By Minehaha Forman
Aug. 18, 2011
A hefty slice of our waking adult lives-nearly 50 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics - is dedicated to the old nine-to-five.
So if we don’t like our jobs, slogging through them can be a real drain, leaving both employer and employee in an unproductive energy vacuum.
That’s why the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For competition, created by the National Association for Business Resources and sponsored in part by Corp! magazine, surveyed hundreds of Chicago firms and their workers to identify and celebrate companies that treat their employees to a higher quality of life.
To have people not only committed to their jobs but thriving in the workplace is an HR dream, and no light feat for businesses anywhere.
The 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For program this month honored Chicago’s winning companies’ accomplishments with a luncheon and elegant awards symposium at the Chicago Oak Brook Marriott.
What do these winning companies all have in common? They value their employees and have found generous and creative ways to show it.
Whether employees want flexible workdays, reimbursed college tuition, help quitting smoking, or, um, a tree house, these companies know how to listen and respond, thus maintaining a happy, healthy work environment.
Adage Technologies was founded in Chicago in 2001 with a focus on providing Web software solutions on the Microsoft Technology Stack. Two of their key products are the business-organizing tool SharePoint as well as the collaborative Web development platform .NET.
“Being named as one of Chicago’s Best and Brightest Places to Work For is quite an honor,” said Roy Chomko, president of Adage Technologies. “It is a validation of our efforts to harness and develop our employee talent.”
Learning and career development is highly supported at Adage. In addition to close peer mentoring, employees can pursue their own interests at no personal cost as most training in Web development and management skills are encouraged and reimbursed.
Aside from competitive salaries, Adage offers solid benefits for employees’ health and retirement needs like 100 percent Blue Cross Blue Shield Health and Dental premiums on policies for employees and their dependents.
There’s also a big emphasis on fun at Adage. Adage keeps the work environment lively by hosting frequent employee happy hours, quarterly outings, sporting events, volunteer opportunities and parties, etc.
“We try to create an environment where our people can thrive along with our company, because it’s our employees that really drive our success,” Chomko said.
Alterian’s mission is to help organizations create relevant, effective and engaging experiences with their audience that add value and reinforce commitment to their brand. The Alterian Integrated Marketing Platform integrates many different venues for marketing success including campaign management, Web content management, email, and social media monitoring.
This comprehensive combination is what helps Alterian to unmask, for the client, the mystery of marketing. Learning to use all available resources is Alterian’s specialty, so it’s no surprise that this is also their approach to human resources.
In addition to offering a very affordable benefits package to all of their employees, Alterian strives to make their workplace an enjoyable one.
“Alterian has always been dedicated to our employees, and to be included in the ‘101 Best and Brightest’ offers validation that, for four years in a row, we are continuing to get it right,” said Alterian CEO David Eldridge.
A recent employee survey showed that 93 percent of the staff enjoyed coming to work each day. Alterian sees each employee as an individual and treats emergency situations individually. One of the most important aspects of their human resources is their ability to generate a cross-pollinated knowledge base, by encouraging employees from different segments of the company to work together. Elizabeth Ankeny, the HR executive, believes one reason for company success is having a reliable staff.
“Employee retention is key in the transfer of knowledge and one way to facilitate that is to encourage employees to apply and move into open roles within the company rather than looking outside of the company,” Ankeny said. “This not only further develops employees but also is a way to retain knowledge within the company.”
American Academy of Dermatology
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) is the largest, most influential and most representative dermatology group in the United States.
With a staff of 150 and a membership of more than 17,000, it represents a large percentage of practicing dermatologists in the United States and a growing number worldwide. The national non-profit organizes events and seminars to connect, advocate and provide educational resources for practitioners in the dermatological field.
Managing a large and expanding membership can be hard on staff and challenging for those seeking ways to fit in personal time and enjoy time spent at work. That’s why the company developed a “Ways to Energize Staff” program. This program consists of many events catering to a busy workforce. Some choice perks include free on-site chair massages, a walking club, relaxation fliers for spa events, on-site dry cleaner drop off and pick up and stress relief games in break areas. Managers encourage their staff to leave the office for lunch by presenting gift cards to local restaurants.
Understanding the need for balance in career and personal life has become part of the cultural initiative of the company. There are built programs around Work-Life Balance, such as family outings, volunteering opportunities, and anything that helps workers getting away from the office active with family, friends and community.
The other workplace value is promoting lifelong learning. The goal is for staff to always remain employable whether with AAD or beyond.
Ampac’s comprehensive approach to packaging is a balance of rigorous, technology-driven thinking and exceptional creativity.
The American Academy of Pediatrics
Elk Grove Village, Ill.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ mission is to attain optimal physical, mental, and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents and young adults.
Founded in 1961, Assurance specializes in property and casualty insurance solutions. The independent assurance agency also designs and administers employee benefit programs for individuals and businesses nationwide.
Assurance’s 50-year legacy of success stems from giving employees a stake in the company’s future and offering a fun, nurturing environment.
“We place a lot of importance on creating a fun, rewarding, happy workplace,” said Tony Chimino, CEO. “We do this by creating a lot of opportunities for employees to advance their careers through education courses, improve their health through wellness programs, volunteer in the community, create a real work/life balance and just plain old have fun.”
The “have fun” concept is a serious part of Assurance culture. Aside from the usual holiday parties and staff appreciation days, assurance goes out of the way to make employees feel special. Whether it’s having fresh fruit delivered each week or providing on-site massages and dance classes, employees come first.
“We love our employees and truly believe that healthy employees are happier employees – both inside and outside of the workplace,” Chimino said. “From nutrition seminars to exercise classes, our annual 5K event, an EAP program which offers free of charge counseling services, and beyond, it is our mission to fully equip employees with the tools necessary to lead their best life possible.”
BDO USA LLC
BDO is a professional services firm providing assurance, tax preparation, financial advisory and consulting services to a wide and diverse range of companies.
For more than a century BDO has built a legacy of top-quality service to its clients and employees that resonates in its Chicago offices and nationwide.
One of the many employee-benefitting programs BDO offers is Day-to-Day Flex, which can be used on an as-needed basis for small schedule changes, and Formal Flex, for which an employee and his or her manager sculpt long-term scheduling around an each individual lifestyle.
