellence, diversity and inclusiveness and community involvement.
Bridgewater Interiors, LLC.
Certainly Bridgewater, a joint venture of Johnson Controls, has had its share of challenges related to the automotive industry. But Verna Ginyard, who leads the HR team, says communication and a demonstrated appreciation for employees has helped maintain morale. “Each time our employees were recalled to work after a prolonged layoff, they came back with a great attitude ready to make a quality product and help Bridgewater maintain stellar performance,” says Ginyard. “We continued to keep our employees informed.” An extra touch: activities planned during the layoff were rescheduled to coincide with an employee’s return. “It’s a way to show we appreciate the work and effort they put forth each day.” But Ginyard accepts the fact that economic pressures have created a difficult business environment. “That said, Bridgewater has remained committed to maintaining a safe, pleasant work environment for all employees, and takes multiple opportunities to thank employees for their efforts and candidly relay information about the state of the company.” Bridgewater continues to poll employees, now even more frequently than before. “We use the findings of the survey to create action plans to improve the areas with the lowest ratings,” says Ginyard, who credits various initiatives, including an employee referral process, for producing a below industry standard turnover rate at the company.
Broder and Sachse Real Estate Services Inc.
For CEO Todd Sachse, helping to reduce the stress of employees during the economic downturn can be found in being upfront. “We have found that providing them with accurate and honest information regarding our financial stability helps to reduce a portion of that stress. We update our staff twice a year through a ‘state of the union’ address that shows exactly where we are in respect to our projected sales and goals, and this also helps to inspire everyone to buckle down and work hard to ensure our continued success.” Sachse says the ongoing efforts have helped build relationships with employees. “Our relationships have seemed to grow stronger over the years, as our honesty and openness with our employees helps to illustrate how hard we fight to provide them with the security that they have come to expect. This effort seems to be appreciated, especially as we attribute all of the credit of our success to our staff themselves.” In the meantime, Sachse is doing what it can to keep morale up, even as it invests “countless hours and significant funds” in training. “We have tried to maintain all of our employee perks such as company sponsored lunches, happy hours and holiday events, as we understand that needs have definitely changed due to the recent economic trends. As needs are reduced, wants are probably increased.”
A marketing services company founded in 1982, Budco works with blue chip companies as an outsourcing provider, helping them design and execute strategies to build and enhance relationships with key business and consumer audiences. Chairman Perry Miele, who bought the company from founder Bud Brian in 2006, continues a tradition of excellence. “We’re not simply a fulfillment operation, a contact center or a creative agency,” the firm’s Web site proclaims. “We’re all this and more. Our strength lies in our ability to combine different types of services into a single, focused effort.”
Cambridge Consulting Group
“Cambridge Consulting Group helps businesses and individuals overcome obstacles and achieve goals,” says the organization’s Web site. “We are a Michigan-based company with a nationwide reach.” Consisting of four cohesive divisions, Cambridge Consulting professionals have decades of experience advising clients in the areas of employee benefit planning, human resources, property and casualty insurance and wealth strategies. “Our unique expertise and sophisticated service offerings enable us to collaborate with clients across the country in developing creative, custom solutions that address their business and personal objectives,” says the Web site. Cambridge “draws our strength from our professionals, whose collective training, intelligence, creativity and experience places them at the top of their fields.” With a team that includes financial professionals, technical specialists, plan designers, certified public accountants, underwriters and attorneys, Cambridge says it approaches each engagement with a fresh perspective and custom approach, resulting in innovative ideas and solutions for clients. “By making our clients’ objectives our own, we are able to consistently deliver results that help them achieve their objectives.”
Clayton & McKervey, P.C.
How do you effectively respond to challenging economic times? Clayton & McKervey’s Donald Clayton has a suggestion. “One of the most meaningful things that you can give your employees in uncertain times is communication and honesty, and we have worked hard, and accomplished both. We have taken several opportunities to communicate to our staff on how we are doing, and how we think the economy will affect our company, now and into the future. We reiterate our dedication to sustaining, growing, and coming out of these economic times stronger than ever. They see our continued investments in talented people, technology and marketing as ways that we are walking the talk.” Clayton says the relationship the firm has with its staff has evolved into one that is open. “Our shareholder and manager group is very engaged with our staff.” Just as important is the firm having created an environment where staff opinions are sought out. There’s also an emphasis on balance. “Employees today are very focused on work-life balance and the technology needed to deliver this. The impact is the need to develop programs that deliver the work life balance as well as a perpetual commitment to technology. Employees also want to be innovative and participative. They want to be developed and contribute. The results are growth, opportunity and fun-for all.”
Comcast’s commitment is to deliver value to shareholders while conducting business in a way that offers the best products and services to our customers, lessens its impact on the environment and provides a high quality of life for employees and those people impacted by the business. It’s also a company that’s committed to doing business in a socially responsible way. A largely entrepreneurial company that’s been in business for some 45 years, Comcast loves to innovate. And it’s proud to be an important part of the communities it serves. “Critical to this is the dedication of our people,” says CEO Brian L. Roberts. “I want to give special thanks to all our employees who make a difference every day.”
Community Choice Credit Union
Community Choice Credit Union has been providing financial care to Michigan communities for nearly 75 years. Its footprint has expanded since 1935 to include eight counties in Southeast Michigan: Genesee, Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne. The organization is dedicated to enriching the communities it serves through a variety of outreach programs. With an internal creed of “Give Big,” Community Choice encourages its team members to go above and beyond for its members, to each other, and to the community. In 2009, it applied for 501(c)(3) status for the Community Choice Foundation which will aid Southeast Michigan students in pursuing higher education in the state.
Community Financial is a not-for-profit, full-service financial institution owned and governed by its membership. Serving southeast and northern Michigan, Community Financial provides members with competitive dividend rates on checking and savings accounts, as well as market driven loan rates. Members also receive a high level of personal service, the cornerstone of Community Financial. With a mission that includes the phrase “a passion for service,” Community Financial serves the citizens of Plymouth, Canton, Northville, Novi, Montmorency County, Otsego County and Alpena County.
Computer and Engineering Services, Inc.
Rochester Hills, Mich.
For over 20 years, Computer and Engineering Services has been providing high quality information technology, engineering professionals, and administrative staff to Fortune 500 companies throughout the United States. Its services include recruiting, testing (through a comprehensive test library of over 800 titles), background checks, audits and training. While it specializes in IT and engineering professionals, CES can help in almost any capacity needed. The organization is committed to providing its clients with highly qualified, technical professionals. Candidates have been interviewed and screened to meet client’s placement and contract requirements and the company strives to provide employees with the benefits, services and assignments to attain their personal and professional goals.
Computer Consultants of America, Inc.
Ask HR’s Lisa Morris or CEO Joyce Wheeland why Computer Consultants of America is successful and they point to one key attribute: communication. “It’s key to all successful business people,” says Morris. “We believe that if all our employees are on the same page then the company as a group can reach its goals.” The initiatives include internal meetings where management and associates discuss where the business is going as well as the firm’s long-term goals. And those are lofty indeed. “We expect more of our employees, not less,” says Morris. “CCI has really talented people and we know that really talented people do not want to work with slackers.” To that end, CCI has created an employee of the month program to recognize outstanding employee performance and achievement, making HR a key player in the company’s overall success. “The HR department fosters the culture, and influences overall employee accountability. They provide constant service to the employees and the customers and the daily presence of guidance to making CCI the employer of choice,” says Morris. It’s also a firm that works hard to maintain a close knit connection with its staff. “Not many companies have a set of executives that are genuinely interested in getting to know every single employee that works for them and showing them that they are appreciated,” she adds. Strategies for maintaining that success include annual compensation reviews and reimbursement for training, certification or further education.
Compuware’s number one challenge as it related to its workforce has been leveraging the skills of the company’s top talent. A key factor in retaining and engaging top employees is their ability to contribute in meaningful ways and to grow and develop in the company, says the firm in its 101 Best and Brightest Places to Work submission. “They want to stay with a company that fosters their professional growth and continues to provide them new challenges and opportunities.” Those changes and the company’s focus on the growth of customer solutions have created opportunities for employees to grow their skills. That includes specialized training that targets key strategic areas such as sales, with team members provided focused solution training around specific offerings. “Compuware’s efforts in this area will allow us to deliver solution information around a proven methodology and process, enabling sales in a very powerful and effective way. This type of commitment to enable our sales teams makes a significant impact to business results and drives the retention and engagement of our employees.” The initiatives were in response to the company losing a significant number of employees in their first year of employment. “Many employees weren’t connecting with the company’s culture or feeling supported as they got up to speed in their new role,” the submission points out. The response: a world class on-boarding program to help ensure that the foundation is set, at the very beginning, for engaged and effective employees. Specific elements include a new employee portal, new employee orientation and job specific training and department orientation. “Compuware provides targeted training to ensure that every new employee has the tools, knowledge and resources available to be successful. Employees want to join or stay with a company that is positioned for real business growth and has a clear strategy for their future.”
