‘Metro Detroit’s Best and Brightest Companies to Work For’ Set the Bar

Even in tough times and the threat of even tougher days ahead, one thing is clear. It’s the people who work in an organization that stand out when evaluating the performance and success of a great company. Regardless of the type of place to work -“ private, public, even not-for-profit -“ few can survive, never mind thrive, without the people in place to create true value. It may be one of the greatest challenges an organization faces in times of turmoil (or even tremendous growth). The 2008 winners of “Metro Detroit’s Best and Brightest Companies to Work For” have clearly taken on the challenge, setting the bar high for the rest of us. Read on to learn more about these winning companies, which will be honored Nov. 20, 2008.

Ajilon Consulting
Industry: IT consulting
Employees: 3,302
Locations: 32
Sure, wages, benefits, challenging positions and all that good stuff is important. But for CEO Jeff Rupp says companies like Ajilon must go “above and beyond” to attract and retain employees, specifically with a culture that embraces team work and open communications. “That contributes to employee commitment, loyalty and overall satisfaction,” says Rupp, who adds: “Our reputation for communicating honestly and fairly with our employees and customers sets us apart.” In 2007, Ajilon created a field manager position, one that focuses solely on HR issues (previously staff managers did double-duty, serving clients as well as the needs of on-site staff).

First Gentleman of Michigan, Dan Mulhern (right), seen here networking with attendees, moderated a best practices case study educational session at last year’s 101 Best & Brightest event.

Amerisure Insurance
Industry: Insurance
Employees: 802
Locations: 9
CEO Richard Russell says Amerisure’s success is the result of a focus on excellence and “optimizing customer relationships through amazing service.” Several programs provide opportunities for growth and recognition, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all culture. “That will never provide the flexibility and responsiveness to our employees that we have committed to provide,” says Russell, who points to Amerisure’s Champions Through Excellence Program as a way to recognize those that meet or exceed the high standards. Winners get bonuses and attend a five-star resort conference “and get the acknowledgement they deserve for elevating their positions and impacting the company in such a positive way.”

ASG Renaissance
Industry: Professional services
Employees: 179
Locations: 4
ASG Renaissance, which prides itself on being process driven, routinely benchmarks salary and benefits. Still, open and honest communication is just as important in keeping the firm on the right track. CEO Lizabeth Ardisana is up front about how the company is doing financially, something she says “adds to the level of loyalty and buy-in we receive from our employees.” She intends to become even more successful in the years ahead. “We’ll continue building on the existing framework. Technology has played an ever-increasing role across our business; as the technology advances, we will take advantage of it to help our employees feel more connected.”

Barton Malow
Industry: Consruction
Employees: 1,515
Locations: 12
Barton Malow’s vice president of human resources, Jim Nahrgang, says a strong corporate culture is at the heart of the construction company’s ability to attract and retain employees, something that’s borne out by a regular employee opinion survey. “The high marks we consistently receive confirms that our employee relations practices are working,” says Nahrgang. Barton Malow also makes a point of highlighting employee achievements–bestowing its annual C.O. Barton Builder Award and the Ben Maibach Jr. Leadership Award. Nahrgang says he expects to see career opportunities across business units become more commonplace.

An integral part of each year’s “101 Best and Brightest” program is the opportunity to connect with people from other organizations.

BDO Seidman LLP
Industry: Professional services
Employees: 60
Locations: 37
BDO Seidman says it takes pride in hiring and developing people with exceptional skills and talent. “The nature of our market makes it imperative that we hire and recruit individuals with impact, the kind of people who will make a difference the moment they arrive-”and who flourish under our core values of competence, honesty and integrity, professionalism, dedication, responsibility and accountability,” says CEO Jack Weisbaum. That means offering an environment that respects individual needs and promotes ongoing development. As Weisbaum notes, both clients and professionals are a priority. “We set high professional standards and we recruit based on those standards.”

Beaumont Hospitals
Industry: Health care
Employees: 17,000
Locations: 75
Clearly, Beaumont’s reputation for excellence is at least one factor that not only brings people to work for the hospital chain, but keeps them there. Add in the opportunities for personal growth and advancement and it’s easy to see why Beaumont’s employee referral program is so popular. CEO Kenneth J. Matzick says building employee satisfaction is something the organization takes very seriously. “Excellence in patient care is directly related to the quality and compassion of the workforce; our ongoing training for managers and support in their role as ‘chief retention officers’ has helped us achieve steady improvement in employee satisfaction.”

Blue Care Network
Industry: Health care
Employees: 1,400
Locations: 8
Attracting and retaining people to work at the HMO subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan doesn’t come by accident. As CEO Jeanne Carlson explains, it starts with offering both professional and entry level positions, adding the growth potential and a combination of pay and first-rate employee benefits. She’s also proud of partnerships such as that with the UAW in having established and maintained the Blue Care Network reputation for quality service. Managers and other members of the leadership team play a role as well, with several tools available to recognize achievements and the extra efforts of employees.

Bridgewater Interiors, LLC
Industry: Automotive supplier
Employees: 1,460
Locations: 4
As CEO Ronald E. Hall Sr. notes, few people are more qualified to refer new employees to Bridgewater Interiors (a subsidiary of Johnson Controls) than those who already work there. “Our employees know first hand the requirements and demands of the positions,” he says. “Once an individual is hired we provide an orientation program which involves every department, which allows them to feel a part of the whole organization, not just a department.” The result is a relationship, Hall says, for which he can be proud. Spending time on the production floor gives managers and HR staff the opportunity to build relationships, which results in open communication.

Trevor F. Lauer, vice president of retail marketing for DTE Energy gave the keynote address at the event luncheon.

Cambridge Consulting Group
Industry: Insurance
Employees: 56
Locations: 3
It may not always be a big thing, but CEO Daniel A. Cornwell nonetheless takes time to congratulate employees on their achievements. “It can be from the completion of a higher learning course, to the birth of a child,” he notes. “Everything and anything is celebrated. It’s because we think of ourselves as a family, not just co-workers.” Cornwell acknowledges that change is part of any future Cambridge Consulting is likely to experience. “In five years, we will be fortunate to have more employees and we will continue to adapt to the ever changing needs of our industry and the needs of our employees.”

Clayton & McKervey, P.C.
Industry: Public accounting
Employees: 65
Locations: 1
Last year, when Clayton & McKervey was named a “Best and Brightest” company for the third time running, Managing Partner Donald Clayton decided to ask his colleagues why they thought the firm was successful. They posted the answers on an entire wall in a new office suite. In fact, one response: “You don’t have to leave Michigan to have an impact on the world” became the firm’s latest recruiting campaign. “I never miss an opportunity to let employees know how proud I am of them,” says Clayton, who adds that spontaneous celebrations “are commonplace occurrences. Fun is one of our core values.”

Industry: Communications
Employees: 50
Locations: 3
Clear!Blue lives its values–inspiration, innovation, intelligence, integrity and fun–every day. So says CEO Todd Smith. “People see that when they have a chance to meet us, visit our offices and spend time with the Clear!Blue family. Once they’ve had the chance to hang out with us socially–or to work with us on a project–they are quickly ‘adopted’ into that family.” Smith says those values, plus the sense of family, drive employee relations practices. “We always consider what’s best for the team–and for the individual team member–as often, if not more often, than we consider what is best for the company.”

