By Lynne R. Zacharias
July 7, 2011
Atlanta spoke loud and clear about where they love to work and which companies offer the most innovative workplaces in the area. For the first time, companies in Atlanta that are focused on offering quality human resources initiatives were honored with a 101 Best and Brightest Award. This year’s winners were honored at a symposium and awards luncheon held in their honor on June 20th. The honorees clearly demonstrated why each of them would be an ideal place for employees to work and Corp! magazine wanted to share with readers the high standards that these winning companies employ to be considered the best and brightest by the people who know them the best-their employees.
Founded in 1988 as Computer Concepts Corp., 3C Software supplies cost management solutions to companies with complex or process-intensive manufacturing. The company manages all aspects of software development and implementation at their headquarters in Atlanta. Their strategy for retaining top talent is simple: “Our innovation lies in sticking with the basics and doing it well. We don’t offer flashy benefits, we focus on the things that really count: making sure our employees feel valued, offering excellent compensation and profit sharing plans, and creating work-life balance that ensures our employees can have a life outside of work,” said Matthew Smith, president and CEO. He says that being a small company is why they can provide more to their workforce. “3C Software is somewhat unique because we are a small company that serves the needs of large corporations around the world. We’re able to do this because we are innovative in our approach to solving complicated problems through technology and expertise. Because we do not operate in departmental silos, all of our employees are actively engaged in guiding product and service innovations based on their experiences working with clients and prospects. Our employees are empowered to make decisions and encouraged to share their opinions. The collegial atmosphere of our workplace fosters communication and genuine respect for our colleagues. We don’t micromanage or stifle our employees. Rather, we give them the space to produce creative solutions to our customers’ problems,” he said.
Armchair is an Atlanta-based interactive agency that specializes in designing and developing multimedia strategies and campaigns that help businesses engage new audiences. Keeping employees happy is the recipe that drives this company forward. “We believe that keeping our employees happy, challenged and motivated comes from a mix of the work we do and how we reward them for their performance. We are very selective about the work we choose to do and we try to involve as much of our staff as possible when exploring creative options for clients. We feel that good ideas can come from anyone who takes the time to think about them, so we cast a wide net when it comes to who participates in our brainstorming sessions. All people and ideas are welcome and no one should be afraid to speak up with a creative idea, or even just a spark of one to make others think. On the compensation side, we strive to help our employees with all the costs of their benefits so they can be free of worry and concentrate on their work,” said Scott Woelfel, managing partner and CEO. “From the very beginning of their employment, people at Armchair know that we want them to have balance in their lives. Together with our small size, this lets everyone make a connection with their co-workers, making the office feel a little less like just a place of work.”
BDO USA, LLP-¨
BDO takes great strides to create, implement and sustain innovative strategies to bring out the best in their employees. BDO is the brand name for BDO USA, LLP, a U.S. professional services firm providing assurance, tax, financial advisory and consulting services to a wide range of publicly traded and privately held companies. The firm serves clients through 40 offices and more than 400 independent alliance firm locations nationwide. Providing career advice and mentoring is one method the company uses to retain top talent. “Through our Career Advising program, every employee at BDO is assigned a career adviser to provide personal and professional mentoring throughout his or her career. Career advisers are handpicked for each individual, with the aim at providing a mentor that will help meet the personal needs of each employee. The career adviser is also responsible for regular performance discussions, which includes developing career goals and providing performance feedback,” said CEO Jack Weisbaum. Each BDO employee also has access to a web-based e-learning system that provides instant access to more than 1,200 online training courses that employees can utilize to keep up with industry knowledge, develop technical skills or meet a personal professional goal. Career advisers can even assign these courses to their advisees when they feel it would be beneficial. Weisbaum concludes, “Through programs such as these, BDO continues to develop and engage our employees by providing well defined career paths and opportunities for all BDO talent.”
Conway MacKenzie Inc.
