National 101 Best and Brightest Winners Set Standard for Success

When it comes to business in America, clearly a few find themselves rising to the top, especially when it comes to how attractive they are from an employee perspective.

And even among the “Best and Brightest” there are a few standout €”companies and organizations deserving of the Elite stature.

Why the celebration?

One key reason is to have set the bar for others to follow, to emulate what works when it comes to this highly competitive field.

People are, after all, a uniquely special asset. The smartest managers and owners know this and, yes, they do something about it.

One such enlightened individual is Tom Gimble, whose Chicago-based LaSalle Network uses a uniquely collaborative effort to achieve better placements for his clients. “It’s our way of instituting a human element into all that we do, which helps us achieve maximum output and employee retention.

Not to mention staying one step ahead of his competition.

But even business isn’t all business.

Firms like Omron Automation and Safety, based in Schaumburg, Ill., as an example, live out their core values like “working for the benefit of society” €”for those in their community who could use a little help.

Omron employees spend at least some of their weekends doing just that, reaching out to organizations like Little City, a foundation that provides help, hope, dignity and love to children with disabilities.

Companies like EY (Ernst & Young) and the employees in its Chicago office tend to make a big deal about learning, making the point that the quality of service to its clients can only be as good as the skills knowledge and abilities of the people who work there.

That strategy includes having created its own “university” EYU €”where a wealth of knowledge, continually updated, brings new levels of consistency, purposefulness and inclusiveness to EY’s development efforts.

At Assurance, a Chicago-based insurance agency, the emphasis is on employee appreciation.

“We believe our employees are working hard every day and it’s up to us to find unique and creative ways to recognize them,” says chief marketing officer Steven Handmaker, who adds that handwritten notes from senior management are among the “timely” recognitions that have gained popularity at the firm.

At VW Credit, where inclusivity is a standout value, the workforce is remarkable in its diversity, even to insiders like HR manager Randy Viola. “Coming here was like being at the United Nations,” he remarked about his arrival nearly 25 years ago.

A diversity committee established about 10 years ago has made the VW Credit workforce even more diverse as a result.

But even hard workers need a life outside the office.

At Care Communications, CEO Leslie Fox leads the charge in that direction. “We have a passion for helping clients solve their most pressing health information management and data quality issues, but we’re equally passionate about being fully present with our families and living healthy lives in balance.

A Chicago “Best of the Best” winner in the small business category is Fusion OEM, where CEO Craig Zoberis says talent acquisition is not only important but also critical to his firm’s success.

“My presumption is that we’re doing more than just paying our people well,” he notes. “It’s a really tough market in which to hire young, talented manufacturing people for that reason alone we try to create a culture and an atmosphere where new ideas can help us move forward.”

In Atlanta, small business winner American Global Logistics, a provider of specialized logistics solutions led by CEO Chad Rosenberg, credits employees for any success the firm has achieved. “They are the true backbone of our organization.”

And in Houston, where Jennifer Dean launched her Dean’s Professional Services firm some 20 years ago, treating people who might otherwise be called “employees” as “clients” is just part of what Dean and her daughter Tiffany Dean-Wright says is just the way they choose to operate.

“We want to be of service to our employees and we do whatever we can do to help them succeed. We are a business that makes a profit, but we want to help our employees.”

In Metro Detroit, the pattern of doing the right thing continues, notably with organizations like Henry Ford Health System, one of the area’s largest providers, where communication and shared vision are key.

This pattern of overall excellence continues in West Michigan, notably at organizations like Kalamazoo-based Southwest Michigan First, which assists companies in growing jobs.

“A well-paying job makes a positive impact for generations to come,” notes the firm’s website. “The community’s future depends on local companies’ ability to grow, be competitive and change with the times. Our experience in working with companies of all sizes from Fortune 500 companies to eight-person tool-and-die shops to bioscience R&D labs to large business service centers has proven invaluable time and time again. Our commitment is to growing companies, which we believe are the future.

Drum roll please. The Top Three Elite Winners nationwide of the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For awards are the following:

Small Business: Elzinga & Volkers, Holland, Mich.

Medium Business: FONA International, Geneva, Ill.

Large Business: United Shore Financial Services LLC, Troy, Mich.

Join us in celebrating these standout companies.


National Best & Brightest Winners

Accruent LLC


Acoustics By Design, Inc.


Advanced Resources


Allied Business Services, Inc.


American Academy of Pediatrics


Andy J. Egan Company


AnnieMac Home Mortgage


Applied Imaging


Ashley Ellis




Baudville, Inc.




Bellwether Enterprise Real Estate Capital LLC




Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan


Brown & Brown of Detroit


Burwood Group Inc.


Care Communications, Inc.


Carson City Hospital


Celergo LLC


Centre Technologies


City of Atlanta


College Works Painting


Community Counseling Centers of Chicago


Computerized Facility Integration, LLC


Consumers Credit Union


Conway MacKenzie, Inc.


Coretek Services


Cram Crew


Credit Acceptance


Crowe Horwath LLP


CSM Group Inc.


CTS, Inc.


DASE Consulting


Daugherty Business Solutions


DFCU Financial




Dodge Communications


Educational Data Systems Inc (EDSI)


Elzinga & Volkers Construction Professionals


Employer Flexible


Enesco, LLC


Epitec, Inc


EVC Scottsdale


Express Employment Professionals


Farbman Group

FONA International, Inc.

Foundation Financial Group


Gables Residential




G-Force Shipping


GiftCard Partners, Inc




Grand Rapids Label Company


Greeley & Hansen


Greenleaf Hospitality Group


Greenleaf Trust


Harley Ellis Devereaux


Holland Hospital


Honigman Miller Schwartz & Cohn, LLP


Hotze Health & Wellness Center


HUMANeX Ventures


IfbyPhone, Inc.