Industry: Cable (phone, Internet, TV)
Employees: 300
Locations: Michigan and nationwide
David Buhl, Comcast regional senior vice president, says the company’s position as the largest provider of cable services (and one of the world’s leading communications companies) allows it to provide “tremendous opportunity for individual growth within a truly dynamic atmosphere.” The result is Comcast being able to attract employees with a genuine interest in service, he adds, crediting an ‘open door’ policy designed to promote speedy resolution of good faith concerns or problems. Add to that programs such as the “Circle of Success Awards” and it’s clear that Comcast has built promoting success and showcasing customer service excellence into its culture.

Community Choice Credit Union
Industry: Financial services
Employees: 179
Locations: 8
Ask Rob Bava how Community Choice Credit Union is able to attract and retain employees and the CEO will give it to you straight. “We get it. We know where we are going and we have good people who don’t look at ‘what do I need to do today?’ They look at ‘what can I do today that will get us to tomorrow?'” Bava is convinced a strategy that includes holding people accountable and watching them hold themselves accountable is working–and will continue to generate long-term dividends for Community Choice. “Absolutely. It will only get better.”

Community Financial
Industry: Financial services
Employees: 146
Locations: 8
With a clear-cut sense of purpose–“we exist to enhance the financial well-being of our member/owners”–CEO William Lawton says having individuals who passionately believe in and are motivated to achieve that is what drives Community Financial. “We exist for our members and feel tremendous satisfaction when we are able to help them through difficult times,” says Lawton, who says a fair and consistent approach to employees is a key part of the organization’s success. An “instant recognition” program gives team members the tools they need to support one another. “We also use monetary rewards and gifts of appreciation for a job well done.”

Computer and Engineering Services, Inc.
Industry: Consulting
Employees: 20
Locations: 2
Jay Miron, vice president of CES, points to a team environment as key to the organization’s success. He also takes the time to make sure compensation and benefits are current. “I think we do a great job in that area,” says Miron. “I think our employees feel the work they do is challenging and they feel comfortable in their work environment.” Given that the majority of the company’s in-house hires are from staff referrals, that would seem to be the case. A focus on communication is part of what makes the company successful. “When there is a problem, there’s always a breakdown in communication that preceded it.”

Computer Consultants of America, Inc.
Industry: IT staffing and services
Employees: 160
Locations: 3
Ron Pawczuk, CCI’s vice president of branch operations, says a track record of high values, integrity “and outstanding treatment of our employees” is the reason for the company’s success. With the majority of the firm’s hires being the result of employee referrals, Pawczuk says “no greater statement can be made about our company as to why we attract and retain the very best talent in the IT industry.” A series of career planning meetings covers both short-term and long-term career objectives (ranging from six months to 10-year time periods). “We provide them with guidance, training, certifications and higher education to help them meet their goals.”

Last year’s “Best Practice” session on leading by example featured presenters Ronia Kruse, Todd Lunsford, Brenda Heerdt and Rita Fields.

Industry: IT services
Employees: 6,500
Locations: 84
An investment by Compuware in its employees is something CEO Peter Karmanos Jr. says is something that generates a substantial return. “Our employees are the key to our success,” he says, pointing to an extensive list of workplace benefits, career development opportunities and an overall environment designed to retain and motivate employees. “By doing what we can to ensure the best employment experience, we demonstrate our organization’s desire to make them successful,” adds Karmanos. “Employees respond by working hard to bring value to our customers.” Even as Compuware undertakes a global rebranding initiative, projects that will significantly improve an already superior employee experience are underway.

Conlin Travel
Industry: Travel services
Employees: 50
Locations: 2
A warm and friendly environment coupled with a family atmosphere created by founder L. Thomas Conlin is what CEO Christopher Conlin is building on. “We try to keep the workplace environment pleasant and fun, and one that motivates our professional staff,” he notes. Longevity of service is something its CEO values–“not only in the industry but with the company.” In addition, an emphasis on work-life balance (and benefits that support that balance) count among the practices of which Conlin is most proud. While there’s no question the travel industry is a challenging one, Conlin continues to thrive.

Credential Check Corporation
Industry: Management consulting
Employees: 30
Locations: 1
Juggling family and work responsibilities is no easy task. For Michael A. Pachuta, president of Credential Check Corporation, the trick is to create a family focused, employee-centric environment, one that encourages a satisfying work-life balance. Employees are given the flexibility to schedule time away from the office as needed, plus Credential Check has a liberal telecommuting policy. Add in unlimited access to an onsite exercise facility and you begin to see why employees are one happy bunch. And when there are employee relations issues to address, Pachuta starts by asking himself the question: “What would a great employer do?”

DeMaria Building Company
Industry: Construction
Employees: 100-150
Locations: 2
Even in tough times, CEO Richard DeMaria says it’s critical to attract, acquire and retain key employees. “It’s as much a marketing initiative as it is a management objective,” says DeMaria. “We understand our employees are looking for a growing, successful company and we are continually working to position ourselves as an ’employer of choice.’ Our employees have a friendly, positive work environment where they can participate in the decision-making process and be part of a team where employees are recognized and rewarded for good performance, where there is good communication, and everyone shares in the enthusiasm of being part of a successful company.”

Detroit Athletic Club
Industry: Private club
Employees: 220
Locations: 1
As Executive Manager Ted Gillary explains, having a series of core values that permeates the organization creates a workplace where mutual support, personal respect and a shared desire for excellence are the standard. “There is an underlying friendship and honesty that is at the foundation of employee relations,” notes Gillary. “It expresses itself through trust and respect, which are essential values for sustaining the club in its 123rd year.” 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.

Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau
Industry: Tourism
Employees: 55
Locations: 1
How about having a culture that’s shaped by having a clear, compelling mission and vision that directs business decisions, generates customer loyalty, ignites employee passion and inspires discretionary effort? For CEO Larry Alexander, that’s the key reason for his success in attracting and retaining employees. “They go the extra mile in giving and doing their best, and they function in a spirit of partnership,” he notes. In return, there are a number of formal and informal recognition ways to celebrate staff successes, among them employee of the month awards, various sales awards and “shout-outs” via e-mail that celebrate staff achievements.

DFCU Financial
Industry: Banking
Employees: 385
Locations: 12
As CEO Mark Shobe points out, leading by example is among the most important things an organization like DFCU Financial can do to show it’s serious about excellence. “We don’t ask our people to do what we wouldn’t do ourselves,” he says. “This type of leadership builds trust and commitment to the organization and its success.” Once people follow the lead, they’re recognized in various ways, including a quarterly President’s Circle of Excellence. “These programs instill pride and motivate our staff to be the best they can be,” says Shobe. “This type of empowerment is integral to our success.”

Rita Fields of Henry Ford Health System shares her insights with Emcee Murry Feldman after receiving the Elite award for Diversity and Multiculturalism.

Industry: Advertising agency
Employees: 2.700
Locations: 21
“It’s an exciting time at Digitas,” says Tamy Harms, managing director of the Detroit office. “We’re leaders in our industry and doing cutting-edge work for renowned global marketers.” From an employee relations standpoint, that means bringing on people capable of excellent work. And keeping them in top form. “We encourage our employees to explore ways to grow personally and professionally,” says Harms. A mentoring program gives staff the opportunity to make connections and build relationships with colleagues. And there’s lots of time set aside for celebrating successes as well. “That’s a fundamental element of our culture,” says Harms.