Conway MacKenzie believes in constantly recruiting their current workforce. This mission is supported through innovative employee appreciation programs such as fully stocked kitchens with breakfast and lunch staples as well as free refreshments, daily lunch delivery, an annual family outing to an amusement park, an annual holiday party for employees and their spouses and guests and various mixers throughout the year. As a restructuring and financial advisory firm, Conway MacKenzie’s mission revolves around achieving the best possible outcomes for clients in crisis. Working within the restructuring industry lends itself to stressful experiences and periods of extended hours. “The work that employees perform at Conway MacKenzie is not easy. Although the firm maintains a high standard of excellence expected of all employees, the firm has an undeniable underlying respect for the importance of family and of maintaining a perspective on what’s most important. It is this respect and perspective that acts as the foundation for the Conway MacKenzie culture and its overall basis for employee values. At Conway MacKenzie, an employee is expected to perform to the best of their abilities, whether in the office, on an engagement, at home or in their community,” said CEO Van Conway. “The culture at Conway MacKenzie can be likened to a family atmosphere. Although the firm has high expectations, the bottom line is that the management of the firm cares about the individual.”
A provider of integrated strategy, technology and marketing solutions to leading Internet-based, e-commerce companies, Digitas is a global integrated brand agency that builds active brands for some of the foremost companies in the world. The company believes strongly that it’s the ongoing encouragement, acknowledgement, praise and appreciation from leaders, managers, colleagues and clients that keeps employees motivated. “Providing recognition is good people management and good business practice. Effective managers know their people and make relevant recognition a part of their normal management practice,” said Laura Lang, CEO. “We provide our leaders with a Recognition Tool Kit where managers can quickly turn around a thank you gift (spa day, gift check, book, etc) as well as offer an employee a spontaneous day off. In addition, we take pride in how we communicate, share and receive feedback from our employees. We are a company that strives to bring creativity and inspiration into our environment, allowing employees to be themselves and have fun at work.”
Digitas boasts a culture of continual learning and growth. They have pride for growing people from within. “We encourage employees to explore ways to grow personally and professionally through various programs and initiatives. We have a full-time staff dedicated to keeping staff nurtured through the content and keeping the content timely. We take the approach of educating employees from within first and foremost, and complementing that learning with externally-based training,” said Lang.
Dodge Communications is an integrated marketing communications firm for companies in of the health care industry. This communications firm is committed to providing work life balance to all of their employees. “Dodge Communications has made a solid commitment to our own excellence and success, and our employees see that and respond to it with enthusiasm and purpose,” said Brad Dodge, CEO. “We believe one of our most important and meaningful characteristic is our emphasis on the employee work life balance. We believe it is critical to have programs in place such as telecommuting, flexible scheduling, summer hours, business casual attire and personal days that enable our employees to grow with our company and stay in the family. The importance of work life balance and making time for family and outside activities is constantly addressed by the company in an effort to support employee satisfaction.” To fulfill their mission of being the industry leader, the Dodge Communications Employee Value Proposition focuses on delivering the best opportunities to employees and retaining top talent. “We strive to offer a world class work environment, competitive compensation, and outstanding benefits programs to our employees. Add to that our strong commitment to work life balance and we believe Dodge Communications is a very desirable place to work. Our excellent employee retention is a testament to the success of our efforts. Employees at Dodge know they’re valued and appreciate it,” Dodge said.