Other employee-geared programs at BDO include an employee engagement survey called Pulse, which gives employees a chance to anonymously provide feedback on everything BDO; BDO L.I.F.E., which offers health education resources; and BDO’s Total Rewards program, which offers employees perks like CPA reimbursement, adoption assistance and pet insurance in addition to traditional employment benefits.
Bel Brands USA
Bel Brands introduced the USA to a household favorite cheese, The Laughing Cow.
As the brand names suggests, the company seeks to delight customer and employee alike with innovative and clever and initiatives geared toward good, old-fashioned fun.
Team members enjoy the perks of a game room, all the cheese they can eat, a serene mother’s room for quiet time on a stressful day, and free French lessons (since the global headquarters is in Paris). As far as work is concerned, employees are regularly surveyed so that the company can measure exactly how they are delivering on the promises they make.
They ask employees to evaluate the company in areas regarding Career Opportunities, Training and Development, Communication, Workplace Environment, Financial Rewards, Celebrating Success, Work-life Balance and Job Security. Surveys show that these areas of evaluation are important to employees and that Bel Brands is doing a good job upholding their end.
Bel Brands, a manufacturer of many other healthy snack foods, promotes employee health by offering free gym memberships and reimbursement for health-related sports equipment. Once monthly, they even offer a wine and cheese happy hour to keep their staff laughing while they work.
BGT Partners, one of the most award-winning interactive agencies in the world, helps companies strengthen their brands through business strategy, creative design and technical expertise.
Hoffman Estates, Ill.
Bosch Rexroth is one of the leading specialists worldwide in drive and control technology with tailor-made solutions created for application in industrial automation, mobile equipment and commercial vehicles as well as in renewable energy.
Since 1996, bswift has been creating technology that expedites the administration of health care benefits, HR communications and time reporting for employers while slashing traditional costs of these services. Today, 5,250 employers rely on bswift for software and Web services that streamline HR operations.
Unlike other workplaces, bswift has a Chief Fun Officer whose job it is to make sure work is also a fun place to be with planned activities like Jeopardy! breaks and mini-golf tournaments.
And to make sure kudos don’t always trickle from the top down, bswift uses a unique employee recognition process where employees can publically congratulate each other for a job well done. These positive nods are highlighted in the office on flat screens with a photo of the recognized employee and what they did to deserve a pat on the back.
Plus, bswift employees receive stock options and are treated as owners of the company.
“We believe that engaging our employees in efforts like these helps them feel valued, boosts morale, strengthens company culture and increases productivity,” said bswift CEO Rich Gallun. ” Our employees are as critical to our overall success as our software technology, and we want to ensure they have a fun and work environment,” he added.
The rapidly growing company also places a strong emphasis on health. Their wellness program, bWell, offers services like biometric screening, training, and competitions to help employees reach fitness goals.
Burwood Group is a technology consulting firm that specializes in IT management and infrastructure solutions priding itself in being a trusted business advisor to clients through the employment of exceptional people.
Care Communications Inc.
Care Communications Inc. is a nationally recognized leader in Health Information Management (HIM) and has served the needs of leading health care organizations since 1976.
Celergo manages international payroll for clients in more than 90 countries, making the complex world of payroll simple.
Chicago Trading Company
Chicago Trading Company (CTC) is a highly analytical, team oriented derivatives trading firm that employs a dynamic, disciplined approach to trading across a variety of products and strategies.
Clarity Consulting Inc.
Clarity Consulting Inc. designs, develops and customizes software applications.
Cleversafe is a leader in dispersed data storage technologies, the ideal way to store large, growing amounts of digital assets cost effectively.
Comcast is principally involved in the operation of cable systems through Comcast Cable and in the development, production and distribution of entertainment, news, sports and other content for global audiences through NBC Universal.
Specializing in turnarounds and crisis management, Conway Mackenzie is a consulting firm that generates tangible results. Key knowledge and strategic expertise help this company to rope faltering companies back on track and lead healthy companies to higher ground. As a leader in their industry for the middle market, Conway Mackenzie achieves their success by engaging and keeping top-notch professionals.
Through a program that they refer to as constant recruiting, they make their current employees feel like everyday is a day to celebrate. They keep a fridge stocked with breakfast and lunch favorites, offer free refreshments, and invite the work force to plenty of mixers and family fun events. The firm maintains a high standard of excellence and demands hard work, but still maintains an undeniable respect for the importance of family and keeps perspective on what’s most important.
It is this respect that acts as the foundation for the Conway MacKenzie culture and is its overall basis for employee values. The firm is family-oriented and shows its appreciation through sponsoring an annual family outing and other social events. Additionally, the firm celebrates and supports employees as they experience personal milestones such as the birth of a new baby or a wedding. Conway Mackenzie has an uncommonly low turnover rate, which can be attributed to their commitment to individuals and to their professional development and growth. They have a mentorship program that allows open doors between the less and more experienced team members, which ensures that they maintain a knowledgeable and healthy work force.
Cosi, a premium convenience, casual restaurant chain, was founded on the idea that good food will make life’s journey all the more exiting.
CouponCabin makes it their business to compile the week’s biggest coupon discounts under one virtual tin roof. The consumer is not the only one who gets a good deal though.
Employees receive a generous benefits package and plenty of other perks. Premium medical, dental and vision plan with 97 percent employerpaid premiums are top on the list. They also offer employer paid $100,000 life insurance, employer paid short and long term disability, a 401(k) with generous employer match, paid vacation time and a paid day off for employee birthdays and work anniversaries.
CouponCabin participates in a profit sharing incentive program paid twice yearly, and they allow access to company box seats at various sporting events and encourage team member participation in their charitable giving program. Through the charitable giving program, all employees align with a Chicagoland charity to donate time, skills and grants to the local community. Employees have partnered with a wide range of charities including The Greater Chicago Food Depository, Big Brothers Big Sisters Chicago, Special Olympics Chicago and Court Appointed Special Advocates, among others. CouponCabin employees engage in one-on-one tutoring and mentoring, serve as board members, volunteer their time and skills on a regular basis and spearhead additional fundraising initiatives. Charitable donations exceeded $750,000 in 2010 and are on track to exceed $1 million in 2011.
Digitas is a leading global integrated brand agency, helping the world’s biggest brands develop, engage and profit from building profitable relationships with their customers.
Domino Amjet Inc.