Conway MacKenzie, Inc.
Enormous challenges face companies battling to compete in the global economy. Conway MacKenzie delivers hands-on financial, operational and strategic services that help healthy companies grow and troubled companies get back on track. With offices that have grown throughout the United States and internationally, and with a team of professionals who represent the best and brightest in their respective disciplines, the mission of the firm has been and will always be steadfast: to provide clients with tangible results that bring about the optimal outcome for a given situation. That mission has been evidenced time and time again as Conway MacKenzie continues to deliver high-impact results for its clients.
Coretek Services is a Michigan based IT consulting company that enables mid-market enterprises, Fortune 1000 companies, and health care providers to drive business transformation and improve operating performance by adapting and implementing advanced technologies-carried out by proven, cross-industry, multi-platform experts dedicated to customer satisfaction. Coretek is constantly looking for exceptional IT professionals who want to be involved in building a reputation and who reflect its values.
DeMaria Building Company
One way DeMaria Building Company managed to maintain or even increase morale in a challenging period was to focus on employee health. It did so with a “Fit to Win” competition that concentrated on a percentage weight loss among participating staff. Cash from a modest weigh-in fee was eventually distributed to winners of the program. Amy Patterson, who heads the HR department, recognizes that gaining and maintaining employee loyalty is a more challenging task in today’s environment. “However, more than ever an employee has a voice in the company when they have a concern, complaint, suggestion, or idea. DeMaria understands the importance of improving their relationship with employees and actively shows a greater appreciation for the job employees do. We have become more flexible in order to meet the employee’s needs away from work, while maintaining a viable and profitable company.” Another company initiative is the Young Leadership Committee, which assists with the implementation of the company’s strategic plan, presenting its proposed solutions to management, in the process gaining experience working together on a team and developing their leadership and presentation skills. The company also focuses on providing an environment where employees can enjoy work-life balance. “This is effective in our company because both the employee and employer work in partnership to find the best solution,” adds Patterson.
Detroit Athletic Club
With a series of core values that permeates the organization, the Detroit Athletic Club has created a workplace where mutual support, personal respect and a shared desire for excellence exist. “There is an underlying friendship and honesty that is at the foundation of employee relations,” notes Executive Manager Ted Gillary. “It expresses itself through trust and respect, which are essential values for sustaining the club.” One highlight worth noting: an annual Employee Appreciation Day, where management cooks for, serves and mingles with staff, all in an outdoor pavilion located on site. While many of Detroit ‘s institutions have come and gone, the Detroit Athletic Club remains a rock-solid force in the city where it was born, providing a center for community leadership and a focal point around which many important decisions have been made. The Detroit Athletic Club has been, and remains, a Detroit original.
In the last 12 months, the management and staff of DFCU has been busy integrating the merger of another credit union into the organization, something that CEO Mark Shobe says has been its biggest challenge as of late. “Geographic distance has added an additional challenging element to this task since we now have staff and branches located in the Grand Rapids and Lansing areas.” With pay and benefits at different levels, that meant DFCU had its work cut out for it. “We achieved equitable results by doing competitive analysis studies in the marketplace to ensure we were offering a comprehensive compensation and benefits package in order to be a preferred employer.” Other initiatives have included the development of a branch team development career path program and skill-based pay structures. “We believe strongly in growing and developing our employees and have an extensive, ongoing training program for everyone in the company,” says Shobe, who adds that getting the right employee in place is critical to DFCU’s ongoing success. “We put much effort into ensuring there is a proper fit between the person and the position and that we are providing competitive pay and benefits. If there is a good fit, then there is a greater likelihood that person will remain motivated and loyal. Our HR practices instill pride and motivate our staff to be the best they can be. This type of empowerment is integral to our success. Our goal is to be a preferred employer so it is about constantly reviewing HR practices and making modifications where necessary.”
A global interactive agency network, Digitas recognizes that retaining people is key to its success. “As jobs, programs and budgets are cut across industries, internal talent has emerged as our most bankable asset,” says Tamy Harms, managing director, Digitas Detroit. “Happy and productive employees will not only have a positive impact on an organization’s bottom line, but they must also play a central role in any viable corporate strategy for long-term growth.” Felicia Miller of HR says action consistent with aims is key. “We engage our employees directly, so that they feel invested in the process and the company’s overall success. Secondly, we feel it’s important to foster an environment of learning and development that caters to employees’ ambition. Workers will often look past the finances of a situation if they believe they are developing into more valuable and marketable talent. We keep our employees engaged by managing resources more creatively and strategically.” That includes moving people between departments as a way of helping workers develop new skills at minimal cost. “Maintaining a robust internship program can also share the burden of menial tasks while giving junior staff management experience. This type of active career management has kept employees engaged.” Giving thanks also helps. “We publicly acknowledge and thank employees who are doing a good job,” says Miller. “We make their success public and keep senior leaders apprised of high-potential staff so that both sides feel like talent is being cultivated, noticed and appreciated.”
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Founded in 1960, Domino’s Pizza is the recognized world leader in pizza delivery operating a network of company-owned and franchise-owned stores in the United States and international markets. Domino’s Pizza’s vision illustrates a company of exceptional people on a mission to be the best pizza delivery company in the world. As CEO David Brandon explained, hiring exceptional people is not something that’s inherently difficult. “We find out how people want to be treated and then treat them that way.” Domino’s remains focused on investing in its employees, recognizing them for outstanding performance on a regular basis. That success is likely to continue, says Brandon. “We work hard every day to make Domino’s Pizza an employer of choice and will continue to do so.”
There’s no question that the economic turbulence has had an effect on DTE Energy, making it even more important to balance cost and revenue improvements with initiatives to improve job security. With plant closings, rising unemployment and declining household income having a ripple effect on the company, CEO Anthony F. Earley Jr. says a careful look at ways to support sustainable cost reductions has resulted in DTE avoiding the type of mass layoffs that are so common in the state. At the same time, DTE has embraced a different way of doing business. “The relationship is more collaborative than top down,” says Earley. “Leaders still manage their staffs and hold employees accountable for performance. But employees are more directly involved in problem solving, decision making and continuous improvement. Through hundreds of continuous improvement initiatives, employees and their leaders are learning to work smarter and more efficiently.” Communication is also improving. “This has become a high priority for our company,” says Earley, who began issuing video responses to the economic crisis through a series of DVDs distributed corporate-wide. Employees use a number of feedback mechanisms to raise issues and identify solutions. DTE has also implemented a number of innovative HR strategies, including an enhanced employee engagement strategy.
Easter Seals-Michigan, Inc.
Easter Seals Michigan provides a work environment featuring flexible scheduling, telecommuting, 4/40 work schedules and technology to support staff as they work in the community. CEO John Cocciolone sees a continuing emphasis on flexibility and adaptability. “Easter Seals is that type of organization,” he says. Today, there’s an ongoing commitment to solicit staff feedback, the basis for any review of employee relations practices.
Auburn Hills, Mich.
E-mail may be the kind of high-tech tool companies can’t live with out, but at Employees Only, personal communication is the first choice, says CEO Mario Apruzzese. “Technology, as wonderful as it is, still does not communicate a message as well as a two-party conversation. Questions can be asked and answered immediately and all parties immediately receive the information needed to move forward.” It’s that type of thinking that drives Employees Only, a company that says it considers employees as extended family members. “It is inevitable when working side-by-side with individuals 10 to 12 hours a day that a bond develops,” says Apruzzese. Even in the difficult economy, not one of the company’s benefits programs were compromised. Employees continued to contribute zero dollars to their individual health care and still enjoy two weeks paid vacation upon the first year anniversary. In addition, a staff rewards program includes a bonus structure for client referrals. Those initiatives have resulted in pride of ownership, says Apruzzese. “Our entire staff embrace the company core values, which are a must for success.” One of those is having open and honest communication, which builds trust among employees. “They understand it only takes one wrong to wipe out 18 goods.”