ImageSoft Inc.


Impact Networking, LLC


Inergy Automotive Systems


Inktel Direct, Corp.


Jumpstart for Young Children




Kelco Industries


Keystone Resources, Inc.


Kuraray America Inc.


LaSalle Network


Law Weathers & Richardson PC


Level One Bank


Life EMS Ambulance


LNE Consulting, Inc.


Marquette General Health System


McGraw Wentworth, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC


Medical Research Consultants (MRC)


Metro Health Hospital


Michigan Office Solutions


Mill Steel Company


MSU Federal Credit Union


Mutual Trust Financial Group


National Futures Association


NCSA Athletic Recruiting


Nemeth Burwell PC


Noah Consulting LLC


Now Health Group Inc. (Now Foods Inc.)


Obsidian Technical Communication


Omni One


On Deck Capital

OpTech, LLC

PBD Worldwide




PM Environmental Inc.


Porter Hills Retirement Communities & Services


Potestivo & Associates, PC




Professional Benefits Services Inc.


Prominence Advisors


Rise Interactive


Ryan LLC


Schechter Wealth Strategies


Schupan & Sons, Inc.


Sears Hometown & Outlet Store, Inc.


Seco Tools Inc.


Service Express, Inc. (SEI)


Shoemaker Financial


Shop Smart LLC


Shure Incorporated


Skanska USA


Sonoma Partners, LLC


Southwest Michigan First


Spartan Stores


Spot Trading, LLC




SWC Technology Partners, Inc.


Takeda Pharmaceuticals, USA, Inc


Taylor’s Special Care Services, Inc.


Team TAG


The Comprehensive Group


The Intersect Group


The Marketing Store


The Taubman Company


The University of Michigan Athletic Department


UHY Advisors MI, Inc.


Underground Elephant


United Shore Financial Services




w3r Consulting




Walker Marketing & Consultants


Wesco Inc.


WOW! Internet, Cable & Phone


Xcution, Inc.


Elite Award Winners – Chicago

Compensation, Benefits and Employee Solutions

FONA International Inc.

Geneva, Ill.

One thing is certain: A prospective employee looking at FONA International as the place where they want to build a career won’t have compensation and benefits as a reason to look elsewhere. The company, which has made its livelihood on the design and manufacture of flavors FONA in short for Flavors of North America Inc. €”is nothing if not serious about providing its team members with the best possible combination of pay and benefits, all wrapped up in a package that would be hard to rival anywhere. Beginning with a culture that incorporates a customer-centered and growth-oriented approach to doing business in a high ethical and moral manner, the company has built on that foundation with one of the best health care, financial and personal benefits programs available anywhere. Even aside from the traditional “buffet” that gives members of the FONA team the security that allows them to focus on the job without concern about their welfare or that of their family members, there are a variety of “extras” €”notably a fitness center, flexible scheduling, employee referrals, a hot lunch program and extensive training and development opportunities to name just a few.

Employee Enrichment, Engagement and Retention

LaSalle Network

When a then 26-year-old Tom Gimble launched LaSalle Network in 1998, it was with the idea of leveraging his experience in sales and marketing at both national and local service organizations into the first Chicago area provider of employment solutions to the accounting and finance industry. Today, LaSalle is a $33-million powerhouse that uses a team-based approach in an industry that not especially known for its innovation. Gimble says the firm’s results speak for themselves. “Our collaborative effort results in better placements and better service,” he notes. “Innovative programs are our way of instituting a human element into all that we do, which helps us achieve maximum output and employee retention.” That, he says, keeps LaSalle one step ahead in the changing marketplace for discovering the finest talent in Chicagoland.

Community Initiatives

Omron Automation and Safety

Schaumburg, Ill.
When one of your core values is “working for the benefit of society,” reflecting that through community initiatives is simply a natural extension at Omron Automation and Safety. One of those was a project with Little City, a 50-year-old Chicago-based foundation that provides help, hope, dignity and love for children with disabilities. Employees reached out with tasks such as outdoor raking, weeding, and cleaning patio areas and landscaping around one of the organization’s homes, freeing up staff to spend more time with Little City residents. A year ago, Omron employees reached out to another organization, Harbour Inc., which provides emergency shelter and services to youth in crisis. In this case, Omron team members helped decorate a bedroom at the shelter, earning a much welcome smile of surprise from the resident when she returned. And then there’s the “Omron home” for Habitat for Humanity, supported by a $50,000 corporate donation with the condition that the work be done exclusively by Omron employees, their friends and families. With an employee-based Community Outreach Team looking for ways to continue the tradition of service, Omron is building a legacy of help and hope, fueled by a company policy that provides eight hours of paid leave for employee participation in various projects.

Employee Education and Development

EY (Ernst & Young) LLP

Learning is a big deal, a very big deal at EY’s Chicago office (as it is worldwide). And for good reason: its service to clients can only be as good as the skills, knowledge and abilities of the people who work there. Having created its own “university” EY’s ongoing learning initiative includes bringing the experiences, coaching and course work its people need to reach their potential. EYU also brings a new level of consistency, purposefulness and inclusiveness to the firm’s development efforts, its goal being to help ensure everyone at EY have a development plan that provides them with the right learning, experiences and coaching they need to achieve their potential. Indeed, with its own “home space” on the company’s Intranet, the highly user-friendly portal provides extensive guidance and resources, including learning and experience maps for each role in the organization as well as an in-depth section on coaching that includes practical tips, real-life coaching conversation starters and more. Leadership at the organization has also created an infrastructure that includes the role of “counselor,” typically managers or partners who are paired with other employees to assist with all areas of career development. At an even broader perspective, EY sees on-the-job training as critically important to the development of its team members, encouraging the development of individual learning plans, support through coaching and mentoring relationships.