Domino’s Pizza
Industry: Quick serve restaurant
Employees: 450
Locations: Headquarters, three regional offices, 8,671 stores worldwide
Chairman and CEO David Brandon has a simple formula for getting and keeping talent at Domino’s. “We find out how people want to be treated and then treat them that way.” Whether it’s the open-door communication policy, developmental moves or extending learning courses, Domino’s is focused on investing in its employees. They’re also recognized for outstanding performance on a regular basis, with family and friends of honorees invited to attend special awards ceremonies. And yes, there are paid bonuses when employees meet financial goals. Brandon sees bright things ahead for the pizza maker. “We work hard every day to make Domino’s Pizza an employer of choice and will continue to do so.”

DTE Energy
Industry: Utility
Employees: 10,698
Locations: 1 (headquarters)
Larry Steward, DTE Energy’s vice president of human resources, calls it a “noble” profession, one that “literally powers our economy.” Little wonder that employees have a sense of mission. They also know that the company “cares about them and their success, while also caring about the environment, our customers and our community,” notes Steward, who says “direct, frequent and persistent” communication helps employees understand how they can impact company goals. And yes, there’s lots of room for celebrating success. “It’s something that’s deeply ingrained in our culture,” says Steward, who sees even more exciting career opportunities ahead in the next five years.

Easter Seals – Michigan, Inc.
Industry: Nonprofit
Employees: 350
Locations: 17
While working with clients in the community is central to the mission of Easter Seals, it’s how that occurs that drives the culture. A work environment that includes flexible scheduling, telecommuting, 4/40 work schedules and technology to support staff as they work in the community is key to that, says CEO John Cocciolone, who adds that the next five years will include an emphasis on flexibility and adaptability will be key. “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.

Employees Only
Industry: Employee leasing
Employees: 21
Locations: 1
“It’s all about communication,” says CEO Mario D. Apruzzese when asked what makes Employees Only so successful. “We promote open and honest communication with employees and that creates a comfort level of no issue is too big or too small. All can be addressed whether the topic is personal or professional.” The company has adopted a set of core values that generate a deep sense of employee satisfaction, among them the one dealing with “Respect” of people, property and time. “We look to the ‘Golden Rule’–doing unto others as you would have them do unto you,” says Apruzzese.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car
Industry: Automotive rental
Employees: 200
Locations: 150 in Metro Detroit
When it comes to recruiting, Enterprise uses just about every source imaginable–universities and colleges, online, employee referrals and outside job fairs. And once they come on board, employees tend to stay, largely because of the real-world business experience as well as promotional opportunities and achievement events. As Chris Gould, area vice president and general manager, explains, rigorous performance standards are only part of the picture. “It’s also a reflection of their commitment and character.” The recent acquisition by the Taylor family of both National Car Rental and Alamo Rent a Car chains is likely to create even more opportunity for employee development.

Leslie Guepel of Fifth Third Bank received the Elite award for Employee Education and Development.

Industry: Marketing services
Employees: 350
Locations: 6
At ePrize, it’s a culture of innovation, passion, creativity and accountability that the company says is its single greatest competitive advantage, one that keeps team members focused on goals and happy to be part of ePrize. With an open-door policy that’s rigorously maintained, staff genuinely believe it is their responsibility to continually submit feedback. Not comfortable doing so? No worries. You can contact CEO Josh Linkner directly and anonymously. It’s that feedback that ePrize says is responsible for its continued growth–and its leadership in a promotion industry that values delighting the customer.

Ernst & Young
Industry: Professional services
Employees: 530
Locations: global
Having the opportunity to work with top talent and to have a variety of work experiences is said to be among the key reasons professionals and support staff alike choose Ernst & Young as a place to work. Jeff Bergeron, managing partner of the firm’s Detroit office, says investing in learning and mentoring initiatives is ongoing. “We share these values to attract top talent; we live these values to retain them.” While the firm’s three-prong strategy covers quality and growth, it’s people that are at the top of the list. “We believe that when our people achieve their full potential, our clients benefit and our business prospers.”

Family Home Health Services
Industry: Health care
Employees: 60
Locations: 2
As Executive Director Vicki L. Welty explains, Family Home Health’s success in employee retention is due to a collaborative workplace approach. “First, we build a unique, inviting workplace that attracts people who will further strengthen the environment,” she says. 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.

FANUC Robotics
Industry: Automation
Employees: 900+
Locations: Rochester, plus regional offices worldwide
From its inception in 1982 with just 70 employees, FANUC Robotics has grown to a firm of more than 900. 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 offshore operations. The company is a leading supplier of robotic automation in North and South America, offering more than 175 robot model variations along with the software, controls and vision products that aid in the development of state-of-the-art robotic systems.

Farbman Group
Industry: Commercial real estate
Employees: 200
Locations: 14
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
Industry: Banking
Employees: 952
Locations: 90
CEO David Girodat would be one of the first to admit the financial industry is experiencing trying times. 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.
Industry: Architecture and engineering
Employees: 365
Locations: 5
Looking for a place to work that values bureaucracy? Then you might not want to have this architecture and engineering firm on your hot list of places to work. It seems, however, that having minimal policies and procedures strikes a chord with staff, judging by the impressive retention rate. Add in an employee-ownership structure and great opportunities for development from within, plus regular communication and celebrations of staff successes and it’s clear that the firm is headed in the right direction. Oh yeah, it’s also celebrating its sixth year in a row as a Metro Detroit’s 101 Best and Brightest Place to Work.

Flagstar Bank
Industry: Banking
Employees: 3,000+
Locations: 170 (Michigan, Indiana, Georgia)
Chartered in 1987 as a federal savings bank, Flagstar provides employees with a fun, dynamic work environment. Employees find fresh challenges daily, together with the support they need to accomplish their work and advance their career. One of the key strengths is the opportunity to grow and develop through hands-on training, professional development and managerial support. Benefit plans for employees, both full- and part-time, 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.

Industry: Group benefits consulting and brokerage
Employees: 60
Locations: 3
Now a division of Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc., Gallagher/Rains has nonetheless maintained its reputation for being a great place to work, something CEO Bryan Hirn attributes both to the firm’s standing as “the most successful employee benefits consulting firm in Michigan” and the career opportunities that it creates for employees. “Our employees are our best resource when it comes to recruiting and retaining talented people,” he adds. “They enjoy working in a professional environment where we all have a high degree of respect for each other as co-workers and human beings.”

Garden City Hospital
Industry: Health care
Employees: 1,450
Locations: 2
Prospective employees who are looking for more of a family environment than the average workplace might want to head to Garden City Hospital. It’s there that multiple generations of employees have come to work with many extended families calling the 323-bed community based teaching facility their home away from home. The organization, founded in 1947 by six local physicians, has a well-earned reputation as employer and health care provider (and a repeat Metro Detroit’s 101 Best and Brightest Place to Work).

Todd Lunsford accepts the 2007 Metropolitan Detroit’s “Best of the Best” Overall award on behalf of his company, Quicken Loans/Rock Financial Inc.