eVestment Alliance LLC-¨
A sense of teamwork is the key to employees at eVestment Alliance LLC remaining committed to the overall success of the company. eVestment Alliance is a global provider of institutional investment data intelligence and analytic solutions. eVestment delivers extensive data through robust, user-friendly products, with an unparalleled commitment to client service. CEO, co-founder and principal, Jim Minnick said, “We promote a fast-paced, fun and exciting team-driven culture that enables an organization with a small company feel to achieve consistent, industry-leading success. The team works collaboratively in a professional, flexible small-office work environment, consistently exceeding the expectations of our clients. We have a passion for excellence and pursue this passion relentlessly in every element of our organization, and we look for similarly passionate employees who demonstrate our core company values of Innovation, Focus, Teamwork, Integrity and Humility in all that they do. We offer a healthy balance with the latitude granted to associates to govern their workday and the shared teamwork model across functional units which helps to keep employees motivated while keeping workloads manageable.” Communications is also a major focus of the company’s management style. Minnick explains, “To maintain transparent communications, regular functional team meetings serve to cultivate open discussion and to keep team members informed, and less frequent all-hands meetings provide a high-level view of overall progress while also emphasizing major wins for the organization. Informally we maintain an ongoing intranet desktop newsfeed through which any employee can update the entire organization.”
Georgia Tank Lines LLC
Georgia Tank Lines, a petroleum and chemical carrier, has drivers from all ages, races and walks of life. “The older generation is encouraged to share not only knowledge and experience, but work ethics and attitudes with their younger counterparts,” said Deborah Latham, president and CEO. “Most employees actually came to work at Georgia Tank Lines because of their knowledge of our reputation and work ethics, along with our treatment of employees as people. Our employees know that they are welcome to share ideas and solutions and that all suggestions will be considered.” The company offers all employees flexible work schedules and generous paid vacation and personal days that allow employees to deal with family, personal and religious activities. Employees are encouraged to use personal leave days not only for illness but to spend quality time with family and other activities or interests. The company also puts safety at the forefront and offers numerous training activities for employees. “The company provides each employee with extensive and on-going safety training and awareness … making them more confident in being able to do a good job in an industry that inherently has stress from outside sources such as traffic and weather conditions, along with hauling a hazardous and dangerous material. Lastly, every employee knows that the company puts every person’s safety first. First rate, well maintained equipment makes jobs easier, but it is management’s hands-on, very personal relationship with every driver that allows drivers or other employees to come to management with problems (and) ensures that their minds are on their job,” said Latham.
GolinHarris, a global public relations firm, offers its employees a wide variety of special perks and benefits; some of which are designed to be competitive and others that are unique to the agency. Some of their innovative approaches include: Golin Grants that give recipients both time and money-$1,000 and a week off-to explore something new or to get better at an existing hobby, whether it is mountain climbing in Colorado, flamenco lessons in Spain or culinary classes in Chicago; GH PhD, a program focused on high performers offering two-day session on training, mentoring and idea sharing; Al’s Day, a global community service day, and many more. “While there are many things that make GolinHarris an attractive workplace, there is one thing that we believe sets GolinHarris apart from other agencies: commitment. We are 100 percent committed to the success of our clients and our employees,” said Kathy Cosgrove, managing director, Atlanta. “We’ve established processes, policies and systems to ensure that we are able to deliver the creative, results-driven programs, executed flawlessly for our clients, and offer training and professional development programs that give employees opportunities to grow and flourish.” Cosgrove believes strongly in the talents of their employees, “Our company is filled with smart, creative, passionate people who seek to work by the principles set forth by founder Al Golin while embracing the changes in our industry. And we’re proud of that.”
Hitachi, Ltd., a business and IT strategies consulting company, supports and encourages employees to shape their own future and grow with the company. “We care about our employees in the same way that we care about our clients and we strive to provide each and every employee with a wide range of professional and personal opportunities to improve the quality of their daily life. Our employees are able to develop their careers both locally and globally across all of our service areas. They have the flexibility to align the pace of their career with their various life stages. By living the Hitachi Consulting values, and actively fostering diversity, our people make Hitachi Consulting an exciting place to work for,” said Phil Parr, president and CEO. “At Hitachi Consulting, we see our people as valuable assets, and with this in mind we strive to keep them balanced. We offer telecommunicating and flex hours, to make sure they have time to take care of their personal life. We offer training and workshops where the more seasoned consultants and managers transfer their knowledge to the younger generation.” These programs will keep their employees prepared for future success.