Formerly known as American Technologies, Domino Amjet Inc. operates as a subsidiary of Domino Printing Sciences PLC. The company was founded in 1983 and offers continuous ink jet and laser printers that code directly onto products and primary packaging. They serve a diverse range of industries, including beverage, construction, cosmetics and tickets.
Domino values employees as the most important company asset. The company offers two medical plan options for all employees to accommodate varying needs and get the highest coverage.
With a tuition reimbursement program in place that provides up to $5,000 per year, any employee can get help continuing education. Providing regular trainings internally and also encouraging outside training, Domino enhances the skills of employees for the benefit of the organization and also to help build on their personal goals.
Domino provides a robust employee wellness program that includes internally training opportunities on health, smoking cessation, stress management and work/life balance. Domino also provides 15 company holidays per year in addition to vacation and sick time to allow employees time to unwind and enjoy family.
By publishing an organizational chart encouraging cross department communication, employees are familiar with the role of others and can ensure information is shared among all employees. Regular employee meetings are also held to make sure everyone has an outlet to provide suggestions for improvement.
Donlen Corp. has been delivering innovative solutions for vehicle fleet leasing and management for corporations for more than 40 years and is North America’s fastest growing fleet management company.
Draftfcb is a new breed of agency - the largest holistic ad agency in North America, with more than 1000 employees in Chicago.
Emergency Nurses Association
Des Plaines, Ill.
The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) is a nationwide nonprofit advocacy group that pushes for patient safety and excellence in the emergency nursing practice. One of the ENA’s major goals is to be a key leader in representing emergency nursing in practice and health care policy while perfecting the practice through education and research.
“We foster a supportive and cultivating work environment that will inspire teamwork and promote a strong work ethic,” said Marsha Smith, HR director. “These values are the foundation that motivates us to be the best we can be for ourselves, the people we work with, and those we serve,” she added.
The ENA’s work environment is designed to support its typically female-heavy population, some of whom are single parents. ENA employees enjoy alternative scheduling opportunities, such as telecommuting and flexible scheduling options.
Aside from generous leave time, the ENA sick policy is shaped not just to benefit the employee but also their families (e.g. trips to the doctor or clinic). Staff is encouraged to invest in education and future career advancement through the company’s tuition reimbursement program, which includes certifications as well.
Employees with young families can to bring their children in to work on occasion, such as bringing children in for lunch or near the end of the day for an informal meet and greet.
EMKAY Inc. is dedicated to being top of the industry for fleet management. As the only employee-owned business in its industry, EMKAY has a unique edge over other fleet management leaders; the employees are extremely motivated to ensure the success of their company. Benefit initiatives are based solely on employee experience and include traditional as well as non-traditional compensations, such as, health care and retirement plans along with an onsite dry cleaning service, an onsite fitness center, a subsidized onsite cafeteria, free car washes, free gas tank fill-ups, free use of company cars, an employee run/walk club, and more.
EMKAY feels that a proper work life balance is to create positive experiences at work and allow for sufficient time away. They offer their employees a Lifeworks program, as well as a variety of services centered on getting chores accomplished at work so they can have more time to spend with their families outside of work. This family oriented company does all it can to foster a sense of family within the company as well. They do this by promoting from within and by providing employees with the education and experiences needed to have successful careers at EMKAY. Open communication is of utmost importance to this small business that cares about family and who works as a team.
“EMKAY takes pride in that we always put our employees first,” said Greg Tepas, CEO. “We have initiated several programs to do just that, and it is great to be recognized for doing what we feel is right. Our employees make all the difference in our success, so I thank them for this prestigious award they have earned.”
Ernst & Young
Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services, with 144,000 people worldwide who are united by shared values and an unwavering commitment to quality.
Downers Grove, Ill.
Flexco is a leading manufacturer of conveyor belt fasteners and related products that increase belt conveyor productivity. The company employs close to 600 employees around the globe.
FONA International was founded in 1987 and creates and manufactures flavors for many of the largest food, beverage, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical companies in the world. FONA is recognized for its culture of energetic professionals and pursuit of excellence 100 percent of the time.
Ghafari is a well-known industry leader in the adoption and application of advanced technologies, Ghafari recognizes the value of synchronizing data and work flows across supply chain partners. Part of Ghafari’s mission statement is to provide clients with services of the highest possible quality, while building long-lasting relationships.
Whether helping to build strong financial futures for families or aiding businesses to improve their bottom line, GCG Financial’s success comes from creating strong relationships with people. For 30 years, this family-owned company has also made it a priority to make employees feel like family. They empower their team members by encouraging them to share ideas, the CEO, Alan Levitz, can even be seen walking around on a daily basis just to make himself available for suggestions and discussions.
GCG Financial serves monthly bagel breakfasts to celebrate employment anniversaries, they celebrate birthdays, offer welcome baskets and even give jewelry to employees who have been with the company for 10 years. Material compensation, however, is not the only way they appreciate their staff. GCG Financial allows a paid 70 minutes lunch break each day, and a grandparent leave.
They encourage their employees to get out from behind their desks and join their peers in a “Walk N Talk” exercise program, which culminates once a month when staff walk and talk with the executive management team and afterword, everyone is provided a healthy lunch. GCG is dedicated to the success of their employees within the firm too. Training consists of regular on-site meetings that are taught in a variety of mediums including live Lunch and Learns, webinars, small group conferences and firm-wide meetings.
The mentoring program of pairing a younger associate with a seasoned associate provides the opportunity for talent development. Nancy Medin, the Director of Human Resources says, “GCG provides the training, development and support for success promoting professional satisfaction. GCG is more than a place to work; it is a place where our employees have the opportunity to make a difference. Our loyalty and low turn-over is a true reflection of employee satisfaction.”
Getty Images is a leader in digital media with a diverse range of services from premium stock photography to multimedia projects. They were the first company to license imagery online and have continued to drive the industry forward with breakthrough licensing models. Gettyimages.com boasts access to 24.7 million images.
For this Chicago-based company, employee satisfaction is a top priority.
They have a morale committee that brainstorms ways to keep up good energy and enthusiasm, a recreation room, and a stocked fridge in the break room. Employees are encouraged to participate in company innovation through a yearly contest: the 10,000 Dollar Idea.
“We have a very casual office environment and embrace an environment that has as many moments of levity as it does drive to perform,” said Kate Sheehy, Getty Images HR manager.