Ghafari Associates
Industry: Architecture/engineering
Employees: 351
Locations: 6
Moving from a domestic to an international firm has presented more opportunity for employees, says CEO Kouhaila G. Hammer. “We have found that top talent needs to be challenged. Our capacity to consistently provide employees with new and exciting projects in different parts of the world helps us attract and keep talent.” Creativity, professionalism, teamwork, and the ability to excel are high on Hammer’s list of employee attributes that deserve recognition. Whether that comes in the form of a spot award for special achievement or an article in the company newsletter, GHAFARI is there to help staffers celebrate.

Gongos Research
Industry: Opinion and research
Employees: 80
Locations: 1
It may be a small company, but that doesn’t mean CEO John Gongos doesn’t take his time with the hiring process. “Each employee has been carefully evaluated against our core values. Our culture is vital to who we are, how we work and how we interact with each other and our clients.” With words like “bright,” “energetic,” and “comfortable” often used by employees to describe an ideal office environment, Gongos recently created such a space in its new headquarters. “Our facility, our business and our culture has been built with one thing in mind: satisfying the needs of our people–internally and externally.”

Grant Thornton
Industry: Professional services
Employees: 160
Locations: 1
With a wide range of services, including accounting as well as productivity improvement and a litany of general management services, Grant Thornton has its work cut out for it. And that means making sure it has the people in place to provide the kind of outstanding service for which it’s known. Paul V. Wolber, office managing partner, says having an “approachable, collaborative” partner group is a key factor in GT’s ability to attract and retain the best people. So is a sense of sticking with those who join the firm. “We are committed to the future of our people through a nurturing culture, educational opportunities and a variety of career choices.”

Halo Group
Industry: IT services
Employees: 94
Locations: 2
How about treating employees more like customers? That’s the idea at the Halo Group, says Brad Waite, one of the firm’s managing partners. “We focus on building a relationship with our employees by treating them as a customer, not a number.” The result, he says, is Halo Group employees feeling more like part of a team. Yes, they work hard, but they have fun as well–with all-employee meetings and fun events that include a family summer picnic, fall and spring dinner meetings and a winter holiday evening. Development is part of the equation as well, with Halo having a Core Competency Center and a Consultant Knowledge Network.

Harley Ellis Devereaux
Industry: Architecture and engineering
Employees: 378
Locations: 5
A reputation for design excellence, innovation and a culture that rewards collaboration and creativity are among the reasons CEO Dennis M. King cites for the firm’s success in attracting and retaining staff. Once people are on board, “we work hard to invest in, and support, our employees’ success,” says King. That begins with a comprehensive orientation and mentoring process. And giving them every reason in the world to stay. A commitment to communicating “with,” not “to” staff is also important to King, who cites a number of tools that are used, among them regular feedback reviews, an open-door policy, all-employee meetings and an Intranet system.

Henry Ford Health System
Industry: Health care
Employees: 22,500
Locations: 100+
With as many employees as there are at Henry Ford, having a recognition and rewards program “as diverse and unique as the employees themselves” is something CEO Nancy Schlichting says is key. Those initiatives include compensation, benefits, work-life balance and learning initiatives “that enhance our employees’ career and add value to their life away from work.” The organization works hard to give employees a choice of benefits, giving them the freedom to better meet their personal and family needs as well as achieving flexibility in work schedules. Schlichting says achieving continued growth will mean maintaining an emphasis on recruiting and retaining the very best people.

Human Capital
Industry: Staffing
Employees: 23
Locations: 4
Learning. Skill development. Career progression. They’re all key to the success of Human Capital, headed by CEO Seth Seidell. Indeed, it’s a constant focus on making sure “we as an organization go above and beyond to recognize and reward achievements and outstanding performance” that makes the firm successful. “We focus our attention on change, innovation, growth, improvement, education, experimentation, adventure and discovery,” says Seidell. “That ultimately energizes and enriches each individual and team.” Recognizing that change is inevitable, Seidell says the future will require a shift to new responses or methodologies, all of which demand the best people possible.

Huntington National Bank
Industry: Banking
Employees: 500 in Southeast Michigan
Locations: 45
Michele Symkowiak, Huntington’s regional group human resources manager,says Huntington’s goal of being “a bank invested in people” translates into “building strong relationships whether with our customers, communities or with each other.” With regular feedback and coaching of associates as part of the strategy, Symkowiak says the bank has worked hard “to create an HR environment where associates and managers seek us out in a proactive way for advice and counsel.” While she sees Huntington being more familiar in five years, Symkowiak says it will still be recognizable, given that “our value proposition, business model and culture are the right recipe.”

Identity Marketing & Public Relations
Industry: Communications
Employees: 20
Locations: 3
As head of a growing company, Paul Kesman says having a clear plan and vision for the future means being able to offer employees an opportunity to be an active contributor to that growth and to be recognized and rewarded accordingly. During regular staff meetings, individuals are recognized for their exemplary contribution; compensation is tied to the performance of the account team. Kesman’s plan five years out is to have Identity grow to between 25 and 28 staffers. More importantly, he is “committed to ensuring we keep our company a place that each of our employees enjoys calling their own.”

ImageSoft Inc.
Industry: Document management
Employees: 40
Locations: 5
CEO Scott Bade is as clear as one can get when it comes to what drives the document management and software solutions company he heads. “ImageSoft believes in integrity and fairness with every single partner, customer and employee relationship.” Bade says the firm “delights” in exceeding customer expectations. “It’s a true reflection of the culture, environment and work ethic of ImageSoft,” he adds. With a compensation and benefits program designed to attract, retain and motivate employees at all levels of the organization, ImageSoft management also understand the value of play: there are regular after-work outings and exciting, team-building activities designed to boost morale.

Industrial Control Repair
Industry: Repair and surplus equipment sales
Employees: 136
Locations: 3
Having a reputation in the industry as an ethical company that provides a quality service and product is central to this firm’s goal of being an Employer of Choice, according to Ron Nester, director of human resources. “Much of our hiring comes from word of mouth and individuals who want to work for the best,” he says. “They stick around for these same reasons.” When it comes to resolving employee relations issues, Nester says early is better. “We provide every employee with the greatest opportunity for success.” When it received Honda’s “Supplier of the Year” distinction, all employees celebrated the achievement at a luncheon.

Inergy Automotive Systems
Industry: Automotive supplier
Employees: 147
Locations: 4 in North America, 24 worldwide
Birthed with the merger of two separate companies — Plastic Omnium (based in France) and Solvay (of Belgium) — Inergy has a global footprint, with North American headquarters in Troy. As CEO Mark Sullivan explains, 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.