Jabian, an IT and management consultancy, places value on exceptional professional and educational backgrounds and also encourages an enthusiastic entrepreneurial spirit. Jabian consultants are the most important key to the firm’s success. “Ownership of company growth is exciting for consultants and individual accomplishments are rewarded frequently. There is rarely turnover. Jabian’s consultants deliver exceptional work to clients every day, and Jabian continues to earn additional project work from existing clients. As a result, we continuously recruit and hire the best from the consulting industry,” said Chris Reinking, partner. “From a professional development standpoint, employees are reviewed annually in the areas of Client Delivery, Business Development and Business Operations. Each employee has goals in all three areas based on their level and goals for advancement. Jabian consultants are equipped with the tools to be successful. They must, however, be willing to sit in the driver’s seat of their career.” When Jabian was founded in 2006, a commitment was made to maintaining a “local model” for consulting and special attention was paid to the idea of work/life balance for employees. “We work hard to get everything done during normal working hours instead of working around the clock. Jabian’s local focus and commitment to balanced work schedule allows employees to spend more time with friends and family and become involved in activities outside of work for which they have personal passion,” said Reinking.
Kelly Services Inc.-¨
Keeping company knowledge is one way Kelly Services Inc. maintains quality service for their clients. “Technology, talent and training are three areas we’ve made investments (in) to ensure the transfer of knowledge remains seamless. Whether it’s through documentation of processes or having more than one person in key roles that hold knowledge, we’ve been deliberate in planning for change,” said Carl Camden, president and CEO. Kelly Services offers outsourcing and consulting services as well as staffing on a temporary, temporary-to-hire and direct-hire basis. Putting people first is at the forefront of this firm’s human resources efforts. “Simply put, our business is people. We consult and develop strategic workforce solutions for companies around the globe. As a result of our experience, we clearly understand ‘championing your people’ is and will always be the focus of a thriving company. With the employment market constantly changing it’s crucial to listen to the pulse of your talent. By using yearly engagement surveys it helps us better understand the thoughts and ideas of our staff so we can focus on addressing feedback with career development, training, as well as mentoring and flex-time,” said Camden. “Whether it’s through career guidance, building a sense of community, commitment to diversity, inclusion, and employee growth we believe these values create an environment where our employees can thrive in their careers, and ultimately be happy with their career choice at Kelly Services.”
LeasePlan USA, the premium service provider of vehicle leasing and fleet management solutions, is in an exceptional position because their employee satisfaction has not decreased in this very challenging economic climate. Instead it is the highest it’s ever been. According to the independent company that conducts the annual employee satisfaction survey for LeasePlan, their employee engagement scores were well above the North American benchmark, which places LeasePlan in the top 10 percent. “Our employees are ‘engaged.’ We survey our employees annually because we value their input and use their feedback to implement positive changes, which make us an even better company. And the entire executive management team at LeasePlan reads every word of the surveys to find these opportunities for positive change,” said Michael A. Pitcher, president and CEO. “Our employees feel a sense of accomplishment and have pride in what they do. For example, our goals are set annually. What has made a huge impact on our employees is our stretch objective. I challenged our employees at the beginning of last year to exceed our annual financial goals with the promise of one party with both Atlanta and Chicago employees together. Because we met the stretch goal, the entire company came together for a celebratory gathering. LeasePlan paid to fly everyone from Chicago down to Atlanta for the party. And, having employees from both of our office locations under one roof to celebrate our success was truly a momentous occasion.”
Project Development Services Inc.