Recruitment, Selection and Orientation

Greely and Hansen LLC

With a 100-year history of success in serving the needs of water and wastewater clients throughout the country, Greeley and Hansen is in constant need of talent to sustain that rich heritage. And it does just that by focusing on not only its current but also on future needs. One key tactic is connecting experienced staff with prospective employees offering an “inside view” of life at the firm. The promise: Fill out a short form on the firm’s website to begin the process. A Greeley and Hansen engineer with related experience will then call to make the connection. One of the engineers, Jean Malafronte, has been through that recruitment process (she joined Greeley and Hansen in 2002). “About a year into my job, I learned that talking to the decision makers about what I was interested in got me a lot further than just doing whatever I was given to do. When a new project comes up that is more in line with my career goals and interests, I am no longer afraid to say ‘I would like to work on that project.” Most of the time, people in the decision-making positions want you to keep in track with your interests.”

Employee Achievement and Recognition


Schaumburg, Ill.
This independent insurance agency, rare in an environment where big is seemingly better, has created a culture that chief marketing officer Steven Handmaker says can be easily defined around the word appreciation. “We believe our employees are working hard every day and it’s up to us to find unique and creative ways to recognize them.” Handmaker says those include the big and the small, from a quarterly “spin the prize wheel” event where employees who participate in a variety of improvement (professional and personal) activities can take home “fun cash” to the spot bonuses managers are encouraged and empowered to deliver. Handwritten notes from senior management are also one of those “timely” recognitions that have gained popularity at the firm, part of an overall theme of recognition that’s built into a manager’s own job description. “A manager who isn’t constantly thinking about how to better recognize their team members probably isn’t doing their job properly,” notes Handmaker. “This is something we live and breathe.”

Communication and Shared Vision

WOW! Internet, Cable and Phone

For Mike Winters, WOW!’s regional director of human resources, the idea of open communications isn’t something particularly special, but rather an expectation that pervades the entire organization. “From monthly electronic communications to the regular sharing of the company vision by senior executives, it’s just part of what we do to keep everyone actively focused on where we are and where we want to be.” Those topics include new product offerings and strategy. “Everyone is in the know,” says Winters. “And everyone knows what our plan is for executing that strategy.”

Diversity and Inclusion

VW Credit Inc.

Carol Stream, Ill.
As far back as 1999, when Volkswagen Credit’s Human Resources manager Randy Viola walked in the door, he was impressed with what he saw as he looked around his new office. “It was like being at the United Nations,” quips Viola. Today that 35 percent mix of the workforce that could be classified as “minority” is even more broadly diverse than ever, buoyed by a diversity committee that began a sustained effort more than 10 years ago. And that work has strong support at VW of America’s corporate office in Virginia, especially when it comes to its independence to promote diversity and inclusion. “That independence to a great degree promotes that innovation,” notes Viola. “They tell us what’s important.” The reach extends to areas not commonly considered part of a diversity strategy, including volunteerism, “going green,” and charitable initiatives. “We see the results, which include strong community thinking, collaboration and synergy,” adds Viola.

Work-Life Balance

Care Communications

Founded on a principle of work and life balance some 37 years ago, Care Communications continues to live true to that focus, according to Co-founder and CEO Leslie Fox. “We have a passion for helping clients solve their most pressing health information management and data quality issues, but we’re equally passionate about being fully present with our families and living healthy lives in balance.” Having created an environment in which individuals can thrive, where innovation can flourish, and all members of the organization can take pride in contributing to better patient care through health care data quality, Fox says building mutually respectful relationships characterized by cooperation, collaboration, and collegiality are the company’s hallmarks. “We support one another in achieving our goals,” adds Fox. “We are a community of talented people who all care deeply about each other and recognize each other’s accomplishments.”

Strategic Company Performance

Arrow Strategies LLC

As a talent acquisition specialist firm (with offices in Chicago as well as in Michigan and several other states), Arrow Strategies is as focused as its name might imply. Clearly, people are the absolute driving force and value at Arrow Strategies, its prime focus being to identify stand-out candidates with a strong work ethic, attitude, skills, talent, and a team player mentality. Being able to achieve that goal starts with having a management team with those same attributes, people who are handpicked for that purpose.

‘Best of the Best’ Small Business

Fusion OEM

Burr Ridge, Ill.
When Craig Zoberis set up Fusion OEM in February 2002, it was, quite literally, a garage startup. The son of an engineer, Zoberis had previously worked for his father’s firm before launching his own venture. But that’s hardly the end of the story. With a key understanding of what it takes not only to run a contract manufacturing firm but also to surround himself with a winning team, Zoberis takes an almost obsessive approach to what the future will look like as he continues to manage Fusion OEM’s growth. “My presumption is that we’re doing more than just paying our people well,” he notes. “It’s a really tough market in which to hire young, talented manufacturing people for that reason alone we try to create a culture and an atmosphere where new ideas can help us move forward.” That includes, Zoberis adds, a strong emphasis on communication and looking ahead. A one-page “painted picture” of a Future OEM organization €”what it should feel like at the end of 2015 €”is part of that ongoing reinvention.

‘Best of the Best’ Overall

Capital One Financial

That “What’s in your wallet?” credit card firm brings more than a useful piece of plastic to the table. For employees considering a career at the firm, shared values of “excellence” and “do the right thing” drive the entire business. “It’s included in how we work together, make decisions, innovate and better serve our customers,” the firm says on its recruitment website. “We’re a company that offers challenging work in a collaborative, flexible environment. We foster a culture of diversity where talented people with a variety of thoughts, ideas, and backgrounds unite to achieve incredible things.” Championing a healthy work-life balance, Capital One is already well-known in the Chicago area for having brought some 350 jobs to the downtown area, a 65,000-square-foot presence formerly occupied by United Airlines, prompted at least in part by the acquisition of HSBC Bank’s U.S. credit card business.