A multibillion-dollar industry leader, Enterprise offers employees more than a chance to succeed. With an environment of energy, Enterprise people are motivated and their career paths can take them where they want to go. The “pick you up” idea that Enterprise has become famous for started with one of the firm’s managers in Florida, quickly spreading across the country. Today, as the firm’s Web site explains, “It’s just one example of our commitment to innovation, to customer service and to listening to our people.” Company founder Jack Taylor had an idea to focus the resources of Enterprise on the satisfaction of its customers and the success of its employees. And, in his words, “The rest will take care of itself.” For more than 50 years, that commitment has held true, and Enterprise continues to be recognized for its world-class customer service and the way it advances its professionals.
Ernst & Young
With ever-changing client needs, competent staff at Ernst & Young’s Detroit office are more important than ever, says Managing Partner Jeff Bergeron. “We need to bring the right team with the right skills and experience to every project every time.” Even then, the firm focuses on how it can help employees succeed, which means being passionate about helping staff reach their goals and achieving their potential. Ernst & Young does that by providing the right learning and development opportunities through programs such as EYU, a global career development framework that provides the right blend of experiences, learning and coaching to keep staff challenged and able to meet the needs of its clients. “Continued focus on skills development of our people means that our people will continue to have opportunities and our clients will continue to receive exceptional service,” adds Bergeron, who even as a leader recognizes that his role has changed. “There was a time when most companies operated with a strictly top down mentality. Those in leadership positions set the direction for others to follow. Today’s most successful companies recognize the value of diverse points of view and actively engage representatives from various departments within the organization as well as levels of experience in its decision-making process.” Success also means offering employees an environment where they can achieve more, which is why Ernst & Young supports employee participation in charitable, civic or community organizations. “The best employers realize that their people truly are their best assets and interact with them accordingly.”
Family Home Health Services
Family Home Health’s success in employee retention is due to a collaborative workplace approach. As Executive Director Vicky Welty explains, “First, we build a unique, inviting workplace that attracts people who will further strengthen the environments.” Keeping them there has much to do with having a consistent, comfortable work culture. “Some of our most valuable employees have come from a single source-employee referrals.” With a mission of “empowering one another by building a supportive environment through continuous development and open communication,” Family Home Health Services is on the right track. “We are in the business of taking care of people,” says Welty.
Rochester Hills, Mich.
From its inception in 1982, FANUC Robotics continues to be committed to improving its customers’ productivity by providing on-time delivery of reliable, maintainable and cost-effective robotic process solutions – products, systems and services. And just because it’s earned a reputation for designing and manufacturing distinctly non-human entities doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a heart. Indeed, the company operates a Web site-www.saveyourfactory.com-that firms can use to look into automation before they choose to off-shore operations. The company is a leading supplier of robotic automation in North and South America, offering more than 200 robot model variations along with the software, controls and vision products that aid in the development of state-of-the-art robotic systems.
Launched in 1976, the firm was established as a family enterprise, which it remains today. Employees are offered an attractive benefits package and ongoing training through its Farbman University. The firm brings ethics and integrity to the forefront, striving for excellence in all facets of real estate services, even as it seeks to enhance its position as an industry leader. The company manages in excess of 20 million square feet of office, retail, multi-family and industrial space throughout Southeast Michigan and is recognized as a leading commercial management and brokerage firm.
Fifth Third Bank–Eastern Michigan
As CEO David Girodat explained when Fifth Third won a position on the 101 Best and Brightest Places to Work last year, the financial industry was experiencing trying times - which continues. Yet it’s exactly those circumstances that give Fifth Third an advantage when it comes to hiring. “They see our stability in the market and our continued focus on strategic growth; once they make the decision to join the bank, they are already aware of our focus on retention and growing future leaders through our formal mentorship and education programs.” Girodat says the promotion of fair and equitable practices gives Fifth Third the freedom to “pride ourselves on being consistent and being able to identify creative solutions without compromising integrity.”
Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, Inc.
Farmington Hills, Mich.
Now in its seventh year as a 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For firm, FTC&H remains committed to its core purpose: “to help people realize their visions while benefiting society.” The architecture and engineering firm does it partly through a commitment to employee ownership, which allows the people working there to control their destiny. They also choose interesting and challenging projects, ones that provide opportunities for excellence, innovation and growth. High energy, inspiration, passion, and a willingness to work outside their comfort zone-all are “normal” characteristics at FTC&H.
Flagstar boasts that it provides employees with a fun, dynamic work environment. It does so by challenging staff, giving them the support they need to accomplish their work and advance their career. Whether it’s hands-on training, professional development or managerial support, the opportunities for advancement keep coming. Flagstar’s benefit plans include health coverage, flexible spending accounts, disability coverage, as well as discounted health club memberships. The culture is one that welcomes fresh ideas, values diversity and fosters creativity. Encouraged by an open door policy, employees of all levels interact with each other, exchanging ideas and growing personally and professionally.
Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc.
Bingham Farms, Mich.
It’s little surprise that the biggest challenge facing CEO Bryan Hirn at Gallagher Benefit Services has been keeping employees positive and optimistic. “The economic downturn has led to a lot of uncertainty in the workforce, with people worrying about losing their jobs, taking salary reductions and/or reduced work hours, and, in the extreme, their companies going out of business.” Hirn says his general approach has been to “acknowledge the severity of the economic crisis and the impact that it is having on our company and our clients, highlight the ways in which our employees can ‘manage their own destiny’ in doing their part to keep us as successful as possible, and giving them as much information as possible about the state of our company, and what that means to their individual job security.” Gallagher is something of a blend, says Hirn, referring to those in the privately held business and the publicly traded firm that bought Gallagher three years ago. “Our biggest change is again more communication with regard to what is expected of our team and how that affects our clients and our company,” says Hirn. “Some of our competitors have positioned against us by saying that a publicly traded company puts shareholders first and clients and employees second. Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth. If we do not properly value our clients and our team members, they will leave us and the result will be no value to the shareholders. Public or private, a business is only as good as its commitment to customers/clients and employees.” That also means staying competitive when it comes to HR initiatives. “One of the smartest moves that we’ve made has been to allow the majority of our team a level of system access that permits them to work from their homes when appropriate. When a team member or one of his/her children are ill, or when someone has to be home to let the cable TV service people into the house, our work from home flexibility assures our clients that their work will still get done, and greatly reduces job-related stress for our team members.”
Garden City Hospital
Garden City, Mich.
How do you deal with sick people in an ailing economy? At Garden City Hospital, a variety of strategies have been implemented, including eliminating the use of agency nurses and adding a system that gives nurses the opportunity to electronically bid on available shifts, in the process saving the hospital $108,000 a month in nurse staffing costs. All departments have been able to reduce their operating expense, reduce or eliminate overtime and increase productivity. Even with that pressure, the employer-employee relationship has become a stronger bond, says CEO Gary Ley. “The employees are the heart of the hospital and if employees are truly satisfied with their job, patients and our customers will also feel those effects of satisfaction with our services. Focusing on what we can do for all our customers fulfills our mission and vision and enables us to service our community with quality health care.”
Ghafari Associates, LLC
Ghafari, which has continued building on its reputation for acquiring top talent in the fields of architecture and engineering, recognizes that providing a challenging and rewarding work environment is critical to its success. “Our expansion into new international markets has supported this effort,” says CEO Kouhaila Hammer. “Employees are excited at the prospect of applying their skills to some of the world’s most famous projects performed in some of the world’s fastest growing areas.” Ghafari continues to be a growth-oriented, adaptable, financially strong company that offers prospective employees a fulfilling and stable professional career, adds Hammer. “Employees are proud to be part of such an organization and respond with loyalty, integrity and motivation.” Challenging work assignments allow employees to experience a variety of different project types and encourages them to enhance their skills, which is supported through tuition reimbursement, opportunities for professional development and by covering the costs of membership in professional organizations. Employees are also encouraged to provide suggestions that improve quality, save time, reduce cost, and promote better customer service. “Employees feel as if they are making a true contribution to our success,” says Hammer. “Encouraging our employees to succeed in their career motivates them to be actively involved with business aspects outside of their job description, and to represent Ghafari positively within the industry and community.”
Global Tooling Systems
Few and far between are the companies that add benefits in difficult times. But Global Tooling Systems did it, announcing after a successful 2008 performance that it would pay the full cost of employee medical, dental, vision and life insurance, saving staff the 20 percent they had previously contributed. CEO Ronald Bellestri says Global Tooling remains sensitive to the “fundamental wants and needs of an employee: to provide the necessities of life. It’s the responsibility of the leadership of the company to be sensitive to these basic requirements and ensure they are met.” Bellestri says HR’s role is to play a fundamental role in attracting and retaining the most competent, loyal employees possible.
Gordon Advisors, P.C.