Employees are regularly asked for input about the workplace and how to make the office more engaging.
Communication stands at the core of company culture whether it means telling the stories of people worldwide through images or by offering employees community intranet forums to discuss what makes them tick outside the workplace.
Greeley and Hansen
Greeley and Hansen is a leader in developing innovative engineering solutions for a wide array of water, wastewater, and infrastructure challenges aimed at improving public health, safety and welfare. The firm is committed to collaborating with municipal utilities and agencies to help them design better urban environments for the communities they serve.
As for internal environment, Greeley and Hansen recognizes the retention benefits of providing employees with an energizing and creative work environment. The firm recently completed a significant renovation of the physical office space at the Chicago headquarters. Staff advocated for a “green” office with eco-friendly infrastructure (energy-efficient lighting, low-flow plumbing, etc.) and office practices. And they got it.
“The vision for this project is focused on promoting greater employee engagement, collaboration, and social connection,” said John C. Robak, chief operating officer.
The firm values staff opinion and offers a full range of traditional benefits while also providing some unique solutions to balancing life and work.
Employees can participate in company sponsored volunteer opportunities, corporate league sporting events and may even join colleagues to watch a lunchtime movie.
Fun, games and a green headquarters are not all that Greeley and Hansen does to stimulate the workforce, as training and professional development of staff is also a high priority; a pairing that ensures Greeley and Hansen will attract and retain top-talent professionals.
Harley Ellis Devereaux
Harley Ellis Devereaux is an award-winning, full-service organization offering a complete range of planning, architecture, engineering, interior architecture, landscape architecture and construction services with offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, San Diego and San Francisco.
Harrah’s Joliet Casino & Hotel
Harrah’s Joliet, like all casinos, faces a constant challenge of creating a positive work-life balance for its employees.
But it’s a challenge Harrah’s has met with finesse, running an operation that is open 365 days a year and still providing a healthy work-life balance package, according to Dawn Reynolds-Pitt, regional vice president of Human Resources.
“Employees are critical to our success,” said Reynolds-Pitt. “Generally, the more you invest in your employees, the more they invest in your customers, the more ROI you receive.”
To do so, Harrah’s utilizes part-time and on-call employees to supplement staffing gaps. This allows full-time employees to schedule extra time off.
Harrah’s has numerous programs that address employee quality of life issues, including a fund to provide financial assistance to employees facing unforeseen financial crisis, a dry cleaning service and a wellness program with an on-site gym.
In addition to numerous achievement incentives, Harrah’s offers an Educational Assistance Program, reimbursing employees up to 90 percent of tuition costs.
Hephzibah Children’s Association
Oak Park, Ill.
Hephzibah Children’s Association is a multi-service child welfare agency that provides school-age child care, child abuse and neglect prevention programs, family assessments and support services, foster care, adoption services, and group homes for children who have suffered abuse, neglect, abandonment and failed foster placements.
Ifbyphone automates business phones by providing virtual phone features - such as advanced call routing and tracking, interactive voice response, and voice broadcasting –to help small and medium size businesses generate leads, track marketing ROI, and reduce costs.
Impact Networking LLC
Impact Networking LLC is an integrated technology solutions company that helps businesses create, distribute and manage documents with distinct business units to handle Creative Marketing Services, Document Management, Scanning and Conversion, Networking and Telecom and Digital Office Equipment.
Infinium Capital Management LLC
Infinium Capital Management LLC is a proprietary capital management firm based in Chicago. The company’s massive force of specialists in trading, technology, financial engineering and other key operational support areas, represents one of the most powerful groups of any kind in the industry.
Infogix Inc. offers a complete portfolio of software products and services to monitor, detect, and prevent information errors.
Wood Dale, Ill.
Inktel Direct is a business process outsourcer of direct marketing services such as contact centers, order fulfillment, inventory management and direct mail, and works with leading Fortune 500 brands and government agencies.
Instant Technology is a Chicago IT staffing agency that serves numerous clients including Fortune 1000 companies nationwide.
It’s been tapped as a Best Company to Work For for many reasons; namely its compensation plans and competitions tailored to employees’ interests. Rewards have included pay bonuses, tickets to professional sporting events, gift cards and time off.
“We employ a work-hard, play-hard ideology at Instant Technology,” said Monica Lee, Corporate Communications manager. “These contests have not only increased revenue and productivity, but also create an exciting and energetic work environment.”
The incentive programs culminate at the end of the year with an awards presentation that acknowledges the work of the top performers.
Instant Technology also works to create an environment of camaraderie and teamwork. Company outings and team-building events such as bowling nights, tournaments, and barbeques provide a space for colleagues to get to know each other outside of work. Lee says this builds a group work ethic and a deeper loyalty to the firm.
An Xbox Kinect in the spacious employee lounge doesn’t hurt, either.
St. Charles, Ill.
IPMG (Insurance Program Managers Group) is a place where insurance experts are dedicated to specific industries and are immersed in the intricacies and nuances of individual business.
kCura is a Chicago-based software firm specializing in e-discovery-that is, recovering electronic documents, legal evidence and information using digital analysis software. kCura’s created the one-of-a-kind e-discovery software program Relativity, which is a cutting-edge Web platform providing analysis and review of electronic research and investigation.
Why did employees vote kCura a Best and Brightest Company to Work For?
“The biggest aspect of kCura that keeps me engaged is the energy within the company,” said Anthony Zybak, a kCura IT specialist. “kCura truly follows the old work-hard, play-hard mantra.”
kCura gives its people ample paid leave-18 days plus 11 paid holidays-adding up to a month of time off.
And with a lunchroom with a ping-pong table, darts, and a game room, work also doubles as a fun place to be. Everything from chili cook-offs and monthly happy hours to family picnics add a festive flare to the office culture. It’s all about the end goal of building a team that everyone loves being a part of.
“Our HR team listens to employees’ suggestions and brings them to fruition wherever possible,” said Shawn Gaines, Public Relations director.
It doesn’t hurt to have a fun, open CEO, either. “Andrew Sieja is the kind of CEO that employees love being around,” Gaines said. ” He introduces new hires to the company by reading one fun fact about each. One employee’s fun fact was that he had eaten an array of exotic animals. Andrew immediately brought a container of crickets on stage, and invited the new hire up to eat one. Andrew, of course, ate a cricket with him.”