Since its inception in 2001, Project Development Services Inc. (PDSI), a hotel project management firm, has developed and executed hotel projects with more than $2 billion total value. Attention to detail, efficiency, economy and engineering innovations are among the hallmarks of every PDSI project. The company prides itself on putting people first. “Our priorities are our people. We want them to work to live, not live to work. Personal time and interests outside of work are encouraged; working excessive hours and coming in on the weekend are discouraged,” said Ralph C. Engelberger, founder and president. “We like to evaluate our employees’ strengths and weaknesses and leverage the strengths. This often means expanding an employee’s work activity to something that is completely outside their job description. We often find that our employees thrive when faced with new challenges outside their ordinary routine.” PDSI believes that knowledge is power. Engelberger says, “Our transfer of knowledge is a constant, ongoing process. At PDSI we are always cross training our employees. It is not uncommon to see an entry level employee visiting a job site with a vice president or an assistant project manager accompanying our president on a sales call. We often find the transfer of knowledge is more of a two way process as the younger generation brings innovative solutions to our projects and more senior employees share the benefit of their past work experience. Companywide communication is encouraged and highlighted each quarter.”
Quality Wine & Spirits Inc.
“We encourage and welcome creative contribution outside normal job responsibilities. We don’t set any limits to potential growth. We offer incentive programs offering cash bonuses, international and domestic travel that are related to business, and other bonuses throughout the year. Annual awards are given to top performers in every department at our annual Christmas party,” said Joe Best, president and CEO of Quality Wine & Spirits, Inc. The company is just as proud of its employees as it is of the products and services that it offers its customers. “We accomplish our main branding of being committed and dedicated to excellence to our partners. We have the most experienced talented staff in the industry. Like a family winery, Quality Wine & Spirits is a company with honest, fun, hard working and good individuals. Our culture that has been created here at Quality and our leaders are what drives our competitors’ desire to come and work with us,” said Best. He adds that the company has an open door policy. “We truly understand the craziness of life. We do understand that our employees have many needs outside of work. We approach and evaluate personal challenges that our employees experience and we do everything we can to accommodate with time off, financial assistance, and any other thing that might be needed.”
“At ThoughtWorks, we have shifted how we look at and talk about “quality of life” in our business. By thinking about work as a part of a fulfilling life, it instantly shifts the conversations we have with people when it comes to goals and aspirations. In addition, people come here because of the quality of people we attract. ThoughtWorkers build solid long-lasting relationships that span in and out of work,” said Trevor Mather, president and CEO. ThoughtWorks is a social and commercial community whose purpose is to revolutionize software creation and delivery while advocating for positive social change in the world. Roy Singham, the chairman, founded ThoughtWorks in 1993 to attract and employ the best knowledge workers -”ThoughtWorkers”- who would share some basic core values: attitude, aptitude and integrity. Mather adds, “Employees have the opportunity to change their roles, grow through formal learning programs, and step up to take advantage of new challenges as they arise. We encourage and believe in offering a work environment that promotes a very flexible career path. People grow as fast as they want to, so there is no pre-determined structure or model they must follow. Growth occurs by learning through ongoing mentoring, sponsoring and coaching of others. ThoughtWorks is continuing to expand at a rapid rate and our recruiters are always seeking the brightest and most talented individuals to join our team.”
WellStar Health System
WellStar, provides health care in an integrated network of hospitals, physicians’ offices and urgent care centers. The institution is committed to providing quality care to the community as well as providing a quality work environment. “Our commitment to world class health care is based on the values of caring, compassion, understanding and innovative thinking. Our ability to care for our patients with the highest level of clinical expertise is equally balanced with our devotion to showing compassion and concern for their emotional, psychological and mental well being. Our motto, ‘We believe in life well-lived’ applies not only to our patients and community, but to our employees as well,” said CEO Jim Budzinski. “WellStar has made a significant investment in family friendly benefits, work life programs, workplace flexibility options and other employee support programs to ensure their success both at work and at home. Our onsite concierge services, generous job protected time off, wellness programs, on site fitness centers, child care, back up care, elder care services, a robust discounts and tickets program are just some of the amazing programs and practices that are setting us apart from the rest,” he said. “WellStar’s single greatest asset is its workforce. Each and every employee is a valued member of the team and we believe every person is responsible for their goals and is making a difference in people’s lives. WellStar has developed a talent management strategy that focuses on hiring the best, keeping the best and taking care of the best.”