Meeting the need for work-life balance is at the top of the list of challenges for Gordon Advisors CEO Michael Dentamaro. “Tax season can mean long hours from January to April for our staff,” he notes. “We have tried to balance that with some optional four-day work weeks during the summer and flexible schedules to meet family needs.” As Dentamaro points out, the relationship between employer and employee is at the heart of the need for change. “It’s evolved into more of a partnership with give and take on both sides,” he says. “With initiatives like Career Pathing (which includes having an individual mentor to help set career goals), the firm as a whole is enriched, moving us forward in the business community.” Gordon Advisors uses flexible schedules and work from home to enhance the workplace. “Many of our employees are with our company because of the flexible schedules we can offer,” says Dentamaro. “The key to making this work is flexibility on both sides, as maintaining high level customer service is our top priority. Employees today are also very goal driven and want guidance and direction to achieve their career path.”
Proactive, transparent communication. For Jeff Robinson, the managing partner of Grant Thornton’s local office, it’s about keeping in touch, especially important in tough times. The firm utilizes a variety of means, including e-mails, voice mails, web-television messages, monthly e-newsletters as well as “all employee” calls. “We also introduced an employee social networking site earlier this year,” notes Robinson. The Grid, which was developed to increase employee engagement levels and provide opportunities to foster firm relationships on a more personal level, includes a variety of social channels including individual profiles, forums and blogs, among them one that the executive team uses to prompt discussions. Robinson says the firm is responding to the need for employees to connect with the community. “They are interested in being with an employer in which they can make a difference in the community. An essential element of the firm’s strategy involves being a community leader through visibility in the areas in which we live and do business through active involvement in community organizations as well as through charitable contributions.” Robinson says the firm is on the right track. “The experiences of our people and the experiences of our clients are different from those of our competitors and we are positioned well in the marketplace to maintain this competitive advantage.”
G-TECH Professional Staffing, Inc.
Morale has never been more important than it is today. At G-TECH, that has meant focusing more heavily on in-house training and education opportunities, says CEO Theresa Ghafari. “By offering opportunity for personal growth during a slow business time, our employees are learning new skills and ideas that will help them not only during these tough times, but also in the future.” As is the case with others who set themselves apart as employers, flexibility is key. “Work-life balance is a priority more now than ever, and employers and employees both have come to appreciate the value flexibility brings to a work environment,” notes Ghafari, who says mutual respect has helped G-TECH when it comes to attracting the best people. “We find our employees are more productive when they feel their contributions are being recognized, and in turn, clients experience a higher level of customer service.”
Harada Industry of America, Inc.
For CEO Paul Sasaki, the number one challenge has been related to Harada’s culture. “It has been vital for us to realize desired objectives and to have our workforce embrace and fully support company direction,” he adds. “There have been many variables within the environment that were counterproductive to our charted path for success, which needed to be addressed.” While one initiative has been the adoption of lean principles, so has been a revamping of the company’s communication strategy, again with an emphasis on cultural change. “Expectations are heavily dependent on the professionalism, integrity, trust, respect, personal accountability and responsibility of all team members,” notes Sasaki. “Each of these behaviors is a key component of our company beliefs and management principles. Furthermore, ongoing efforts to strengthen the working environment in order to maximize the cooperative, team-oriented spirit amongst our workforce have also been vital to facilitating our company cultural change.” Significantly, through efforts to control expenses in the last year, the firm has been able to avoiding reducing staff as well as salaries and benefits.
Harley Ellis Devereaux
How an organization reacts to adversity may say more about character than anything done in times of prosperity. So it is that Harley Ellis Devereaux, which has been growing through acquisition, has maintained an honest and open communication structure, something CEO Dennis M. King says has been key “to helping our employees understand the choices made to meet current economic challenges.” Among the initiatives: structured and routinely timed leadership communications to the entire employee group. Even as the firm has implemented a series of employee related cost reduction strategies (including voluntary and non-voluntary reduced work schedules), it has maintained active contact with former staffers, resulting in several re-hires and partner referrals. King says those steps have all made a difference. “The relationship with our colleagues has changed for the positive. We have been able to enact a decentralized organizational structure that disseminates decision making and empowerment to the people directly responsible for the product and this structure strengthens the internal levels of trust and confidence within the firm.” King adds that the firm’s mission statement, which begins with “Our People Come First,” is its “most fundamental and significant” human resources strategy. “It expresses the elements of our practice we believe are critical to achieving our vision. Furthermore, it establishes those things that are important to us as a company and as individuals, including the thoughtful development and execution of strategies relating to hiring, orienting, training and development and reward and recognition.”
Henry Ford Health System
With its roots in the heart of the world’s automotive capital (the health care provider was founded in 1915 by Henry Ford), the organization has a list of attributes designed to bring out the best in its employees. From a choice of benefits that deliver flexibility, to attractive compensation and programs meant to enrich an employee’s way of life at work and elsewhere, Henry Ford Health System remains on the cutting edge when it comes to HR practices. More than 23,000 employees make Henry Ford their career choice.
Hospice of Michigan
Seeking out high quality staff to meet the needs of patients in a population that’s aging is among the biggest challenges facing CEO Dorothy Deremo. “This dynamic places demands on our business as the need for hospice care increases with the oncoming wave of aging baby boomers,” she says. Meeting the challenge has meant implementing an employee engagement program. It also means recognizing that hospice care requires a special skill set that goes beyond the medical training nurses receive. Deremo is confident Hospice of Michigan will be up to the task. “We have the best staff to deliver care. Hospice of Michigan has an excellent orientation program, ongoing education and professional development opportunities and a new mentoring program for new staff within their professional discipline. We are looking to role model the way in end-of-life care for America.” As employers begin to put more emphasis on good health habits by all staff and increase the educational information about how employees can improve their health, Hospice of Michigan has embraced that trend, providing incentives for employees to accept greater responsibility for improving their health. It is also responding to demand for self-service information utilizing technology solutions. Deremo says the organization is focused on being an employer that skilled professionals will choose. “It’s why we operate at a high standard, with the intention of attracting the best talent to our organization.”
Rochester Hills, Mich.
Even as it has had to cut costs over the last two years, Human Capital continues to use technological advances to help employees be more productive while reducing some of their stress from an increased workload. So says CEO Oskar Rene Poch. “Some of the things we’ve pursued over the last year include online benefit and new hire enrollments as well as a push for online payroll services,” says Poch. “That reduces human error while cutting down on manual work for the employees themselves. As a result employee disruptions have been reduced dramatically and employee stress is lowered as a result of being able to meet daily deadlines in a timely fashion.” Human Capital management work with individual employees to create flexible work schedules, as well as telecommuting and adopting a four-day work week, resulting in a dramatic improvement in productivity, decreased employee fatigue and an overall lower turnover.
Huntington National Bank
Are you Huntington? That’s what this regional banker invites prospective employees to ask. As the bank grows its team, it looks for those who are unique in their own way, but also hold within them the things others share: honesty, passion and a commitment to people. With values of teamwork, communication, accountability, service, diversity and passion in play, Huntington is a bank that’s “invested in people.” Leadership provides regular feedback and coaching of associates as part of its strategy.
Oak Park, Mich.
Although for the first time in its history Image One had to reduce its staff, it was able to keep those to a minimum, the result of a team effort to restructure procedures and spending, reallocate job duties and grow the business. Even when job cuts couldn’t be avoided, CEO Rob Dube says Image One worked to help those affected find work elsewhere. “Because there was growth in other areas of the company, Image One was also able to provide jobs for technicians and opened offices in multiple cities which helped keep jobs in the Michigan headquarters secure.” It also recognized employees who took on additional work. Dube says Image One is weathering the storm. “We credit authenticity with the success we have had at maintaining lasting relationships with our team members and never lose sight of the fact that our team members are at the core of our success. Their individuality makes a difference and lends favorably to making the company unique and strong. Our team members have come to rely on a feeling of stability, flexibility, and that their job satisfaction and contribution is directly linked to our collective success. Our shared commitment to success is accomplished by investing in great people, giving them a voice, and placing importance on individual potential. To us, that means being flexible and innovative in the company-wide benefits we provide, but also providing benefits that work for the individual.”
A growing organization, ImageSoft finds itself facing an enviable challenge: keeping pace. CEO Scott Bade explains: “As we have grown and evolved, so too have our departmental and human resource needs. We’ve expanded our staff and created several new positions this past year, and identifying the best candidate for the job from among Michigan’s vast labor pool is a challenging, time-consuming process.” Still, he says it’s time well spent. “We need to ensure that we continue to attract and retain a workforce that is among Metropolitan Detroit’s best and brightest.” Bade says growth has meant having to create a more structured work environment with formalized workplace rules and policies. “We now also employ a wider variety of tools to communicate with our people. We’re still a small organization, but we’re finding that we now have to work more diligently to keep the lines of communication open and to maintain a familial atmosphere.” Other challenges include meeting the needs of staff who value a healthy work-life balance. ImageSoft has added flexible work hours, and company sponsored fun social activities. “It’s an area in which we’ve made great strides, but one we still need to improve upon,” says Bade.