Elite Award Winners – Atlanta


Small Business

American Global Logistics

American Global Logistics CEO Chad Rosenberg credits his team as being one of the firm’s biggest drivers for its growth and success. “They are the true backbone of our organization.” AGL specializes in customized logistics solutions with a gamut of end-to-end ocean and air transportation services that include documentation and information management and deployment. The firm can handle shipments varying from less than container loads to full container loads as well as overweight and oversize cargo for both ocean, air and over the road freight forwarding. But it’s that interface between staff and customers that drives AGL’s success. “Servicing our customers is our main objective and this recognition could not be possible without such tremendous people we get to work with each day.”

Medium Business

Daugherty Business Solutions

People hired through Daugherty Business Solutions are told to expect something different from the ordinary. “You get to make an impact,” says the firm on its website. “Every person matters here, and the enthusiasm and knowledge of our consulting team is the very thing that sets us apart from the pack.” The firm, founded in 1985 by CEO Ron Daugherty and his wife Jan Daugherty, who serves as executive vice president, has a “work locally, stay permanently” credo. “Your job doesn’t end when a contract is up. You stay on as an indispensable member of the team with career growth opportunities tailored to your interests and talents. It’s just this kind of approach and our outstanding benefits that help us attract and keep some of the best professionals in the business.” The firm prides itself on emphasizing a healthy work-life balance, having a focus on wellness, and engaging in the community by supporting programs that improve quality of life.

Large Business

City of Atlanta

The city of Atlanta serves as a major employer within its own geographic limits, with comprehensive employee benefits program and competitive wages.



Elite Award Winners – Houston


‘Best of the Best’ Small Business Overall

Dean’s Professional Services

It’s been 20 years since Jennifer Dean launched the firm that bears her name, and she continues to marvel at how powerful a dream it was and continues to be. Providing temporary and direct to-hire staffing services and consulting services, Dean’s is very much a relationship business, says Tiffany Dean-Wright, daughter of the founder. “Many of our employees have been with us more than five years and even 10 years,” she notes. “We start by helping to get them in a position that’s the best fit and then they become our clients. We provide them with the knowledge and know. That’s a big deal for us and a big part of what we do.” Having a foundation based on God, family and work is key, says Dean-Wright. “We want to be of service to our employees and we do whatever we can do to help them succeed. We are a business that makes a profit, but we want to help our employees.”

‘Best of the Best’ Medium Business Overall

It might very well be one of those coveted “destination” domains, but this Web business is very much a people enterprise, its 180 staffers (all in Houston) occupying what one called “the most exceptionally positive kind of place you’re a better person for having worked at.” Having a culture that revolves around continuous improvement certainly helps. Whether it’s personal wellness or sating a passion for learning, makes it happen. Founded by Jay Steinfeld, who previously owned a “bricks and mortar” chain of window covering stores, what became an Internet-only seller has as its collective mission to make the purchase of those window coverings “surprisingly easy and exciting.” And they’ve got the people to make that happen.

‘Best of the Best’ Overall

Xcution, Inc.

When Jan Henry and her husband Matt began dreaming of a way out of their fast-paced consulting careers, you might think their first stop was more of a dead end than a new route. But the Henrys proved there is life after Enron, the birth of Xcution, which helped create some 750 jobs in companies that are still around. It wasn’t until 2008 that Xcution €”made up of CEO Jan Henry and CFO Matt €”hired its first of what are now 25 colleagues. A decidedly “picky” employer that goes through an extensive eight-step process before it brings someone on board, Xcution uses a document that the Henrys wrote two years before their first hire. “Everyone has fully embraced that document, which outlines who we are and what mission we’re on,” says Jan Henry. “And when they come on board, they own that mission and work hard to achieve it.”


Elite Award Winners – Metro Detroit

Communication and Shared Vision

Henry Ford Health System

Detroit, Mich.
Employee engagement is so important at one of the area’s largest health care systems that the organization took significant steps to make improvements to the way its managers were performing. Through an initiative that included the hiring of engagement consultants who subsequently worked with managers most in need of specific coaching in the area of employee engagement, Henry Ford began to see measurable improvements, so much so that the efforts have continued. In the end, the results made it possible for Henry Ford to earn a Great Workplace Award from the Gallup organization. As far as attracting employees to the organization, a “critical-to-fill” category of jobs is getting attention through an innovative program organized in cooperation with a local high school. Students are able to receive experience at Henry Ford while they’re completing high school, plus an associate’s degree in pharmacy tech, radiology tech and surgical tech. Call it a win-win, but Henry Ford Health System officials say it’s a great extension of an already robust program of offering facilities for clinical training and experience.

Community Initiatives

Fifth Third Bank Eastern Michigan

Southfield, Mich.
From Day One, newcomers to Fifth Third Bank will find themselves fully engaged in a rewarding, challenging role in an environment that inspires both personally and professionally. What sets Fifth Third Bank apart is a focus on people. It’s why the bank looks for people who want to accomplish something of lasting value for their customers, for their community, and for themselves, guided by Core Values of Integrity, Teamwork & Collaboration, Respect & Inclusion, and Accountability. Fifth Third believes in creating an environment that encourages and supports diversity, provides training and development, and brings out the best in everyone. A strong community is critical to the success of Fifth Third Bank and employees support the communities in which they live and work. Having engaged and well-prepared employees lead to the most satisfied customers. Fifth Third strives to provide an environment to bring out the best in every employee. Simply put creating the best possible results for a customer happens by working together.