Industry: Social services
Employees: 225
Locations: 1

West Michigan’s
101 Best & Brightest Companies To
Work For
2008 Winners
-¢ a.j. Veneklasen, Inc.
-¢ Acoustics By Design, Inc.
-¢ Adamy + Company, P.C.
-¢ Andy J. Egan Company, Inc.
-¢ Art Van Furniture
-¢ ATEK Medical
-¢ Atwell-Hicks, Inc.
-¢ Battle Creek Health System
-¢ Baudville, Inc.
-¢ BDO Seidman, LLP
-¢ Beacon Services Inc.
-¢ Beene Garter LLP
-¢ Blue Care Network of
-¢ Borgess Health Alliance
-¢ Business Strategy, Inc.
-¢ Byron Bank
-¢ C2AE
-¢ Cintas Corporation
-¢ Clark Construction Company
-¢ Clark Retirement Community
-¢ Clipper Belt Lacer
-¢ Coldwell Banker
-¢ Comcast Cable
-¢ CompHealth Grand Rapids
-¢ Consumers Credit Union
-¢ Crowe Chizek and Co. LLC
-¢ CSM Group
-¢ Davis Dental Laboratory
-¢ Deloitte & Touche USA LLP
-¢ DVK Construction, Inc.
-¢ Easter Seals-Michigan, Inc.
-¢ Elzinga & Volkers
-¢ Enterprise Rent-A-Car
-¢ Ernst & Young, LLP
-¢ Exhibit Design Consultants
-¢ Exordium Consulting, LLC
-¢ Fifth Third Bank Western
-¢ Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr &
Huber, Inc.
-¢ Gerber Memorial Health
-¢ Grand Rapids Community
-¢ Gymco Sports
-¢ Harbor Industries, Inc.
-¢ Harold Zeigler Auto Group
-¢ Herman Miller, Inc.
-¢ Hilb Rogal & Hobbs
-¢ Holland Hospital
-¢ Hope College
-¢ HUB International Insurance
-¢ Hungerford, Aldrin, Nichols &
Carter, PC
-¢ Huntington National Bank
-¢ InterCare Community Health
-¢ Jackson National Life
Insurance Co.
-¢ Kendall Electric, Inc.
-¢ L-3 Communications
Avionics Systems, Inc.
-¢ Lake Michigan Credit Union
-¢ Landscape Forms, Inc.
-¢ Law Weathers & Richardson
-¢ Leisure Living Management,
-¢ LifeHouse Retirement
-¢ LKF Marketing
-¢ Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation
-¢ Mavcon
-¢ Mercantile Bank of Michigan
-¢ Mercy General Health
-¢ Michigan Medical, P.C.
-¢ Mika Meyers Beckett &
Jones PLC
-¢ Mill Steel Company
-¢ Miller Johnson PLC
-¢ NTH Consultants, Ltd.
-¢ Nucraft Furniture Company
-¢ OMNI Community Credit
-¢ Open Systems Technologies
-¢ OtterBase, Incorporated
-¢ Pennock Health Services
-¢ Pine Rest Christian Mental
Health Services
-¢ Plante & Moran, PLLC
-¢ Porter Hills Retirement
Communities and Services
-¢ Prima Communications,
-¢ Progressive AE
-¢ Regal Financial Group
-¢ Rhoades McKee
-¢ Rockford Construction
-¢ Saint Mary’s Health Care
-¢ Schawk, Inc.
-¢ Schupan & Sons, Inc.
-¢ Seaman’s Air Conditioning &
Refrigeration, Inc.
-¢ Service Express, Inc.
-¢ Specialty Heat Treating, Inc.
-¢ Spectrum Health Hospitals
-¢ Stahlin Enclosures
-¢ TDS Metrocom
-¢ The Campbell Group
-¢ The Rehmann Group
-¢ TowerPinkster
-¢ Triangle Associates, Inc.
-¢ Van Wyk Risk & Financial
-¢ Warner Norcross & Judd LLP
-¢ Windquest Companies Inc.
-¢ Workstage, LLC
-¢ Yeo & Yeo, PC, CPAs and
Business Consultants
-¢ Zeeland Community Hospital

Current, ongoing training in the field of residential care is part of what every JARC employee gets, along with the highest pay rate for direct care staff in metropolitan Detroit (and an excellent benefits package with no cost to employees for family health care coverage). Acknowledging the fact that having staff working in many different locations (20 group homes and a variety of independent living settings throughout the area) means working harder to establish and maintain strong bonds, something Executive Director Richard Loewenstein and his staff try to do with a strong office environment at the headquarters and a series of informative publications.

Industry: Professional services
Employees: 370
Locations: 88
When KPMG refined and set its strategic priorities for 2010 some two years ago, it began focusing 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. As KMPG chairman Timothy Flynn explains, the objective is now embedded in everything the firm does. “Every program and initiative is connected directly to our Employer of Choice strategy and is part of a larger plan to create continuous career value and forge lifetime bonds with our people–before, during and after their employment with our firm.”

McGraw Wentworth
Industry: Benefits consulting
Employees: 67
Locations: Troy
When Corp! magazine asked McGraw Wentworth CEO Thomas P. McGraw why the firm was so successful in attracting and retaining employees, he asked his staff. “McGraw Wentworth offers a stimulating, supportive environment,” said one staffer. “It’s a place where people are excited to share their knowledge and work product with each other, to help each other learn, and to help their fellow team members succeed.” A recent survey asked employees to rate the statement: “My co-workers are committed to doing quality work.” One hundred percent of respondents agreed. “We trust our employees to deliver on their commitments,” says McGraw.

Meadowbrook Insurance Group
Industry: Insurance
Employees: 225 in Michigan, 963 total
Locations: Southfield
CEO Robert Cubbin calls the opportunities for personal and professional growth at Meadowbrook “remarkable.” He also says hallmarks of integrity, leadership and vision make Meadowbrook a stable, financially secure and professional place to work. It’s also a place where open doors are the norm. “We listen to our associates and value their input,” says Cubbin. “Our commitment to fairness, diversity and ethical behavior in our business practices and interaction with our associates is another reason we are proud of our company.” A combination of service awards, spot bonuses even family picnics, baseball games and ice cream socials are among the ways Meadowbrook expresses its thanks.

Michigan Financial Companies
Industry: Financial services
Employees: 72
Locations: 3
CEO Nick J. Valenti says the culture at Michigan Financial Companies, part of the John Hancock Financial Network, is key to the company’s success. “Our culture is one where we have a group of highly professional, ethical, positive minded associates,” says Valenti. “Our success comes from the quality of people and our unique value proposition for planning and marketing support.” Communication is also important, says Valenti, referring to a newsletter that focuses on individuals as well as the growth of the firm, complemented by one-on-one sessions with associates. And while he says the firm will undoubtedly grow, “our intent is to always have a smaller company feel.”

Michigan First Credit Union
Industry: Banking
Employees: 215
Locations: 5
Offering its employees and their family 100 percent paid health benefits along with market or above market pay, plus a liberal vacation and sick policy. All of the above are key to retaining top talent, says CEO Michael Poulos. “As an advocate of helping team members maintain a positive work-life balance, we offer the flexibility to move in and out of full or part time schedules,” he adds. An onsite fitness and recreation center at the main office helps sweeten the pot. Events such as picnics and a team appreciation dinner keep employees motivated, as do discretionary bonuses for top performers, something Poulos says will continue long into the future.

MidWest Financial Credit Union
Industry: Banking
Employees: 73
Locations: 5
Putting “the right person in the right position” is how CEO Mike Stevens describes the way MidWest Financial Credit Union operates. “We attempt to promote from within whenever possible and we offer competitive salary and benefits, also giving employees the opportunity to make decisions and take full ownership of their jobs.” Recognition is very much a local focus, with each branch having a place for colleagues to post notes and an annual dinner where staff are recognized for outstanding performance. While changes may occur as time goes on, one thing that won’t is “our commitment to our employees,” says Stevens.