Industrial Control Repair, Inc.
CEO Paul Gutierrez says enhancing employee engagement “from the point of hire” is among Industrial Control Repair’s greatest challenges. The firm has implemented a “full spectrum” talent management and development program that includes a 90-day orientation process, mentoring, cross-training initiatives and processes for both managing and reviewing talent. Gutierrez says the firm has been able to build a sense of mutual respect and admiration with employees and its management team. “The results of our Employee Satisfaction Survey support this fact. We prescribe to the approach of positive issue resolution that benefits both the employees and the company.” Members of the management team also ask themselves a key question: “Why would a candidate/employee want to work for a company that does not treat its employees fairly, with respect and equitably?” Gutierrez says the exercise “helps us to remain grounded.”
Inergy Automotive Systems
When two separate companies–Plastic Omnium (based in France) and Solvay (of Belgium)-merged, Inergy was the result. Its global footprint includes a North American headquarters in Troy. Maintaining a global leadership in fuel systems means having people with the skills, knowledge and professionalism. Inergy looks for people who show respect for one another, who understand that the collective success of a group is greater than the sum of individual successes and have a commitment to excellence. INPro, a unique project management team process has been benchmarked against the world’s best.
Farmington Hills, Mich.
For JARC, success in a troubled economy has included not having to cut jobs. “Instead, we have made reasonable changes to employee benefits and implemented other agency-wide cost saving measures,” says CEO Richard Loewenstein, who says the exercise is likely to have lasting results. “Because we were able to think outside the box we have not had to sacrifice the quality of our workforce.” He also says JARC remains unique in many respects. “Where the remainder of the business world has moved to big business while merging companies in the same industry, the employer is a name and no longer a person. There is a long chain of command taking the face away from the employer and replacing it with a large corporate entity. Luckily that is not the case at JARC. We know the chain of command, and all supervisors have an open door policy. Any employee can schedule a time to meet with our CEO, COO or CFO and express their questions or concerns.” Clearly some changes did have an impact. “On the benefits side, we were able to maintain a free health care plan for the employee, while transferring some of the financial responsibility to the employee for their spouses and children.” Even in a difficult economy, JARC says maintaining good HR practices pays off in the long run. “When an employee sees that their employer appreciates the work they do and is willing to accommodate their needs they are going to stick around. Most employers lose sight of these things. If our employees love working for us then it will reflect in their quality of work.”
KPMG’s strategic priorities for 2010 focus on a plan to ensure that it would not only be a great place to work, but also a great place to build a career. The objective is now embedded in everything the firm does. Every program and initiative is connected directly to its Employer of Choice strategy and is part of a larger plan to create continuous career value and forge lifetime bonds with the people who work there. And being involved in demanding front-line corporate citizenship projects helps KPMG staffers broaden their horizons, learn new skills, challenge their intellects and develop their character.
It’s about the people. And seemingly more of them. “Our people and their expertise is our product,” notes McGraw Wentworth’s Thomas P. McGraw, the firm’s president and principal. “Our greatest challenge is finding talented individuals to add to our growing organization.” McGraw looks for individuals who are self-disciplined, have a commitment to “getting things done” and “done right,” and who add value to the organization. “We work relentlessly to find candidates to fill positions at all levels of our organization,” adds McGraw. Those activities include active recruiting through a variety of channels, followed by an “arduous, extensive” interview process. The 12-year-old company that started with just three employees has grown to 68 today. But numbers are one thing; culture is another. “I am proud to find that much has not changed during this time: the culture, camaraderie, caring attitudes, and connections with fellow employees are there,” says McGraw. “This continuity is due, in large part, to ensuring that we bring the right person on board, one who shares our values, is productive, focused, and committed to a successful enterprise. What has changed is that information-sharing has evolved from casual hallway conversations to more structured communications efforts to ensure that all 68 employees are fully informed, share best practices, and can take action as needed.”
Meadowbrook Insurance Group
For Meadowbrook Insurance Group, integrating new employees into a company that’s grown through mergers is one of the biggest challenges. As a firm that strives to create an open and collaborative environment for all employees, no matter what office throughout the country they are based it, culture is important, says CEO Robert Cubbin. “It is important to our culture that everyone under the Meadowbrook umbrella feel like they are part of one, large Meadowbrook family and that they are respected and appreciated as employees.” Cubbin says feedback is part of the process that makes that happen. “Valuable information is gained from the feedback you can obtain from associates, clients and public.” Cubbin and his team use surveys, but also encourage initiative in their communications. “We try to get our associates communicating with others in different departments as they feel a greater commitment to provide accurate and timely information when they know how it is being used by others. When an associate knows how their work affects others, it helps them see the big picture and draws from them a more engaging desire to do their best and help make us all successful.” Executives get involved too, through participation in classes, social events and interactions with associates. “It’s so everyone can feel part of the success of our company.” The company’s very successful “Get Fit, Stay Fit” program continues to make a difference as well.
Michigan Financial Companies
For CEO Nick Valenti of Michigan Financial Companies, the number one challenge is continuing to build the organization, all the while controlling costs associated with growth and retaining the firm’s existing associates. “Our relationship has grown as many of our employees have been with the firm for many years,” notes Valenti. Health care costs remain a concern. “Helping employees with those costs is important.”
Michigan First Credit Union
Lathrup Village, Mich.
It’s by hiring the best people and continuously exploring new ways to increase its level of member service that has kept Michigan First Credit Union at the top of its game. So says CEO Michael Poulos. “We strive to offer our team members every opportunity to excel, whether it’s through providing 100 percent paid health and dental insurance, professional development training, an in-house fitness center, recreation room, or tuition reimbursement.” The benefits return to the organization in ways that are lasting. “By supporting our team members’ health, professional development and sense of community, they will continue to deliver excellent service to our members,” says Poulos, who adds that relationship building is also important. “The relationship between the credit union and the team member has continued to more openly embrace a sense of community, teamwork and creative collaboration. While our executive team continues to support the strategic direction of the credit union, each and every team member has truly taken it upon themselves to contribute to the organization’s success. Team members are welcomed and encouraged to speak to the leadership team and provide feedback on what’s working and what’s not, and as a team, we continue to improve our members’ satisfaction day in and day out.” Poulos says surviving through difficult times presents its own set of opportunities. “As the economy has changed, so has our focus and dedication on giving our team members a flexible work environment that allows them to take care of themselves and their family’s well-being while continuing to be a top performer in the workplace and provide our members with the highest level of service.”
With a mission of creating a technology service organization that is customer centric, inspires and empowers its employees and delivers value to all its constituents; customers, employees and partners, MiPro Consulting remains at the forefront of its industry. For CEO Christopher Bishop that means one thing: people. “We hire the best consultants and are able to provide them with challenging assignments, reward them for their hard work and provide training and skill-building opportunities.” Bishop says the company’s approach, which includes fostering a culture of respect and collaboration, helps deliver “outrageous customer service.” A company with a PeopleSoft background, MiPro continues to offer implementation, optimization, upgrade and integration services to its clients.
MTU Detroit Diesel
While most companies in Michigan have had to face the challenges of a serious downtown in our economy, MTU Detroit Diesel has not been exempt. Although no layoffs were implemented, a Voluntary Separation Program was and some of its employees did take advantage of that offering. MTU Detroit Diesel also implemented as many internal cost cutting measures as possible to maintain stability, such as delaying much of its recruiting for already-approved open positions. In spite of these cost-cutting measures MTU Detroit Diesel continued to invest in its employees through its Learning Organization initiative, its internal communications which includes a weekly update on regional and global matters, and its quarterly off-site Town Hall Meetings.
Auburn Hills, Mich.
A focus on people, tools and processes is what gives Netarx the continuing ability to attract key staff. Once they’re on board, CEO Duane Tursi and his team help keep them there through open communications. “We take pride in the amount of group activities we do outside the office,” says Tursi of a list that includes Tigers games, picnics and wallyball. The firm also has a monthly contest whereby employees recognize each other on a public e-billboard, the top vote getters earning cash prizes. Tursi says having a culture that “has never changed” is something that will continue to generate benefits in the years to come.