Compensation, Benefits and Employee Solutions

Arrow Strategies, LLC

Bingham Farms, Mich.
From onsite lunches and group webinars to an innovative set of “perk programs” that even includes pre-paid legal services employees can use when needed, Arrow Strategies has made it a focus to look for ways to engage its workforce. The staffing company, primarily focused on IT services, recognizes that bringing in new employees is very much a key. Says CEO Jeff Styers: “We make it more than HR’s responsibility to listen to employees. We want to ensure their success with Arrow Strategies and have found through best practice that the first 30 to 45 days of their employment is the most valuable time to engage them to ensure long-term retention. This tool provides us a priceless opportunity to learn what makes our employees tick.” Promoting work-life balance is also part of the firm’s strategy for success. “We know that happy employees are more productive employees, so we make every effort to ensure that all of their needs are addressed both professionally and personally,” adds Styers. “With the stresses of the outside world, we have made a concerted effort to help our employees maintain their overall health both mentally and physically.” Flexible scheduling is also part of that mix.

Diversity and Inclusion

Computer Consultants Inc.

Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
No staffing company today can succeed without a comprehensive diversity strategy that actively embraces the need to have its workforce be reflective of the community it represents €”and Computer Consultants Inc. is no exception. Established in 1994, CCI is proud to be a Women-Owned company, certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Its success is due to providing its clients and consultants with the highest quality services in the most responsive manner possible. CCI recruiters use the most effective resources to find all levels of talented IT professionals. All are highly trained to match candidates with the clients’ needs and work efficiently to meet or beat hiring deadlines. The value CCI gives to its clients is that CCI employees are as effective in the boardroom as they are in the development environment. The value to its employees is our long-term relationships with reputable companies and the company’s ability to precisely match skill sets to requirements resulting in a fulfilling work experience.

Employee Achievement and Recognition

United Shore Financial Services LLC

Troy, Mich.
Yes, United Shore Financial has a new building. And it’s rightly proud of having an environment where staff members are excited to come to work every day. But the leadership has no illusions about what really counts. It’s the people and making sure those that work at United Shore are satisfied is about more than bricks, mortar, glass and steel. It’s about communication. “Our team members are emotionally invested in what the company is striving to achieve, because we work hard together toward the same defined goals,” says CEO Mat Ishbia. “Every USFS team member knows our goals and understands how they contribute to achieving those goals. We have set a clear direction for the future, and we bring real meaning to work.” Continuing that effort, the firm has developed a “Brilliant Ideas” initiative that makes it easy for employees to share their voice. One way the firm has followed through is with a multi-pronged approach that helps people stay healthy, meet their financial goals, protect their income and their family, and balance the demands of work and personal life. As Ishbia adds: “The same spirit of teamwork that we exhibit inside the office carries over into our after-work activities. We look after one another, like family. We like our jobs … and each other. And it shows.”

Employee Education and Development

Easter Seals Michigan

Auburn Hills, Mich.
When it comes to providing meaningful and challenging work for its employees, some might argue that Easter Seals Michigan has an advantage. After all, with a mission to “serve and support people with disabilities or other special needs and their families so they can successfully live, learn, work and play in their communities” there’s a sense of power in that alone. But employee engagement in aligning with that mission statement isn’t overlooked, says CEO Brent Wirth, who adds that feedback throughout the year is important to that process. “We encourage managers and supervisors to have private, independent discussions with staff to explore the reasons for disengagement behaviors in a positive way.” Employees are also encouraged to volunteer and attend Easter Seals Fundraisers, including Walk With Me, one of the organization’s bigger events. Rewards from Easter Seals Michigan efforts are widespread, not only in seeing individuals helped by the organization. But individual benefits through flexible work schedules, a comprehensive Employee Assistance Program, a commitment to professional development and staff training are also reasons why Easter Seals Michigan will continue to thrive in its mission to serve.

Employee Enrichment, Engagement and Retention

Epitec Group

Southfield, Mich.
Epitec offers people a place to innovate, contribute and grow. Its business is placing people. Its philosophy is placing people first. “We hear it every day,” says CFO Mark Ruma. “Epitec people aren’t your typical ‘techy people.’ Solving client challenges is personal to us. The first time you have the pleasure of working with an Epitec employee, you will see how quickly we connect and engage.” Companies entrust their future technologies to Epitec. And employees entrust, well, their futures. ‘These are responsibilities we don’t take lightly,” adds Ruma. “We care deeply for our employees, because they make everything else happen for the company. We work very hard to create a ‘favorite employee experience’ for each one of our employees. It’s why we not only attract some of America’s top companies and brightest minds, but retain them year after year.”

Recruitment, Selection and Orientation

OpTech LLC

Troy, Mich.
When you’re looking for top-notch people, the focus on the needs of those quality people is obviously front and center. And so it is at OpTech, where the satisfaction of employees and their engagement is a top priority. OpTech focuses on building a culture of teamwork, innovation, and quality through what it calls the OpTech Norms. “We engage everyone from the first day of hire by sharing the OpTech Norms that places high value and regard on the capability and well-being of our employees,” says CEO Ronia Kruse. “Our Norms are based on the four pillars of P€” where everyone is Prepared, Positive, Participative, and Part of the solution.” Employee surveys that empower employees to contribute to OpTech’s growth and their own are an integral part of OpTech’s culture. To inspire creativity, OpTech established a Bright Ideas program that rewards employees on identifying efficiencies and cost-saving ideas. “While we have fun, we work hard to achieve both company and professional goals,” adds Kruse. “As a result employees are more engaged and have proven to be the best company ambassadors with our clients, the community and future employees.” The company also provides intangible rewards such as social events, birthday lunches, awards ceremonies and quarterly team-building outings. “While OpTech strives to be the top Employer of Choice, OpTech’s legacy will be known for what we want to achieve €”that anyone who comes in contact with OpTech has a positive experience, be it active or former employees, clients, suppliers, partners, and the community, and that will happen by the way we treat people.”