Downers Grove, Ill.
KeyLimeTie is a full-service design, development and digital strategy agency, specializing in Web and mobile technologies across a variety of platforms, with services such as content management, ecommerce, and custom application solutions.
KPMG LLP is a U.S. audit, tax and advisory services firm that operates from 87 offices with more than 23,000 employees and partners throughout the U.S. turning knowledge into value.
Des Plaines, Ill.
Lawson Products, founded in 1952, is an industrial distributor of maintenance and repair supplies, committed to helping customers resolve the challenges of their operations long term.
Rolling Meadows, Ill.
LeasePlan USA was founded in 1963 and has grown to be a leading provider of vehicle leasing and fleet management in the United States. LeasePlan has a fleet of 1.3 million vehicles worldwide, employing 460 people in the U.S. and more than 6,000 globally. The company serves a wide range of clients, from large, multi-national corporations to municipalities and local businesses.
CEO Mike Pitcher credits much of the company’s success to promoting a workplace where employee opinion is valued and hard work is celebrated: When the company is thriving, so are its employees.
“An integral part of our strategy is continuing to invest in and develop our people,” says Pitcher. “They are the back-bone of our business, and the reason we are successful. Each employee strives to exemplify our mission in their job function every day.”
The employee recognition and support is paying off. While other companies are tightening their belt and trimming their workforce, LeasePlan is still building theirs.
Last year when the company met its annual financial goals, Chicago employees flew for free to celebrate in Atlanta at the company headquarters.
Aside from competitive salary and health benefits, one of the added perks to working for LeasePlan is the emphasis on wellness. Their health program, HealthyU, is designed to provide education, information and motivation for employees to lead a healthy lifestyle.
LeasePlan employees also enjoy the option of telecommuting to work on days when leaving home is inconvenient.
Milhouse Engineering & Construction Inc.
At a time when layoffs are more common than new hires for many companies, it may seem a bit counterintuitive to focus on employee value proposition. But at Milhouse, economic straits mean it’s more important than ever to hire and keep a team with a competitive edge.
The company’s HR team works hard to develop new strategies to attract, engage and retain experienced, productive workers. That’s why Milhouse has made the NABR’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For list for six consecutive years.
“Our EVP is built around our employees and is forever changing,” said Ryan Williams, HR administrator. “We feel that our plan offers a clear, compelling, and distinctive proposition that succeeds in differentiating us from our competitors.”
With generous compensation - high salary, cash recognition, plus broad benefits packages, Milhouse offers a secure financial setup for employees.
But good pay and benefits are not the only draw for Milhouse people. The company takes detailed steps to communicate with the various generations of its workers. For example baby boomers typically prefer using e-mail and voice mail to communicate while younger generations prefer instant messaging, texting or twitter.
At Milhouse, every Friday is Orange Friday, a silly casual dress day. If employees wear enough orange (which is one of the main company colors) they may receive the day off, additional PTO, or even a cash prize.
Every other Friday CEO Wilbur Milhouse III buys lunch for the entire staff. The bi-monthly delivered lunch has proven to be one of the most successful programs.
To further workplace camaraderie, a monthly sponsored happy hour at various bars and restaurants offers a chance for staff to interact in a stress-free environment.
Luna is a family owned and operated flooring company based in Chicago, providing expertise in carpet, hardwood and laminate since 1958.
McGladrey is the fifth largest U.S. provider of assurance, tax and consulting services with 7,000 professionals and associates in nearly 90 offices.
Midwest Truck & Auto Parts
Midwest Truck & Auto Parts is committed to Quality, Continual Improvement and Customer Satisfaction.
Millennium Electronics Inc.
Crystal Lake, Ill.
Millennium Electronics Inc. is a privately held, woman owned electronic contract manufacturer specializing in high complexity electronic assemblies.
From its brand new Chicago headquarters building, Model Metrics optimizes cloud computing technology for companies that want to centralize information and ditch server and software upgrade hassles. The company has built relationships with cloud computing leaders like Google and Amazon to blaze new trails in this rapidly growing technology.
Cloud computing offers an online network of information and applications accessible to members of the cloud through any Internet portal whether it’s from a smart phone or a desktop.
Model Metrics is a growing business that works with 500 companies nationwide including big names like Boeing, L’Oreal, and NBC Universal to keep their work forces on the cloud.
Model Metrics provides an extremely collaborative environment. The new headquarters are office-free. All employees, even executives, sit in random clusters at various unassigned workstations. Employees often telecommute, working on the latest technologies from company subsidized iPads and smart phones.
Another unique HR benefit is that employees are allowed to take off as much time as they need as long as they are performing as expected.
“We trust that our employees know best when they need to work and when they need to seek balance,” said Erin Okeeffe, PR manager. “We have a work-hard, play-hard culture and believe that employees contribute their best work when they get the breaks they need.”
Plus, the company’s internal education program, Model University (MU), sponsors certifications and other education opportunities.
Elk Grove Village, Ill.
Mortenson Construction has served Chicagoland for more than 20 years and has established a reputation as a leader in the health care, municipal and higher education markets, thanks to the company’s ingenuity, expertise and exceptional people.
Mutual Trust Financial Group
Oak Brook, Ill.
Mutual Trust Financial Group provides whole life insurance products that give policy holders and their beneficiaries peace of mind and financial security when they are most in need.
National Futures Association
Almost every firm or individual doing business with the public on a U.S. futures exchange is required to be a member of the National Futures Association (NFA). Founded in 1982, the NFA provides innovative regulatory programs and services that ensure integrity to U.S. futures trading. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), oversees the NFA’s activities.
“Our staff need to think critically about the regulatory challenges facing us and to focus on the areas which pose the greatest risk to market integrity,” said Kimberly Williams Human Resources business partner. “As a result, our employees believe we make a difference and this is important to them.”
To support employees, NFA actively fosters a culture that prioritizes healthy living, education, information sharing, collaboration and creative problem solving. In addition to generous salaries and health benefits, the NFA reimburses all employees up to $12,500 toward college tuition. They will also pay all expenses for employees’ continuing education trainings and professional memberships.
“We strive to create a work environment that rewards outstanding performance while encouraging employees to create a healthy balance between their work and their personal lives,” wrote CEO Daniel Roth in the company’s annual review. “Our efforts are reflected in the awards we have received over the past.”