NTH, founded in 1968, operates on the belief that success is directly attributable to the company’s culture. When hiring, it looks for educated, ambitious, and well-rounded individuals who will take pride in their work. An employee-owned firm, NTH has made training a big part of its ongoing commitment to employees and reimburses tuition. A program of mentoring and coaching is also key to its culture, one where technical excellence and superior client service are emphasized.
Oakwood Healthcare Inc.
Even in difficult economic times, Oakwood Healthcare finds its greatest HR challenge the hiring and retaining of the best employees it can find, a task that’s made even more difficult in occupations such as nursing and some of the other clinical specialties and selected allied health occupations where market demand for candidates often exceeds the supply. “At Oakwood, we address this ongoing challenge through a continuous improvement emphasis on all aspects of the recruiting, selection, and on-boarding process,” notes CEO Gerald Fitzgerald. “We also foster a culture where people feel empowered and engaged in making a positive difference in the lives of patients and coworkers.” Oakwood also sponsors innovative programs, among them employee referral incentives, peer interviewing, tuition reimbursement and scholarship programs, career outreach programs, flexible work schedule options, comprehensive and competitive pay and benefits programs, and online self-scheduling of open shifts for some areas and classifications. “We are committed to professional development, and providing exciting assignments and career opportunities throughout a career with us,” adds Fitzgerald.
Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment, Inc.
A weakened economy forced Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment to diversify its revenue sources over the last 12 months, an imperative if the firm were to survive. “A year ago, our revenues were derived entirely from government entities in Michigan,” notes CEO John Hiltz. While he admits the firm has struggled with finding new sources of revenue and breaking into new markets in order to sustain its workforce, it’s making progress, with new offices in Tennessee and Ohio, and a new line of business: design/build within the federal government. One example: some 50,000 square feet of buildings in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, on behalf of the Army Corps of Engineers. While a former shortage of talent that occurred in the 1990s has shifted to the side of employers, smart employers still recognize that the most talented employees have options, even in the recession. For Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment, that translates into initiatives that will keep staff on board. “OHM actively recruits and selects highly talented staff members who fit our specific culture and core values,” says Hiltz. “One of the characteristics we found is that our best performers are those employees who fit the best culturally share an experience with or dedication to public service. Many of our young staffers have family members who have served in municipal government, and that interest and passion has been passed on. OHM’s mission and tagline is Advancing Communities. It’s important to our success that our staff members believe and live that mission.”
OtterBase was founded on several basic principles: honesty, respect, commitment and work ethic. As the company realizes significant growth within the supplemental staffing industry, it remains committed to these guiding principles. This philosophy applies to every aspect of the business; from the way it treats employees to business partnerships to the relationships it has with clients. Wiliam Bennett, CEO and co-founder, puts it succinctly: “Our value is created by many highly skilled people who provide our clients with unsurpassed technical knowledge and customer service. Our focus has always been and will always be our people. That is where we place our value and that is what separates OtterBase from our competition and makes our organization so effective.”
Peoples State Bank
Madison Heights, Mich.
With deep roots in Michigan, Peoples State Bank strives to make things personal–with customers and employees. Marking a century of service this year, the firm is not shy about its need to continue to gather feedback on its performance, says CEO Michael J. Tierney, including through feedback from regular meetings with associates. “These are a guiding tool for management to know where we need to spend more time communicating,” he notes. A pay for performance model allows the bank to reward and recognize individuals for their success. “We have fun at it with contests and employee events where we celebrate individual and team accomplishments.”
Auburn Hills, Mich.
At Plex, knowledge, skills, achievement and contribution are valued. The Plex team is made up of industry leaders with a range of capabilities and experience, including manufacturing, engineering, software development, computer science, sales/marketing and network administration. In all cases, the company looks for deeply motivated, committed and talented professionals. The technology and manufacturing industry expertise that serves as the foundation of Plex Online was originally developed as part of an internal project at an automotive parts manufacturer. Plex Systems was formed as an independent company in 1995, and the firm’s flagship Plex Online software was launched in 2001. Today, Plex Systems is a leading provider of on-demand software for manufacturing enterprises in several industries, with thousands of users at hundreds of plants in dozens of countries around the world.
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Clients tell management that they consider Plunkett Cooney to be a unique law firm-largely because they see its people as determined, distinctive and fearless whenever they undertake an assignment on their behalf. “Ours is among the most accomplished litigation and trial firms in the Midwest,” says the firm’s Web site. “We have built a reputation as a leading provider of business and transactional services. Plunkett Cooney’s rich tradition of providing the very best in comprehensive legal representation is made possible through its attorneys, all of whom understand the importance of total client satisfaction. “Our attorneys will take the time to understand your business, industry and goals before offering important legal advice,” adds the Web site. “They will provide aggressive representation in litigation, advising you when to settle or when to take your case to trial. Your calls will be returned promptly, your matters will be explained thoroughly and your assignments will be staffed appropriately, all with the goal of achieving the best possible legal result while keeping your bottom line in mind.”
REDICO, its Web site says, is a diversified, dynamic national real estate development, construction, and property management leader. “Employing bold vision and meticulous planning to deliver consistent success, REDICO (Real Estate Development and Investment Company) has grown to include diversified activities in development, capital partnering, design, construction, leasing, property management, consulting, and other endeavors.” Development, the firm’s Web site says, is directed at “those essential qualities, and access to the resources necessary, to develop raw materials into something of exceptional value. Fulfilling potential in real estate development, construction, and property management requires the integration of a variety of resources by a team of experienced professionals who take pride in what they do, and do it well. At REDICO, we do indeed develop potential - in property, design, purpose, and people.”
Troy & Farmington Hills, Mich.
As Rehmann strives to be a firm of choice for clients and associates, the firm remains focused on remaining competitive for top talent and offering a compelling place for employees to work. So says CEO Steve Kelly, who says being more creative and aligning HR strategies is key. “One way is by finding low or no cost benefits that add value to an associate’s experience at Rehmann.” Kelly adds that a proliferation of communication options presents its own set of challenges. “That being to keep strong relationships with our employees and keep them engaged with less face-to-face contact.” In 2009 Rehmann implemented a performance, goal and compensation management system that allows for the tracking of individual progress and ties in compensation, giving staff some control in their career progression. Kelly says the success of the firm is due in large part to the role HR plays. “HR is interwined in everything we do,” he adds. “Associates are attracted to Rehmann because we are committed to creating a ‘Put People First’ environment. Our HR policies and practices are definitely one of the primary reasons people join our firm.”
Farmington Hills, Mich
CEO Alicia Brown admits that the small software development company has its own set of communications challenges-largely due to its workforce being in two separate locations. “For more than two years, we’ve been at a client site and our corporate office,” she adds. “We have worked to overcome the issue of how to help our staff deal with the complexities of an off-site environment while remaining loyal, informed and engaged in our own organization’s goals and activities.” One way was by soliciting feedback. “After the survey was completed we began having quarterly employee focus group meetings-at both work locations- to discuss survey results in detail and define better ways to communicate with one another.” Those “better ways” included an increased use of online tools, including an Intranet and regular newsletters as well as bi-monthly summaries of key meetings. But the company also sponsored regular “lunch and learn” sessions to share knowledge gained among all staff, another initiative that brought staff together. Brown says meeting the needs of employees is key. “The younger the generation, the more active a role they want in their work lives. The challenge for employers is to develop a work team that engages employees at all levels in their career.” One example is the Generation Y group, which not only grew up with newer technology, but want fairness in the workplace and need to be highly engaged. “They want small goals with tight deadlines so they can build up ownership of tasks,” notes Brown. “They also need regular feedback and incentives to keep moving forward. Our challenge is to develop new tools and techniques that change how we work and how we ‘incentivize’ this multi-generational workforce to keep them all challenged and motivated.”
A change of focus. That’s how CEO Aaron Chernow describes the method Resource used to adjust to current economic conditions. “We have become more introspective,” says Chernow. “It’s helped us redefine who we are and become closer in the organization. Whereas before, our wins have been a little bit more individualized, we now celebrate collectively as a family and realize who we are and what we have to offer in an authentic way.” Chernow says the organization is also effectively responding to employees’ desire to have greater freedom to make decisions. “We’ve come to realize that people aren’t one-dimensional entities that can be easily categorized like commodities or assets. They are multi-dimensional individuals, each with their own set of values, talents, aspirations, goals and philosophies. Immediately, and logically, we realized the same is true with organizations. They aren’t all the same, either.” Chernow says his team began having a new level of conversation with candidates. “We went deeper, exploring not just their hard skills, job experience and formal education, but their individual personalities, values, philosophies, likes and dislikes-even their hobbies. Simultaneously, we began to delve deeper into the corporate cultures of our clients- their missions, core values, working environments, philosophies, and operating styles.” The new type of thinking led to the company’s Smart Match System, which Chernow says has dramatically improved candidate selection and client satisfaction.