Strategic Company Performance

Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP

In addition to a best in class benefits and compensation programs, the law firm more commonly known as Honigman views its communication initiatives and its employee development and recognition programs as key drivers of satisfaction. Communication vehicles provide the foundation for friendly, open and collaborative communication, the goal of which is to keep everyone abreast of and involved in important events and happenings. Also key to its success are the opportunities presented to employees. Continued expansion of the firm’s development courses through a corporate university, the Honigman Institute for Professional Growth, is also key to what is considered a high internal promotion rate. Associates are paired with a mentor and a buddy whose roles are to make the associate feel at home, assist with assignments and provide regular feedback, pairings that the firm says result in increased engagement and job satisfaction. Honigman is also committed to acknowledging and rewarding the contributions of its workforce in many special ways, including an on-the-spot award program. Rooted in a deep dedication to its people, their welfare and development, Honigman is proactive and innovative when it comes to sustaining high employee satisfaction and engagement.

Work Life Balance

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

You’d expect an organization deeply steeped in the mission of helping people stay healthy to focus at least some of that corporate energy on its employees. And you’d be right about Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a “walk the talk” organization that has a wide portfolio of initiatives designed to keep health mental and physical €”on the front burner. Paid tuition, scholarships for dependents, incentives to get and stay fit, discounted tickets to after-hours events; even Xbox Kinect fitness games strategically placed throughout work areas are part of the mix. But that doesn’t mean BCBSM has left out the basics, like a robust health care benefits package and those little extras that can mean so much. Like online coaching by registered nurses as well as various online tools to help employees decide whether their coverage makes sense to them. The organization is also among the top 125 on Training Magazine’s list of companies recognized for its innovative efforts. Looking for new talent is done with the same enthusiasm and commitment to innovation, with online tools, job fairs and partnerships with schools and universities as well as those that reach diverse organizations throughout the local area and beyond.

Small Business ‘Best of the Best’


Livonia, Mich.
Managing our customer relationships and complex projects require people with a great variety of competencies. That is why it is vital for Skanska to attract and recruit talent and to keep developing its people. When thinking of construction and project development, people may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Think again. Everything Skanska has to offer is made from scratch, for the first time. To manage its customer relationships and its complex projects it needs people with a great variety of competencies. That is why it is vital to attract and recruit talent and to keep developing people. Working at Skanska means being prepared to live its values and beliefs, have high ethical standards, put safety as a priority, care for the environment and demonstrate an open and collaborative mindset. Employees are expected to develop business and think of creative solutions and offerings for its clients. People who work at Skanska need to manage operations in an outstanding manner and deliver what the firm has promised its customers. And to succeed with all of the above, Skanska employees need to be skilled in leading themselves as well as others.

‘Best of the Best’


Founded in 1980, Digitas, one of the world’s leading digital marketing and media companies, is at the forefront of the new digital age. As an independent global network within the Paris-based Publicis Groupe, the world’s fourth largest communications group, Digitas is the first global digital network with offices in the USA, Europe, and Asia. Serving global marketing clients, it creates brand experiences in digital and direct channels that engage and excite their customers. Through user-generated content, branded entertainment, digital video production, and social media programs and more, Digitas taps into people’s passions and creates loyal, motivated relationships. Digitas people are at the top of their industry€” inspiring innovation, creativity and results. They’re artists, analysts, technologists, writers, and producers. They are passionate, creative, thoughtful, and above all, committed to their clients, inspired by their customers, excited by change, and fueled by a passion for collaboration and bold invention.


Elite Award Winners – West Michigan


Compensation, Benefits and Employee Solutions

MSU Federal Credit Union

East Lansing, Mich.
MSUFCU is owned and operated by members of the Michigan State and Oakland University communities. From its opening in 1937 operating out of a desk drawer in the Michigan State University Administration building to the recent construction of its LEED Gold-certified headquarters at 3777 West Road in East Lansing, MSUFCU has experienced many changes. Over the years it has become the largest university-based credit union in the world. One thing that has never changed has been its focus on its greatest asset: its members. With more than $2.4 billion in assets, a membership of more than 175,000, and over 515 employees, 12 branches, and more ATMs than any other institution in the Greater Lansing area, MSUFCU continues to develop in ways that best benefit its members and its community. Through dedicated and knowledgeable employees, new technologies, and innovative products and services, it strives to always provide more ways to help its members achieve financial success.

Employee Enrichment, Engagement and Retention


Livonia, Mich.

Employee Education and Development

American Axle & Manufacturing

Three Rivers, Mich.
At American Axle and Manufacturing, €”AAM for short, €”personal and professional growth and the ability to be part of a focused, energized team is a big part of the employee experience. The company, made up of more than 10,000 associates worldwide, is a place where everyone has the opportunity to make a difference. From cross-functional teams, suggestion programs, town hall meetings and open-door policies, the organization uses numerous strategies to encourage open and frank discussion. At AAM people are valued above everything else.

Recruitment, Selection and Orientation

Mill Steel Company

Grand Rapids, Mich.
This family owned business retains top talent because management treats top talent the way they want to be treated. Every employee is treated as an individual, having individualized needs, and Mill Steel takes a customized approach to provide flexibility in the work environment. 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, the business will fail. Recent growth has resulted in new opportunities to help employees balance home life and career.

Employee Achievement and Recognition

Elzinga & Volkers

Holland, Mich.
Elzinga & Volkers is a locally owned and operated Michigan corporation headquartered in Holland, Mich. Established in 1945, Elzinga & Volkers is committed to creating lifelong clients through the simple principles of its mission statement: Listen, Solve, Satisfy. The Elzinga & Volkers team has more than 66 years of corporate history with executives totaling in excess of 150 years of construction experience.