Mill Steel Company
Industry: Steel fabrication
Employees: 120
Locations: 2
This family owned business retains top talent “because we treat top talent the way they want to be treated,” says Tom Stanfield, director of people development. “We treat every employee as an individual, having individualized needs, and we take a customized approach to provide flexibility in the work environment.” Stanfield says the company recognizes just how important development and education is to the ongoing success of the firm. “Without the right number of people, all focused on the execution of the annual and long-range business plan, our business will fail.” Recent growth has resulted in new opportunities to help employees balance home life and career, he adds.

MiPro Consulting
Industry: IT consulting (PeopleSoft)
Employees: 30
Locations: 4
CEO Christopher Bishop has no illusions as to what MiPro Consulting really provides. “Our product is our employees’ skills and talent. 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.” Along the way, Bishop and his team have been able to do away with much of the bureaucracy and politics. “I am proud that we can afford to be innovative, that we listen to our employees and hear what they want and what is important to them, rather than just offer cookie-cutter solutions.”

MTU Detroit Diesel
Industry: Diesel engines
Employees: 300
Locations: 4
It may be a relatively young company, but the number of employees and its revenue has doubled in a short timeframe, says CEO Matthias Vogel. With dynamic growth has come “great responsibility and challenge” that has attracted and retained employees “who wish to act and think like entrepreneurs.” MTU Detroit Diesel has adopted employee relations practices that are based on trust and respect. “We believe this is foundational and only enhances our core value of conducting business with integrity and honesty,” says Vogel, who sees continued growth in the years ahead. “We’ve created a solid foundation.”

Neighborhood Service Organization
Industry: Nonprofit
Employees: 350
Locations: 6
Attitude starts with the leadership of an organization and that’s certainly the case with Neighborhood Service Organization, where employees care about helping individuals and the community where they live and work. “Leadership is truly passionate about making a difference,” says CEO Sheilah P. Clay, who adds that recognition is high on her list of priorities. “Every year, we recognize all our employees by hosting a breakfast, which is also a way to recognize those who have committed to making a difference in the lives of consumers, clients and those most in need throughout our community.” Clay uses a “CEO Flash Report” to celebrate employee success.

Nemeth Burwell, P.C.
Industry: Law firm
Employees: 28
Locations: 1
Co-owner Patricia Nemeth points to the law firm’s current employees and its reputation for success as key ingredients in its ability to attract and retain employees. “Our current employees act as our ambassadors and tell prospective job seekers what it is like to work for our firm,” says Nemeth, who founded the practice in 1992 (and changed the name in 1998, four years after she welcomed Linda Burwell to the firm). And success begets success. “Because other firms are contracting or merging, applicants with a passion for labor and employment law want to come to work for us because they know there is a substantial amount of employment work available.”

Industry: IT services
Employees: 45
Locations: 5
CEO Duane Tursi says focusing on people, tools and processes gives Netarx the ability to attract key employees. Once they’re on board, it’s the open door policy that helps keep them around. “We also take pride in the amount of group activities we do outside the office,” says Tursi of a list that includes Tigers games, picnics and walleyball. 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.

New Horizons Computer Learning Centers of Michigan
Industry: Training
Employees: 250
Locations: 9
A strategic hiring process is cited by CEO Mark McManus Jr. as among the key reasons for New Horizons’ success in attracting and retaining employees. Starting with an internal request for candidates means existing staff have the first crack at any opportunities. “Our philosophy is that the hiring process must indicate a complementary match between the candidate and the company,” says McManus. The company has embraced its core value of having a “commitment to employee development and growth” by hiring its own corporate trainer. “Retaining employees is just as important as attracting them,” says McManus, who says New Horizons will continue working hard in that area.

Industry: Logistics
Employees: 165
Locations: 3
Founder and CEO Scott Taylor says it’s NLM’s open environment that’s most responsible for the third-party logistics provider being able to attract and retain employees. That includes being able to instill a family atmosphere throughout the company. With a commitment to Detroit’s inner-city neighborhood (where it’s been located since its inception), NLM supports various community initiatives, notably those involving education. Indeed, the company works with Detroit schools to provide logistics curriculum taught by experts in the field. At the company, employees are promoted from within wherever possible and are soon to be provided with the option to work remotely.

NTH Consultants
Industry: Infrastructure and environmental engineering
Employees: 250+
Locations: 8 (including headquarters in Farmington Hills)
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.
Industry: Health care
Employees: 9,159
Locations: 4 acute hospitals, 40 outpatient facilities
Given CEO Brian Connolly’s belief that it’s employees that make Oakwood a great place to work, it makes sense to put the emphasis on the hiring process. “It’s important to hire people who know about our values and can live them through their work,” says Connolly. “If our people like the people they work with and feel like Oakwood is a part of their lives, our patients benefit from that positive spirit and passion.” Even in looking to the future, Connolly says employees are the key. “People who know and believe in our value system will be the driving force behind achieving our goals.”

OpTech, LLC
Industry: IT consulting and business solutions
Employees: 94
Locations: 5
As CEO Ronia Kruse explains, OpTech’s stature as a “very flat organization” means being able to operate in a way that is conducive to having an open and informative communication channel with employees. “The creativity of employees is strongly encouraged and is the direct result of our continued success,” she notes. Using a combination of cash rewards and unique gifts (such as trips or electronics), OpTech rewards employees and teams for exceptional performance. “We will continue enhancing our technical service offerings into the government and service sectors,” says Kruse. “Employees can continue to expect the benefits outlined in the OpTech Advantage along with more career growth opportunities.”

Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment, Inc.
Industry: Engineering
Employees: 170
Locations: 4
This civil engineering firm has been able to successfully create and maintain a friendly, family atmosphere since its inception in 1962, when it was formed to act as consulting engineers for the city of Livonia. Clearly, its leadership, including President Russell Gronevelt, understands how important staff are to its ongoing success. “Our 10-year strategic plan includes a people strategy as one of the primary tools to grow the firm,” he notes. “Our leadership feels that we have such a talented workforce that we must pursue additional revenue in order to provide satisfying opportunities to our staff members.”

OtterBase, Inc.
Industry: Staffing
Employees: 56 (internal), 420 (external)
Locations: 6
A team culture? Joe Saad, vice president of OtterBase, says it’s the number one reason the company has been able to attract and retain employees. “We believe in the empowerment of our people and allow them the autonomy to work, make decisions and be successful in their own way but for the betterment of the group,” he says. “We have always believed if we recruit successful people regardless of their personal background, additional talented candidates will be naturally drawn into our organization.” Saad says OtterBase creates contests “in which our people can work together while never losing sight of the need for individual celebration.”

PCGCampbell Marketing and Communications
Industry: Communications
Employees: 116
Locations: 2
David Scheinberg is quick to call PCGCampbell “a fun place to work.” The CEO is also clear: “It’s also a challenging place to work.” With local and national clients to serve, “there’s always that challenge to be ahead of the curve when it comes to best practices. That’s a great challenge, but a great opportunity for our employees as well.” Scheinberg says he’s proud of the fact that the culture at PCGCampbell “embraces the thought that work-life balance is important. A lot of companies say that, but we truly practice it.” Spot bonus programs are part of the rewards system, but company outings and charitable efforts that all employees can participate in are part of the excitement as well.