Sachse Construction & Development Company
When the economy went on the skids, CEO Todd Sachse responded by trying to ease the stress put on employees. “We found that providing them with accurate and honest information regarding our financial stability helps to reduce a portion of that stress,” he says. That strategy has, over time, improved relationships. “Our honesty and openness with our employees helps to illustrate how hard we fight to provide them with the security that they have come to expect. This effort seems to be appreciated, especially as we attribute all of the credit of our success to our staff themselves.” Hours of training, much of it done by peer groups, contributes to bringing everyone at Sachse Construction to a new level of productivity. “It also helps to illustrate the level of importance that we place on this task. We are all united by this effort.”
Seco Tools Inc.
CEO Kurt Nordlund admits that his most recent and significant challenge has been one that still alludes others: moving the workforce from survival mode back to business mode, all while keeping engagement high. “Over the last 12 months employees have experienced budget cuts, reductions, benefit changes and clear messaging to only spend money if it is business critical,” says Nordlund. “As this market appears to have finally shown the bottom, and we see the hope for growth this poses a challenge to managers and employees to begin to move from just getting essential work done to what will prepare us for growth.” Those steps include supporting and rewarding innovation through a formalized continuous improvement program that includes team and individual recognition. Nordlund is also making sure Seco has in place mechanisms for regular reporting on financial impacts of improvements and monthly articles on success stories. The company is also holding town hall meetings to reinforce strategy, share accomplishments to outline progress towards strategy, market conditions and highlighting individual department successes. Nordlund says the effect of the economic downturn has been the equivalent of hitting a “reset” button on the business. “Past practices are no longer current pressures, but rather memories that are now being used to build a new yet to be fully defined relationship. What would be evolutional changes that would take careers to see occur have happened in mere months-unprecedented change almost overnight.”
Service Express, Inc.
Ask CEO Ron Alvesteffer how much communication is “enough” and he’ll give it to you straight. “I don’t believe you can ever communicate enough to your people. We use newsletters, weekly huddles, monthly meetings and town hall meetings to communicate and be as open as possible to our people.” Among recent initiatives to improve the environment is an updated annual review system, a move that has created great clarity for both the employee and managers. Alvesteffer also believes in starting with a focus on results, then standing back. “As long as they are getting the results, I stay out of their way.”
Shazaaam! PR & Marketing
CEO Adrienne Lenhoff says she has lots to be proud of with her company, but it’s the open culture that’s at the top of her list. “We have regular meetings with the entire staff to discuss vision, our culture, what we can do to enhance their work-life experience, what we need to do to maintain an environment where each and every employee will want to come to work and do their best to serve our clients and our companies.” She believes the results will speak for themselves. “We are anticipating rapid growth over the next several years and anticipate creating hundreds of jobs.”
This worldwide construction and development services firm has much to offer employees. Whether it be the significant programs it has in place for career development (a “Great Boss” program, even a Skanska University are among the offerings) or numerous team building events held throughout the year, the firm maintains a focus on its internal as well as external clients. The company’s culture is one of inclusion, which translates into one where its clients benefit.
Soil and Materials Engineers, Inc.
CEO Mark Kramer’s number one goal? To preserve jobs and honor a long-standing commitment to train and develop team members for future challenges. “We have mobilized our staff to market our services and cover projects outside of Michigan,” says Kramer. “On occasion, we have been forced to reduce the number of hours some team members work, but we have not cut their benefits. We continue to fund professional development opportunities to enhance our ability to capture market share and, as always, create job opportunities for top talent.” Kramer says a core value of mutual respect has meant having open and frequent communication with team members. “Each team member has a clear understanding of the role he or she can play in our continuing success,” adds Kramer. “We continue to take very good care of our excellent performers through our pay for performance compensation and bonus programs. Like many Michigan employers, we’re concerned about the ‘talent drain’ that seems to be afflicting our state, particularly among young people, so we are vigilant in paying attention to our people and their needs.” A redesigned benefits package includes medical insurance benefits on a self-insured basis and a deductible system that has resulted in employees and their families becoming much more engaged in managing medical care, the result being a reduction in the cost of medical care for SME. Kramer is also making sure the company is staying visible, one way being to encourage team members to devote more of their time and energy to community service and those less fortunate. “This has helped us all keep things in perspective as we move through these difficult and challenging times.”
Starcom MediaVest Group
Ranked as one of the largest brand communications groups in the world, Starcom MediaVest Group encompasses an integrated network of nearly 5,300 employees specializing in media management, internet and digital communications, performance media, entertainment marketing, sports sponsorships, event marketing and multicultural media. A subsidiary of Paris-based Publicis Groupe, SMG’s network of 100 offices in 67 countries works in service to some of the world’s leading companies, and stewards many of the best loved brands on the planet.
Strategic Staffing Solutions, Inc.
It might be a firm, but for CEO Cynthia J. Pasky, Strategic Staffing Solutions (or S3 as it’s known) is almost family. “Employees genuinely care about each other, the good of the company and the customers and communities it serves,” says Pasky, who does her part by paying close attention to market salaries. “We also try to make the work-life balance as comfortable as possible and encourage community engagement from the company’s leadership down.” Pasky is also clear about motivation: “We go above and beyond what’s required because we want happy, healthy employees.” She also does it while maintaining profitability. “That ensures that our employees have good paying jobs and incentives for years to come.”
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Previously known as TAC Automotive, TAC Transportation continues its commitment to treat employees as owners through full buy-in opportunity to suggest improved and better ways to do their jobs. They also work in a solid, comfortable environment where the best resources are provided for them. Perhaps more importantly, staff is treated as professionals. “We share our ideas across the board,” notes CEO Bob Badavas. As far as employee relations practices are concerned, TAC Transportation would rather err on the right side. “Even if it does not fall under our standard operating procedures, our goal is to always do the right thing.”
CEO Dave Wittwer attributes TDS Metrocom’s success in attracting and retaining employees to the financial health of the firm and the ability to provide a challenging, exciting and rewarding work environment. And while it’s a small business environment, the firm’s parent company is on the Fortune 500 list. Wittwer says he’s particularly proud of the company’s focus on the future, including its succession-planning program. He also points to the firm’s training initiatives, hiring practices, rewards programs and recognition practices as being above average. In an area where technology is constantly changing, Wittwer says one thing will remain: “Our commitment to employees, customers and the communities we serve.”
TechTeam Global, Inc.
With a majority of TechTeam’s employees working at technical help desks supporting its major customers, workplace stress is a commonplace occurrence. No wonder then that CEO Gary J. Cotshott and his management team do what they can to make the environment fun. “We have spirit committees that develop activities for the employees from barbecues to games for when the technicians are not on the phones,” he notes. “Management also takes part in these activities so that the employees know that the management team appreciates what they do. Injecting some fun makes the days much easier while at the same time expecting good customer service.” As Cotshott explains, uncertain times have caused employees to look closely at all of their employment options both within their current company and outside as well. “It is even more important that companies increase their morale-building activities to improve the bond between the two.” At TechTeam Global, that involves flexible scheduling as well as online training, ways to benefit both the employee and the company.
The Bower Companies
A holding firm made up of three operating companies, Bower includes Serpeo (a professional employer organization), Expert Care (which provides non-medical home care staffing) and Express Pros, a staffing company. Their common principle is “doing the right thing in all situations.” CEO John Bower says improvement is something to be pursued. “No matter how well we are doing, we can always do better with employee relations,” he says. “In five years, we hope to be a larger organization, but not by sacrificing our winning culture for growth.”
The Epitec Group, Inc.
Given the current economic conditions, which include pressure from clients to reduce their budgets and a commitment to provide employees with compensation and benefits, the Epitec Group looks inward. “We attempt to absorb most of the cuts from company earnings,” says CEO Jerry Sheppard. “We are committed to taking most of the hit to protect employees. Then, we handle the rest in a very caring way, to minimize the impact to individual families. We use the approach of spreading a little of the reduction around to as many different areas as appropriate. Not only does this help maintain our good morale, it pulls employees closer together as we share the pain.” In an era where loyalty on both sides of the employer/employee fence has been tested, Sheppard says The Epitec Group has worked hard to foster an environment of openness and honesty. “We embrace the value of each individual employee and do whatever we can to help employees reach goals they set for themselves.” Initiatives such as a Touch-Point Plan (that ensures each employee receives direct communication 54 times a year) are part of the strategy. Another is an employee portal system lets employees easily reach the correct support team member online or via phone and receive a response guaranteed the next business day.