Nitel specializes in providing telecom services, Internet and MPLS bandwidth to rural areas and hard-to reach locations. Clients improve profitability and create streamline Web operations with Nitel’s nationwide connectivity services. With unique flat rates, Nitel services and products are also cost effective.
To keep high standards for client service, the work culture at Nitel is one that promotes good times in and outside of the workplace. Nitel makes fun a priority and hosts up to 14 events for its employees every year, including a Cubs rooftop event, a beach volleyball tournament and a massage day in the office. There are also many volunteer opportunities through the company to help community building.
“Nitel’s culture is to emphasize a balanced environment of work and play and to give back to our community,” said Nitel CEO Rick Stern.
The firm supports local charities through corporate giving and employee involvement. For instance, each year the firm sponsors a 5K run/walk for staff where Nitel’s annual gift to a local charity is tied to the number of people who participate in the event.
“These things, coupled with the fast-paced nature of our business, keep our staff engaged, which translates to improved client satisfaction,” Stern said.
NOW Foods, established in 1968, is an industry-leading manufacturer of more than 1,500 natural health products, committed to its mission of providing goods and services that empower people to lead healthier lives.
Office Concepts is an authorized Steelcase Office Furniture dealership dedicated to helping its clients create innovative and dynamic work environments.
OMRON Industrial Automation
OMRON Industrial Automation functions as a partner to help innovate worldwide manufacturing through expertise in sensing and control technology. Specializing in sensors and controls of automated machines and industrial workplaces, Omron IA enables manufacturers to operate with greater productivity and streamlined efficiency through innovative technology. Their recent technology includes machine vision systems, proximity sensors and numerous high-tech safety switches.
Omron IA lives up to the corporate motto, “At work for a better life, a better world for all” with community service and morale-building programs. The company sponsors a month-long team Walk for Fitness step counting contest, stress management seminars, yoga you can do at your desk.
Other events include feeding the troops at cookouts, catered lunches, breakfast treats and theme dress-up days.
The monthly newsletter provides energy-saving tips for home and office and a schedule of volunteer charitable activities supported. Omron will match any charitable contributions and recognizes that not everyone has extra money to donate to charities, so Omron will make a financial donation to charities where employees volunteer 20 hours of their personal time.
Employees (not executives) drive decisions about financial contributions and community service initiatives. The input gives staff a sense of ownership and engagement in company charitable affairs, according to Cindy Norman Janssen, vice president, HR.
“These programs continue to raise employee satisfaction level and help explain why employee out tenure is more than twice the industry average,” Janssen said.
OtterBase Inc. is one of the fastest growing supplemental staffing companies in the country with a rapidly expanding list of Fortune 500 clients. It attributes its success to its clients, people and services.
Arlington Heights, Ill.
Paylocity has been providing innovative payroll, human resources and time and attendance software solutions to employees and businesses across America since 1997.
Physicians Interactive operates through their wholly owned subsidy, Skyscape.com Inc., by offering health care industry information, medication samples and mobile decision support tools to doctors and medical workers. As the leader in their field, they use the full power of their network to bring clinicians and the life sciences together in a way that improves the quality of health care for all.
As a company that seeks to make life easier for physicians, it is no surprise that they are employee friendly. They understand that their staff is the reason for their success and continued growth. Since the company started in 2008, they have added multitudes of products and services to their network and have gone from 40 to 240 employees. To ensure that employee satisfaction is maintained, they ask for regular feedback in the form of surveys, a suggestion box and by keeping the doors of communication between executives and staff open. Morale boosters such as ice cream socials, minute-to-win-it competitions, picnics and cereal days are also regularly scheduled throughout the year.
Physicians Interactive also recognizes that individuals are more than worker bees, and they allow for flexible hours, the opportunity to work remotely from time to time, and mandate a casual dress code so that employees can be comfortable and at ease during the work day. To encourage their work force to share their talents with the community, Physicians Interactive will pay employees who volunteer for one full workday per year. Growth is important to this relatively new company and is facilitated by making sure that employees have access to executive level score cards and by offering each team member an Individual Development Plan so that employees, in collaboration with their managers, can map out a path for their career growth with Physicians Interactive.
Buffalo Grove, Ill.
Plexus is a global contract design and manufacturing company, delivering optimized Product Realization Solutions through a customer focused service model that seamlessly integrates product conceptualization, design and commercialization to deliver comprehensive end-to-end solutions.
PLS Financial Services Inc.
PLS Financial Services, Inc. is a Chicago-based financial group that includes PLS Check Cashers, which offers numerous money transfer services; PLS Loan Store, providing micro-loans and tax-prep services; and PLS Motor Vehicle Services.
“We believe our team members deserve positive, supportive workplaces, recognition for their success, and opportunities to develop their skills and advance in their careers,'” said Bob Wolfberg, president of PLS.
A key part of the PLS philosophy revolves around upward mobility. Each employee has the opportunity to develop skills and continue to advance within the company though the PLS University, which provides online training. And it works. More than 80 percent of PLS open positions are filled from within.
Plus, 98 percent of PLS opportunities are solid, old-fashioned jobs: full-time, with health and welfare benefits and 401(k) participation (with company match fully vested from day one).
All this they manage to do with a personalized approach.
“Although we operate more than 300 stores with 3,100 employees, our company retains a family feel,” Wolfberg said.
Currently, PLS is developing an employee-dedicated hotline to offer personal crisis support for legal, marital, medical, financial or work-related concerns, as well as a comprehensive wellness program.
PointBridge is one of the fastest growing Microsoft partners in the country. The IT consulting firm is known for its highly effective business solutions getting the best out of Microsoft technology and providing measurable results for businesses nationwide.
One factor that makes PointBridge people work so efficiently is good communication. Leadership teams are readily accessible to all employees and the office culture encourages open and honest input on all aspects of the business. Twice a year, each employee is invited out of the work setting for a one-on-one meeting with leadership for suggestions and ideas for improvement. Ideas from these “TouchPoint” meetings are incorporated into business planning and budgeting discussions.
PointBridge was judged against an impressive field of Chicago-area companies. Inclusion on this list is a clear signal that the employees of PointBridge have worked together to create a workplace environment in which the ability to thrive and excel are paramount,” said Mike Gersten, CEO and co-founder.