Peoples State Bank
Industry: Banking
Employees: 158
Locations: 11
With deep roots in Michigan, Peoples State Bank strives to make things personal–with customers and employees. Coming up on its 100 years in business in 2009, the firm is not shy about its need to continue to gather feedback on its performance, says CEO Michael J. Tierney. “We use feedback from our regular meetings with associates as 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 in a not-so-serious way. “We have fun at it with contests and employee events where we celebrate individual and team accomplishments.”

Plunkett Cooney
Industry: Law firm
Employees: 320
Locations: 11
“From a recruiting perspective, it’s all about meaningful work.” So says CEO Henry B. Cooney of the law firm. “We deliver on the promise to employment candidates that they will be engaged from day one with meaningful work. For example, junior attorneys don’t toil away their first years at Plunkett Cooney tucked away in a research library. Instead, they work alongside partners on actual assignments, attend client meetings, appear in court or other proceedings and otherwise get involved substantively in matters and transactions.” A combination of spot awards and featuring employee accomplishments helps recognize individual achievements.

R.L. Polk & Co.
Industry: Research
Employees: 1,300
Locations: 14
While the products and services R.L. Polk provides (automotive information and marketing solutions) are important, CEO Stephen Polk is clear: “Our people are every bit as important. We believe every position plays a vital role in the company’s success and that starts with having success in attracting and retaining employees.” Having a people-driven approach is key, he adds. Regular company outings for employees and families include Tigers games or treks to the Detroit Zoo, although employees get to vote on the event location. Stephen Polk, who says the company is transforming the way it operates, will do so by continuing to leverage its employee resources to achieve success.

Sachse Construction & Development Corp.
Industry: Construction
Employees: 100+
Locations: 1
Training is a big part of Sachse Construction & Development’s success, says CEO Todd Sachse. That, along with a set of shared values that all employees embrace, and you begin to see a firm that’s more about human interaction than it is about building stores for Walgreen’s, Home Depot or McDonald’s, three of Sachse’s many clients. Recognition comes in the form of a special “Perfect Project Closeout” award that goes to members of an individual team. Emphasis is placed on the concept of “raising the bar,” something Sachse says is deeply ingrained in company culture. “This is the ultimate drive for our organization, looking for ways to improve everything.”

Service Express, Inc.
Industry: Technology servicing
Employees: 128
Locations: 12
“We have a great story,” says CEO Ron Alvesteffer. Only if you consider 20 percent annual revenue growth for the last 10 years to be significant, along with a 98 percent customer retention rate. Oh, and Service Express has been a “101 Best and Brightest” winner for the last four years. Hiring is key to that, says Alvesteffer. “We have a structured, multi-step interviewing process and carefully select our new hires according to their talents.” When they’re on board, the journey continues. “We have excellent training programs and we work to provide opportunities for individuals to grow and pursue their goals.”

Shazaaam! PR & Marketing
Industry: Communication
Employees: 11
Locations: 1
CEO Adrienne Lenhoff 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.”

Industry: Construction and development
Employees: 200 (Southfield)
Locations: 3 (including Midwest division)
This worldwide construction and development services firm has much to offer employees, says Kirk Frownfelter, executive vice president and area general manager. Whether it be the significant programs it has in place for career development (a “Great Boss” program and 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. “It is our philosophy that when we work together as a team and with a culture of inclusion, we can achieve even more for our clients,” says Frownfelter.

Soil and Materials Engineers, Inc.
Industry: Environmental and related consulting
Employees: 210
Locations: 8
CEO Mark Kramer doesn’t pull any punches. “We are extremely selective in our recruiting and hiring practices,” he notes. “But once they’re on board, we pay close attention to our team members and their development.” Even as technology advances rapidly, SME takes the time and effort to stay personal. “We continue to believe that personal contact and relationship building will yield the highest quality results in recruiting,” says Kramer. A finder’s fee program offered to former co-op students helps continue to feed SME with quality candidates. And then come the interviews. “We spend as much time assessing the character of each candidate as we do evaluating technical expertise,” notes Kramer.

Spalding DeDecker Associates, Inc.
Industry: Civil engineering
Employees: 103
Locations: 3
With nearly every employee having an equity interest in the company (through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan), Spalding DeDecker has taken employee relations to what might be its ultimate level–they’re owners. It’s that culture that drives the firm, says CEO David A. Lakin. “The profits of the company are entirely received by our owners and returned to the employees through enhanced benefits, excellent training and facilities and bonuses.” Lakin says that translates into growth for the firm. “We are growing geographically and quickly rebounding from the impact of our area recession,” he says. “We anticipate that our culture will continue as is, only across a broader area and with additional employees.”

StaffPro America, Inc.
Industry: Staffing
Employees: 5
Locations: 1
As CEO Lesley Delgado explains, hiring at this staffing company is key. “We’re proud of the fact that we hire the whole person, not just an individual’s technical abilities. This is so critical because it takes into account an individual’s overall attitudes and values as well as their technical skills.” The results, she says, speak for themselves. “This has helped our company soar to new heights because we know people volunteer the best parts of themselves and they do it in places where they are treated right.” Delgado says the firm celebrates small wins with staff. “It lets them know that we are thinking about them.”

Starcom MediaVest Group
Industry: Communications
Employees: 5,300
Locations: 100 offices in 67 countries
Ranked 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 plus 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.
Industry: Staffing
Employees: 1,600
Locations: 21
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.”

TAC Transportation
Industry: Staffing
Employees: 51
Locations: 3
Last year the company was known as TAC Automotive. But while the name is different, CEO Bob Badavas says the commitment to treating employees as owners remains. “They are given a full buy-in opportunity to suggest improved and better ways to do their jobs and they work in a solid, comfortable environment where the best resources are provided for them.” Perhaps more importantly, staff are treated as professionals. “We share our ideas across the board,” notes 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.”

TDS Metrocom
Industry: Telecommunications
Employees: 35
Locations: 32
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 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.”

The Bower Companies
Industry: Management holding
Employees: 28
Locations: 1
As the plural in his company’s name would suggest, John Bower leads three separate firms–Serpeo (a professional employer organization), Expert Care (which provides non-medical home care staffing) and Express Pros, a staffing company. The common principle for all three: Bower’s commitment “to doing the right thing in all situations.” He’s also quick to admit that improvement is something to be pursued. “No matter how well we are doing, we can always do better with employee relations,” says Bower. “In five years, we hope to be a larger organization but not by sacrificing our winning culture for growth.”

The Epitec Group
Industry: Staffing
Employees: 300
Locations: 2
Epitec Group CEO Jerry Sheppard says his company’s level of “engaged recruiting ability” is unmatched in the industry. “We help employees navigate through what can be a difficult economic landscape towards the right opportunity with the right client,” he adds. “Employees are committed to Epitec because we have earned their trust for the future.” As Sheppard explains, the company is committed to a personalized employee relations approach. “We bring respect, care and information into each interaction with our employees.” A customized compensation and benefits package, alternative workspaces, flexible work hours and 24/7 access to an employee Web portal that includes access to a full service support team helps round out the experience.