The Harvard Drug Group
Challenging economic times hasn’t stopped the Harvard Drug Group from continuing to grow, which has meant a further refining of its recruitment and retention programs, says CEO Randolph J. Friedman. “This may seem simple, as one would assume the candidate pool is flooded with an influx of newly available, currently unemployed talent, but the truth us quite the opposite. In fact, since the recent turn of events with the Michigan economy, we have found that many companies are working harder than ever to retain their top talent.” In other words, the recruitment mission remains a challenge. Harvard is using an employee referral bonus program as one recruitment tactic as well as using online recruiting tools and job fair strategies to widen the talent net. Retention comes in the form of creative and innovative programs and ideas to enhance benefits and employee perks. “While many of our competitors have had to cut back in this area, Harvard realizes that benefits are an important part of a candidate’s career decision,” says Friedman. “With the rising costs of insurance coverage, employees rely on their employer to provide them with benefits that enable them to have peace of mind for them and their families. Harvard finds itself uniquely positioned, as we continue to recruit and retain a team of dedicated and loyal employees who pride themselves on their contribution to the success of the company.”
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Madison Heights, Mich.
A nearly one-third reduction in staffing, with the remaining staff working twice as hard to raise half as much money. That’s part of the picture for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Michigan chapter. But only a part. “We’ve faced this challenge head on by increasing staff investment and ownership in the success of the organization,” says CEO Peggy Shriver. “By involving staff in strategic planning, budgeting and the division of tasks, ‘buy-in’ is achieved and with that, more staff investment in our success. In essence, we made the staff part of the problem-solving process and part of the solution.” Shriver says HR practices are significant when it comes to attracting and retaining employees. “Turnover rates, benefits and even training are all considerations,” she adds. “These factors may not be quite as crucial during recession times, however perspective employees like to make informed decisions. A solid ‘on boarding’ program is the follow through step to successful recruiting.”
The Taubman Group
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Great business results come from having “a professionally competent, dynamic and efficient team of people,” notes Chairman, President and CEO Robert S. Taubman. But that sense of purpose goes even deeper. “At all levels of our company we love what we do,” he adds. “We bringing unmatched expertise, passion and pride to the planning, merchandising, and management of the retail environments we create for communities and investors.” On the HR side, Taubman includes world-class performance management processes and systems and training programs, the results of which are obvious. “Because we’re such a great company to work for, our dedicated, talented people stick around.”
Turner Construction Company
With initiatives that include a specialized training intranet (Turner Knowledge Network), it’s no wonder Turner Construction is a leader in its field. Employees in the firm are empowered to take charge and rewarded for being directly responsible for producing results. The company puts an emphasis on communications as a key tool for managing its staff as well as training for transferring knowledge to a next generation of staff.
Southfield/Sterling Heights, Mich.
CEO Anthony Frabotta may not have anticipated the level of economic downturn, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t prepared. “We planned for what we thought was going to happen and that saved a lot of people’s jobs,” he says. “I think planning a few years down the road and listening to experts is critical in this economy.” With people being at the heart of UHY’s business, that’s critical, he adds, even as the ratio of candidates to jobs has changed. “We went from not enough candidates to fill positions to too many candidates. It has created a unique dynamic around recruiting and retention. We have always had a great relationship with our employees and during times like these we spend more time communicating with them to understand where we are. I believe our employees were relieved that we didn’t do mass lay-offs. I believe we were the only large firm that didn’t do lay-offs and I believe our employees really appreciated that.” Frabotta adds that changes in employee attitudes will continue to affect the workplace. “Employees want a different work-life value than their parents and the Internet has created sharing of this type of information worldwide quite easy. Our industry is one that has tight deadlines and demands long work hours during short periods of time. I think by us being more flexible when we can our workforce has struck a good balance with doing the hours when needed. At UHY we actually like to drill down to individual needs when able and make sure we are taking care of those that have a specific need when they have it. It is not always about the masses.”
University of Michigan Health System
Ann Arbor, Mich.
With tens of thousands of admitted patients and more than one and a half million clinical visits, the University of Michigan Health System (which includes a medical school and nursing school), remains one of the region’s premier facilities. The medical school was the first in the nation to own its own hospital and among the first to admit women. It was also the first major medical school to teach science-based medicine.
For Verizon Wireless Regional HR Director Yolanda Royall, employee engagement is key to a productive workplace. “We focus our efforts on keeping our employees engaged by offering what is important to them and their families. We promote our total rewards program that offers competitive wages, leading industry benefits, flexible time off options, tuition assistance, back up child care and obviously a great place to work with industry leading products/services and technology to assist our employees with building their skill levels,” says Royall, who manages HR for Verizon’s Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky region. An open-door policy at the company fosters employees’ ability to give frequent feedback on product/services improvement opportunities, how the company interacts with customers, and employees’ needs and expectations. The company says it prides itself on focusing on not only what will add value in the moment, but also what will offer long term value to customers and employees. “We think it is critical to create an environment where employees feel we are a great place to work,” says Royall. “When employees have a sense of their company meeting their needs/expectations, their commitment to customer satisfaction will be positive.” Specific initiatives such as strengthening the company’s succession planning efforts and a retail leadership development program are among employee development strategies that make a difference.
Visiting Nurse Association of Southeast Michigan
Oak Park, Mich.
Changing market trends in the home health/hospice industry and economic factors affecting reimbursement have changed the way Visiting Nurse Association of Southeast Michigan operates, says CEO Jeffrey House. “Our greatest challenges are employee productivity and operational efficiency to meet the fiscal responsibilities of the VNA.” That includes ongoing, consistent and regular communication and intense education to ensure understanding of changing reimbursement needs, what the home health/hospice market is now demanding and how VNA needs to meet those demands, while still maintaining its historical mission. House says employee attitudes continue to drive how the VNA operates. “In general, I think employees expect their employer to be open, honest and transparent with them. Employees expect regular communication about what is happening with the company, and it’s important that we share this information with them. All employees need to understand how their individual roles and responsibilities affect the company as a whole. The employee and employer relationship here at the VNA has improved in the past year by a development of deeper trust and understanding of each other’s needs. This has been accomplished through a consistent ‘open-door’ policy with management, regular meetings and electronic communication, employee surveys and addressing issues and concerns with prompt follow-through and resolution.”
Even as w3r faces an inherent struggle-dealing with the multiple locations its employees work from-CEO Eric Hardy says the firm is up to the challenge. “We’ve overcome this challenge by increasing our employee outings, lunches and general communications, activities that give our employees direct access to the leaders within w3r Consulting and multiple avenues to communicate.” Even with the many changes in the local market, Hardy says employees still want to find an organization that offers stability and the comfort of finding a long-term place of employment. Even so, Hardy says employee needs have changed. “Our employees were attracted to w3r Consulting because of our ‘small firm’ feel and direct interaction with the leadership team. While we’ve always been an employee focused company, we have directed the organization to spend more time on the efforts of the HR team, continuously reviewing employment practices to ensure each employee has a positive memory of working with w3r.”
Walbridge, a world-class company that attracts the most knowledgeable and talented professionals in the industry, does so because employees know their contributions make a difference. With challenging opportunities, an atmosphere that encourages innovation and rewards accomplishments, it’s no wonder. “We empower our people with the very best education, training and on-the-job skills so that they may develop fulfilling careers,” the firm’s Web site asserts, adding that Walbridge “continuously looks for ways to provide our employees industry-leading health and wellness programs.” It is also said to be one of the country’s safest companies, committing to the philosophy that every employee is entitled to work under the safest conditions possible.
Warner Norcross & Judd LLP
Southfield/Sterling Heights, Mich.
An investment in new technologies and flexible scheduling are among the ways Warner Norcross & Judd has been able to maintain its leadership position among law firms, even as Managing Partner Doug Wagner and his team work to maintaining good work-life balance. “The needs of our clients have increased-and the response time has, in many cases, shortened,” adds Wagner. On the staff side, the firm “works to create a culture of independence and mutual respect where people voluntarily give their best because they are truly engaged and committed to the success of the organization.” Wagner says the firm embraces flexibility in all it does. “There is no ‘one best way’ for benefits, policies, compensation, communication and so on. People have different needs at different times in their lives, and we attempt to allow the facts of the individual situation to guide our actions. Whenever possible and practical, we refrain from establishing a blanket rule or approach. We provide choices in benefits and flexibility in our working arrangements in order to best meet the needs of the entire firm and its individual members.”