Employees can choose to work in the creative loft office space, or anywhere in the office they feel most productive. Since there are no private offices, collaboration among the team members is encouraged by design. There is also a lounge in the office that doubles as casual workspace with walls made of whiteboards and a flat panel projector for impromptu meetings.
Plus, the company encourages employees to build their professional brand through speaking engagements, books, blogs and community involvement. And all employees share in the financial success of the organization. Aside from outstanding benefits, PointBridge shares profits with employees. The firm’s dedication to its people has not gone unnoticed.
Premier Wealth Management Group
Downers Grove, Ill.
Premier Wealth Management Group has been helping clients work toward financial independence with a personalized approach to wealth planning, accumulation and preservation since 1958.
Premium Surge Promotions
Premium Surge Promotions aims to “power up your brand” by designing innovative custom products and virtual incentives that create excitement and drive business momentum.
Protiviti is a global business consulting and internal audit firm composed of experts specializing in risk, advisory and transaction services.
Rabjohns Financial Group
Rabjohns Financial Group provides comprehensive business, estate and insurance services to owners of capital-intensive businesses and their employees.
Radio Flyer Inc.
Radio Flyer Inc. maker of the famous little red wagons, is the leading producer of wagons, tricycles and spring horses in the United States and has been a family company since 1917.
Rasmussen College/Rasmussen Inc.
Oak Brook, Ill.
Rasmussen College is a career-focused, private college that specializes in offering the most in-demand degree programs in a highly supportive, student-centered educational environment.
Red Frog Events LLC
Joe Reynolds, CEO and founder of Red Frog events, is on a mission to reinvent the standard workplace while simultaneously creating wacky, memorable events for fun-seekers in Chicago and around the world. So far, so good.
Red Frog Events has shot up from one employee when it started three years ago to more than 100 today.
“From the day I started Red Frog I wanted to build a special business,” says Reynolds, ” which to me meant creating a workplace that felt like a home, while being surrounded by people who felt like family.”
To Red Frog workers, the company is more than just a place to rustle up a paycheck. It’s a fun place to be. The “Camp Red Frog” office includes a giant tree house filled with functional meeting spaces and a slide, customized swings, rock climbing wall and a 50,000-piece Lego conference table.
Employees get a weekly lunch, free meals after 7:30 p.m., endless drinks (yes, beer is included) and daily snacks. Wii breaks and tricycle rides are (almost) a must.
All that, plus competitive benefits and unlimited vacation days, makes Red Frog Events a top company to work for.
Remedy is a brand strategy and communications agency with a singular focus: to make a positive difference in the health of people locally, nationally and around the world. Its vision is to change how people think and think about health by helping its clients create relatable, engaging brands.
Robbins, Schwartz, Nicholas, Lifton and Taylor Ltd.
Robbins, Schwartz, Nicholas, Lifton and Taylor Ltd. is a boutique law firm committed to serving public and private sector entities by building strong relationships with clients through its preventative counseling approach, allowing it to identify and resolve legal issues before they turn into costly litigation.
SEI – Service Express Inc.
SEI – Service Express Inc. is a leader in delivering customized service solutions for on-site data center maintenance, focusing on mainframe, midrange and Intel based servers for IBM, DEC, HP, Sun, Dell, as well as EMC and STK storage.
Shared Technologies is a uniquely-capable total solutions provider specializing in voice, data and converged technologies.
Shure has a history of audio innovation spanning more than 80 years, and has turned a passion for making great microphones and audio electronics into an obsession.
Sikich LLP is a one of the country’s largest public accounting firms providing a full range of financial services, management advisory and technology products and services.
Skender is a construction firm that works locally and nationwide guiding clients from concept to finished product to build sophisticated structures. Among their most notable Chicago buildings is US Cellular Park, home of the Chicago White Sox.
The success of this company lies in its commitment to using innovative methods that pervade their relationships with clients and employees alike. Skender seeks the opinions of team members to make sure that employee satisfaction is at a premium.
One way that the company can track employee progress is through a newly implemented on-line tool that allows employees an interactive venue for communication with management teams. Perhaps the most innovative and progressive aspect of the company is their pledge to be green, which unites employees, executives and clients with a common commitment to be easier on the earth.
To accomplish this they engage in a program called LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which focuses on green practice education and execution.
“By incorporating green leadership, Skender successfully diverted 96 percent of construction debris from going to a landfill,” said Lisa Latronico, HR manager.
Slalom Consulting provides innovative financial turnaround solutions, strategic business insight and cutting edge technology to clients around the world.
The same top-quality promise Slalom offers its clients reflects in a matched dedication to its employees.
“Our culture is built and led by its consultants,” said Chrystal Meeks, Human Resources coordinator. “We strive to offer the best project opportunities and the most cutting edge clients.”
One of the many advantages of being on board Slalom’s consulting team is the unique sabbatical program.
After three years of employment, employees may take advantage of a four-week paid sabbatical. While on sabbatical, employees receive 75 percent of their regular pay as well as continuation of their health and welfare benefits.
Since wellness is a key part to Slalom culture, the company provides numerous voluntary company sports clubs including baseball, basketball, cycling, and more.
Sonoma Partners LLC
Sonoma Partners LLC provides technology and business process consulting services to enterprise and mid-sized companies throughout the United States and Canada, with a focus on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM product.
Spot Trading LLC
Spot Trading LLC is a proprietary trading firm specializing in equity and index options. The company has grown from a team of five individuals in 1999 to nearly 150 professionals in a variety of disciplines including equity research, trading, financial engineering and technology.
Starcom MediaVest Group
Starcom MediaVest Group is ranked one of the largest brand communications groups in the world, encompassing an integrated network of human experience strategists, investment specialists, content creators, digital experts and beyond.
Stout Risius Ross Inc.
Stout Risius Ross Inc. (SRR) is a financial advisory firm specializing in investment banking, valuation and financial opinions, and dispute advisory and forensic services for clients worldwide.
SWC Technology Partners
Oak Brook, Ill.
Located in the economic powerhouse, Oak Brook Ill., SWC Technology Partners specializes in IT solutions that help streamline operations for midmarket organizations. Using a creative, opened-minded philosophy, they efficiently use teamwork and a strong mentoring program to outmaneuver some of Chicago’s larger companies.
“Being named one of the ‘Best and Brightest’ reinforces the fact that our work environment is one that engenders growth, innovation and success,” said Bob Knott, president and CEO of SWC Technology Partners.