Communication and Shared Vision

HUMANeX Ventures

Kalamazoo, Mich.
HUMANeX Ventures is an organization with a clear mission for discovering and developing the talents of individuals, educating and equipping leaders and managers to coach, engage and develop individuals to their potential, and building critical processes and practices to multiply significant and sustainable impact and levels of excellence. The firm believes organizations have tremendous potential to significantly strengthen the communities in which they are located when they create significant impact, value and growth. For this reason, HUMANeX guides and supports organizations, €”across industry and professions, €”in the development of their talent, culture and potential. The firm builds relationships with client partners to strategically select, position and develop people in the right roles in order to maximize potential. Through its integrated approach, it is able to establish and develop dynamic teams and cultures, achieved by providing research-based, proven tools and processes, as well as one-on-one support.

Diversity and Inclusion

Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP

Kalamazoo, Mich.
Diversity is acknowledging, accepting, understanding and valuing the differences among people. At Honigman, the commitment to diversity is a fundamental part of the firm’s culture and its continued success. The organization’s leadership truly believes that diversity within the firm enhances its ability to attract and retain talented attorneys and staff, and helps it better relate to and serve its clients. In today’s world of global business, this is more important than ever before. Diversity brings a broader perspective to its thinking, its client relationships and its work product and it fosters an atmosphere of collegiality and respect, which is at the core of the firm’s culture. Recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce at Honigman has been a primary goal. The firm is committed to programs and processes that will provide each person with the tools he or she needs to enjoy a successful career.

Work-Life Balance

Consumers Credit Union

Kalamazoo, Mich.
Why did Consumers Credit Union get top marks for its work-life balance initiatives? Quite likely it’s having gone out of its way to make spending more time with families a priority, says Shawn Premer, the credit union’s vice president of human resources. “We made it a strategic initiative following our last employee survey, which we do every year,” she adds. Being a retail environment isn’t without its challenges when it comes to being flexible with work schedules, but Consumers Credit Union did just that, offering job sharing opportunities and bumping paid time off from 12 days to 15 across the board. It also, for the first time, created opportunities for staff to telecommute. Notably, two employees who already worked over the phone were able to stay with Consumers, €”even after they moved out of the state.

Community Initiatives

Easter Seals Michigan

Auburn Hills, Mich.

Strategic Company Performance

Express Employment Professionals

Rochester Hills, Mich.
In an industry with a traditionally high turnover rate, CEO Paul LaFrance says it’s a testament to what Express Employment Professionals’ Troy office has done that a good many of the firm’s employees have been in their positions for several years. “I think that speaks volumes,” says LaFrance, who owns the local office (Express is a franchise operation; the company is headquartered in Oklahoma City). A big draw is the extensive training Express Employment offers its staff. Its “Express University” has online courses, some of which can be completed in well under an hour and those who earn “credits” are recognized for their efforts in an annual awards ceremony.

Small Business ‘Best of the Best’

Andy J. Egan Company

Grand Rapids, Mich.
Founded in 1919 by Andy Egan out of an office in his garage, the company soon developed a reputation for high quality work and exceptional customer service resulting in steady growth. When Andy Egan died in 1932, the firm was sold to Harold Jasper, a long-time employee. His grandson, Tom Jasper, is the current owner and Tom Jasper’s three children are part of the company’s management structure.

‘Best of the Best’

Southwest Michigan First

Kalamazoo, Mich.
Southwest Michigan First was created for one singular purpose: To assist companies in growing jobs. The organization believes a well-paying job makes a positive impact for generations to come. The community’s future depends on local companies’ ability to grow, be competitive and change with the times. Southwest Michigan First’s experience in working with companies of all sizes from Fortune 500 companies to eight-person tool-and-die shops to bioscience R&D labs to large business service centers has proven invaluable time and time again. Its commitment is to growing companies; they believe those companies are the future.

Elite Award Winners – Wellness


Peckham Inc.

Lansing, Mich.
With the idea of “maximizing human potential” baked into its mission statement, it should be no surprise that Peckham Inc., a nonprofit community vocational rehabilitation organization, has extended that thinking to its employee wellness programs. Whether it’s an annual health and fitness assessment, the offering of cash-incentive payments, or the reimbursement of gym memberships, the intent is the same. “We want to keep our employees satisfied and engaged,” notes CEO Mitchell Tomlinson, who adds that the addition of a “Be Well at Work” program should take that effort to the next level. “We hope this will be the key to success in keeping our employees engaged by offering targeted programming specific to each individual’s needs. If we provide a diverse range of wellness options that include incentives, our programs tend to generate more participation.” Even today, all Peckham’s facilities have a fitness center with exercise equipment and there’s a “Meals Made Easy” cooking program that the organization says is helping influence food choices, not only for employees but their families as well.

Faith Based

Fellowship Chapel

Detroit’s Fellowship Chapel is another example of a faith-based organization taking the initiative to recognize that “peace on earth” can and should include a focus on physical well-being. Fellowship’s health ministry, overseen by Melissa Franklin, a registered nurse, is the conduit for this mission. “Promoting health education is our main purpose to help sustain and provide health resources that will be available to help improve your life,” notes Franklin. Through a variety of initiatives that include an annual health assessment, monthly health screenings, consultations and referrals in a number of key areas, Fellowship Chapel is committed to its mission, with volunteer nurses and allied health workers ready to step forward during church services. There’s also a number of physical fitness programs scheduled during the week. The pastor, Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, is a key part of the team, acknowledging individual accomplishments and leading the encouragement from the pulpit. As Franklin explains, Fellowship Chapel has seen the results of the effort. “We’ve seen a direct outcome in the consistency of participants exercising throughout the week and participants taking advantages of the health screening every fourth Sunday.” Numerous other initiatives include a partnership with the American Diabetic Association and a variety of other providers committed to improving the health of Fellowship Chapel members.