The Nailco Group
Industry: Beauty supply wholesale and retail
Employees: 265
Locations: 26
Being engaged. That’s the phrase CEO Larry Gaynor uses to describe his company’s success. “Our strategy is to be fully engaged and to fully engage our customers.” Gaynor says having been able to create an honest and ethical culture is at the heart of the firm’s employee relations practices. “People know that our policies and procedures will be followed consistently every time. This offers them a secure working environment.” A series of recognition tools, notably the “Rebel” awards and a complementary “Going the Distance” card that employees can use to recognize co-workers, is part of the mix. Looking ahead, Gaynor says the company will maintain its momentum, but with a view to further improve the workplace environment.

The Rehmann Group
Industry: Public accounting and consulting
Employees: 550
Locations: 12
At the top of the firm’s list of core values is perhaps the most important: Put People First. CEO Steve Kelly says “every decision we make and action we take is built on these values.” Included in the list is “Be Obsessed with Client Success,” “Cultivate Business Wisdom,” “Embrace an Entrepreneurial Spirit,” and “Exhibit Unwavering Integrity.” The values are played out in an open door policy “where associates are not only allowed, but encouraged, to talk to any manager or principal if they have a question or problem.” Kelly points to the firm’s “Value Certificate” brand of recognition as working to create an atmosphere worth cultivating. “We don’t take people for granted,” he adds.

The Taubman Group
Industry: Real estate management and development
Employees: 626
Locations: 23
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 bring 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
Industry: Construction
Employees: 100
Locations: 46 throughout U.S.
With initiatives that include a specialized training Intranet (Turner Knowledge Network), Steven R. Berlage, the firm’s vice president and general manager, says it’s no wonder Turner Construction is a leader in its field. “We empower employees to take charge and reward them for being directly responsible for producing results,” he adds. Still, it takes work to accomplish, something Berlage says has a lot to do with keeping in touch. “Reliable, continuous communication is essential in managing a professional staff.” So is training, which is something that Berlage says will continue to grow at Turner, “especially as a new generation of employees joins our company.”

UHY Advisors MI, Inc.
Industry: Professional services
Employees: 140
Locations: 3
Anthony Frabotta, who leads the firm’s Michigan presence, says offering employees the opportunity to control their own destiny within a positive and growth oriented environment is among the most compelling reasons for UHY Advisors’ success in attracting and retaining its key people. While accountants might not best be known for their joviality, there’s still lots of opportunity to have some fun within the work environment–management takes teams out to movies or other events. “They have the flexibility to celebrate with employees as they see appropriate on the spot,” says Frabotta, who sees that same flexibility growing as technology continues to advance.

University of Michigan Health System
Industry: Health care
Employees: 18,298
Locations: 3 hospitals, 40 health centers, 120 outpatient clinics
Last year, the University of Michigan Health System admitted more than 43,000 people and handled more than 1.6 million clinical visits. With a medical school and nursing school under its umbrella, the organization is responsible for the education and treatment of many of the state’s medical professionals. The University of Michigan Medical School was the first in the nation to own its own hospital, among the first major medical schools to admit women and the first major medical school to teach science-based medicine.

Variant Partners
Industry: Professional recruitment
Employees: 23
Locations: 1
A family business based in Ann Arbor, Variant Partners has nonetheless built a sophisticated support environment that continues to evolve as it caters to the individual needs of employees. “We have a true interest and desire to provide the support people need to achieve their goals in a warm family style environment,” says CEO Rosemary Sarafa. Bringing a management style that focuses on “fair’ but not necessarily equal is part of what makes Variant stand out. “Performance, personal circumstance and what people want are factored into how we adjust their job for them,” says Sarafa. “For some aspects, one size just does not fit all.”

Visiting Nurse Association of Southeast Michigan
Industry: Health care
Employees: 285
Locations: 1
The organization, headed by CEO Kathleen Holycross, provides a variety of services, notably home health care, hospice, corporate wellness and immunizations. But it’s demonstrating value for employees that is at the heart of everything Visiting Nurse does. “If you are looking for a career where you can apply your skills, contribute ideas and above all want to make a difference, then you need look no further,” notes Holycross. Clearly, there’s an emotional payback to working with the organization. “VNA caregivers and support staff have touched people’s lives throughout Metro Detroit, and have, in turn, received immeasurable personal satisfaction.” Employees can take comfort in being “part of a living history where miracles happen daily.”

Wade Trim Associates, Inc.
Industry: Civil engineering
Employees: 157 (422 in U.S.)
Locations: 3 (Metro Detroit), 20+ throughout U.S.
CEO Doug Watson says taking a close look at Wade Trim employees will reveal much about the organization, especially its supportive culture. “We are valued by clients for our infrastructure solutions and enjoy contributing to the communities we live and work in,” he notes. As far as recruiting and retaining employees, Watson says the firm has done its homework. “We pay the entry fee to get great people in the door–interesting work, good compensation and excellent benefits. We keep them for these same reasons and more.” The “more” includes treating staff with respect and giving them “significant autonomy” in their positions.

Industry: Construction
Employees: 650
Locations: 8 (U.S., Mexico, Romania, Canada)
As any good contractor knows, having the right tools in place is critical. For CEO John Rakolta Jr. those include career and development programs, extensive training, mentoring, personalized development planning and learning lunch sessions, as well as achievement awards and a series of top of the line communications tools. Training is high on Rakolta’s agenda. “Continual learning is the hallmark of our culture and provides a pathway for career development within the company.” As far as the future is concerned, Rakolta says expanding into new markets “with lean construction as the cornerstone of our work” will continue. “That means more opportunities for advancement and enhanced training techniques.”

Warner Norcross & Judd LLP
Industry: Law firm
Employees: 423
Locations: 6
It may be unusual in a modern law firm, but as Douglas Wagner, managing partner at Warner Norcross & Judd, explains, “the foundation for our reputation is a culture and compensation system that fosters high levels of cooperation and teamwork.” That also means being flexible. “We attempt to provide an environment that meets the diverse needs of the individuals working for the firm,” adds Wagner. Part of that is recognizing there isn’t ‘one best way’ to manage people. “We hire individuals with different strengths, abilities and personal demands then try to provide them with what they need, when they need it, so they can commit to give the firm and our clients their best possible efforts.”

WOW! Internet-Cable-Phone
Industry: Telecommunications
Employees: 260 in Michigan; 1,300 total
Locations: 3 in Michigan; 15 total
Forget about other forms of marketing. As far as CEO Colleen Abdoulah is concerned, it’s the happy employees at WOW! (Wide Open West) that are “our best advertising for both extraordinary customer service and the company as an employer.” Indeed, many of the company’s new hires come from employee referrals (and customers who learn about the firm from employees). From a foundation that includes the core values of respect, integrity, accountability and servanthood, WOW! has developed a “consistent and persistent” rewarding-performance culture, says Abdoulah, who adds that feedback comes via focus groups, organizational surveys, employee meetings and team feedback.

Xede Consulting Group, Inc.
Industry: IT consulting
Employees: 60
Locations: 1
Inviting? How about making it “an invitation to think”? That’s how CEO John Birgbauer describes the proposition Xede makes to new employees. With a continuous learning environment in place, thought-leaders get to share ideas and explore new technologies and tools, all the while working for a company where red tape is eschewed. “If something needs to get done or get purchased, we say ‘just do it,'” notes Birgbauer. Still, it’s the caliber of people that remains the number one tool available to the firm. “Xeders are intelligent, professional, confident, articulate and problem solvers. Who wouldn’t want to surround themselves with these kind of people on a daily basis?”