Employee health and stability is important to this company and they prioritize a healthy work environment. SWC offers a family friendly health care system with two to four weeks of paid vacation each year, paid sick time off, telecommuting options and an on-site childcare facility. The company’s wellness program includes annual health screenings, guest speakers, and a free on-site fitness center with ergonomic equipment.
Liberal vacation time and a goal-based incentive policy help the company achieve high production as well as a balanced life-work ratio. Teamwork and group decision-making allow younger employees to expand and grow. The decision-making contributions of younger employees at SWC Technologies are encouraged to maintain a competitive edge in a rapidly changing IT environment.
Employee satisfaction is a reflection of success, and SWC is doing well.
“SWC has achieved consistent growth despite the economic climate, adding 20 employees over the past 18 months and bringing in a steady stream of new clients,” Knott said.
The Comprehensive Group
The Comprehensive Group is Illinois’ leading provider of rehabilitation services, providing quality, outcome-driven and cost-effective therapy staffing, management and consultation.
The James, Chicago, is a residentially styled luxury hotel that delivers an artful blend of hand-crafted design, seamlessly intuitive service and personalized comfort, just steps away from Chicago’s famed Magnificent Mile.
The Marketing Store Worldwide
The Marketing Store Worldwide delivers innovative, large-scale promotional and loyalty programs that result in sales. The company has particular expertise in the areas of loyalty/CRM programs, promotional development, toy premiums, contests/games/sweepstakes and digital strategy.
ThoughtWorks Inc. is not your typical company. It is made up of talented, driven and principled people who are passionate about software, and are brought together because they want to do something amazing.
Thresholds, for the past 50 years, has remained one of the nation’s most successful and respected mental illness service providers by creating innovative, award-winning programs that honor and respect people with mental illnesses and provide them with the tools to create a meaningful life.
Total Quality Logistics
Total Quality Logistics (TQL) is the 4th largest freight brokerage firm in the United States. The 13-year-old company coordinates truckload shipments of everything from fresh produce to steel for thousands of companies nationwide.
The TQL commitment to quality is unwavering, and that means that employees go above and beyond to make sure truck drivers pick up and deliver goods safely and right on time.
Because TQL people work so hard to deliver on the company’s promise to clients, they are recognized and rewarded for it.
“The reason we’ve done so well is our people,” says Ken Oaks, founder and CEO. “Communication is critical in our business. We do our own employee training, so they understand the industry and the high level of service we give our customers. That’s what makes us different from our competitors.”
TQL also provides a fun work atmosphere with golf outings, patio parties and after-hours events.
Employees are encouraged to use their top-quality industry training to build their own business under the TQL umbrella.
When it comes to salary, everything is performance-based, with no limit on commissions. That way, employees determine their pay through their performance.
And to make sure everyone is performing at their best level, TQL provides wellness incentives, financial advice, flexible workdays and telecommuting programs. There is also an Employee Assistance program providing free counseling services and other help with any personal issues.
Tris3ct is an independent advertising agency in Chicago with a 40 percent annual growth rate since its startup 5 years ago. Today the company employs 90 people, who love their jobs.
“We’ve invested a great deal of energy and effort toward making this business fun again for our employees,” said Peter Janss, director of Corporate Development. “We realize we have the most incredible jobs on the planet.”
TriS3ct operates under the philosophy that an investment in its people is an investment in a superior product for its clients, giving the agency a competitive edge.
“If you ask what matters most to our people, it’s not the latest ‘perk du jour,'” Janss said. “They’ll likely mention the paid comprehensive health care plan, and serious investments in agency culture that rival organizations many times the size and age of Tris3ct.”
What’s the secret to Tris3ct’s success? A large part of it is making the workplace a fun place to be.
On any given week Tris3ct may feature an employee art gallery, Iron Ch3f cooking competitions, an indoor soccer club or an impromptu team-building exercise (Jenga anyone?).
Turner Construction Co.
Turner Construction Co., Chicago office, has been a leading builder in the Chicago area since 1924 by providing full-service resources to clients and completing more than $500 million worth of construction volume annually.
Vapor Bus International
Buffalo Grove, Ill
Vapor Bus international is the premier door equipment supplier to the North American bus industry. Top of the industry is no small feat, and Vapor is proud to recognize its employees as a main reason for its success.
A continuous improvement program requiring active employee involvement in improving processes and working conditions is Vapor’s key to keeping all their employees on the same page.
“Smooth operations” describes not only Vapor’s products but also the manufacturing facility where safety is the job of a special Safety Team.
“For the past 2.5 years, the company has not incurred a lost workday accident. We are proud to provide a safe workplace for our employees, who handle a wide variety of machining, welding, painting, assembly and material handling operations,” says Dennis Huebner, Vapor’s director of Human Resources.
Additionally, Vapor Bus International offers its team members top benefits, including a 401K with uninterrupted company contributions, subsidized health club memberships, flexible scheduling and yearly salary and wage reviews.
Customers rate Verizon Wireless as the number one wireless network in the U.S. They serve over 290 million people in almost every state.
“We believe that Verizon Wireless is the best wireless carrier, a responsible corporate citizen and a great place to work,” says Lowell McAdam, CEO.
Since communication is their specialty, they strive to make communication within the workplace easily accessible by implementing video and Web conferencing, internal blogs and an internal website to keep employees informed and connected. They offer a best-in-class employee total rewards program, which includes robust compensation, health and welfare, 401(k), profit sharing, tuition assistance and employee charitable giving programs. Because Verizon Wireless is part of a larger global technology corporation, Verizon Communications, they can offer employees a career track that has infinite potential. At Verizon Wireless, employees are the most valuable asset, and because technology is always changing, employees must be up to date on their knowledge. This is why Verizon spends generous time and money encouraging education and betterment for all staff.
VW Credit Inc.
VW Credit Inc. was founded in 1981 as the financial service arm of Volkswagen Group of America. VW Credit, a captive finance company, services Volkswagen, Audi and Bentley retail customers.
WMS Industries Inc.
WMS Industries Inc. is an industry leader in the design, manufacture and marketing of casino slot machines and gaming technology products that offer the ultimate player experience.
WOW! (WideOpen West) is a top rated cable TV service provider also offering high speed Internet and home entertainment services.
Editor’s note: Information submitted from some companies was not available before deadline.