New Haven High School

New Haven, Mich.
The good news when you’re designing a wellness program for a high school is that there are lots of opportunities to make a difference. The challenge, of course, is there are a lot of people who need attention. But New Haven High School is running on all cylinders, thanks to an attitude of inclusion, €”bringing not only students, but also staff and parents together in a united front that is having a positive impact on the overall health of the school community. From a school cafe run by the school’s business classes and serving nutritious food, and a partnership with St. John Health System, which provides Web-based software to track progress, the school is also identifying opportunities for improvement for its students and staff. New Haven has also instituted a yoga class, found to be a remarkably successful initiative. There’s also a team building class led by those at the nearby Selfridge Air National Guard base. Awards are a big part of New Haven’s wellness program, with a banquet for athletes and family celebrations as part of an ongoing initiative supported by local business. Students also get elective credit toward graduation when they complete the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge. Another plus to the wellness program is the partnership New Haven is enjoying with its neighboring district in Anchor Bay, with relationships developing among first responders, the health system, and even the faith-based community.

Small Business

Danboise Mechanical

Farmington Hills, Mich.
It takes a consistent effort to keep wellness front and center at Danboise Mechanical. But CEO David Boduch has no qualms about the work required. “We strive to maintain a constant message of health and wellness throughout the year,” says Boduch. “Reminders are everywhere you look and in every piece of communication. It is truly integrated in our culture.” So is the idea that the commitment is for everyone, even family of staff. Initiatives include regular walking challenges, paid annual health screenings, onsite exercise equipment and bicycles employees can use during working hours or check out to take home. Complimentary fruit, vegetables and water may be everywhere, but don’t look for sugared soft drinks. A dedicated Wellness Committee that generates a consistent message of health and wellness is another key to preserving the culture at Danboise Mechanical. “We’ve always promoted a proactive approach to health and wellness,” notes Boduch.

Medium Business

Experi-Metal Inc.

Sterling Heights, Mich.
Talking about wellness isn’t enough, says CEO Valiena Allison of Experi-Metal. “We not only talk about it, we actively practice it, tailoring our wellness program specifically to the primary challenges that our particular workforce struggles with.” Those include issues like obesity prevention, men’s health issues, how to life properly, sunscreen use and avoidance of sunstroke, and proper hydration in the summer months. Allison says Experi-Metal will continue offering what she calls “a robust health insurance package” to employees, regardless of changes coming with the Affordable Care Act. Part of that commitment includes an ongoing focus on employee education that encourages positive change. Initiatives include a wellness committee that meets monthly and regular communication of wellness topics.

Large Business

Walbridge Aldinger Company

Detroit, Mich.
Noting that the company has an ongoing and growing passion for employee wellness, Walbridge offers a robust health care plan that can be used around the world. With free health screening, employees can get data on some 25 components, including Body Mass Index, all of which can help them make informed choices when it comes to improving their health. The company offers discounted gym memberships and healthy lifestyle classes. From fitness challenges to stretching and mobility activities, Walbridge has incorporated numerous opportunities for better health. One of the most basic is where it chose to build a headquarters building; choosing one where walking outside would be a natural choice. The company’s corporate directory even includes a feature to help team members create their own walking paths, calculating distance, average number of steps and calories burned.

Elite Award Winners – Sustainable

Small Business

RNS Packaging

Dowagiac, Mich.
Sustainability can be fun. Just ask Rich Daniels, CEO and founder of RNS Packaging, a veteran whose firm is producing FunPak Premium Packaging throughout the U.S. “Our mission is to transform the way companies and consumers ship their gifts and packages,” says Daniels, who has invented a 100 percent biodegradable “packaging peanut” that can be shaped into fun and memorable shapes. “By transforming the way companies and consumers think about packing, we will remove the almost 70 million pounds of plastic air pouches, plastic bubble wrap & toxic peanuts from our landfills each year,” says Daniels. “Every community in our country will be positively impacted by our mission and it makes it really easy for us to come to work everyday.” Daniels says the almost immediate impact his company’s products are having makes the effort worthwhile. “When we replace a company’s logistics and shipping practice of using plastic air pouches, plastic bubble wrap or toxic packing peanuts; we see an immediate removal of future waste.” Daniels says the company’s sustainable practices are its bottom line. “We were founded upon transforming companies and consumers from old technologies to fun and sustainable practices. Every time we switch a company or consumer to our FunPak Premium Packaging we are successful.”

‘Best of the Best’ Overall Winner

Beaumont Health System

Royal Oak, Mich.
The organization might be large (more than 1,700 beds in three acute care hospitals with 54 community-based care sites) but Beaumont’s mission is decidedly simple: to provide the highest quality health care effectively, efficiently and compassionately. “We are also committed to reducing our overall impact on the environment,” notes CEO Gene Michalski, who adds that the system is constantly looking for new and better ways to reduce energy use, and minimize waste and pollution. Seed some 500 “certified green officers” throughout the organization (an internal initiative) and it’s obvious that this is no small task. Still, Beaumont is up to the task. “As a health care provider, we believe ‘people’ is the most important of a triple bottom line,” notes Michalski. “Providing the best care in the safest environment is key for our patients and for the staff who work in that environment. Purchasing new furnishings that meet healthy interiors guidelines, construction guidelines that source local art, local vendors for foods, on site farmers markets, volunteer organic gardens for staff and patient use, and being a recognized bike-friendly campus are just a few examples of how we have a visible, sustainable culture.” Beaumont even has a designated budget for its sustainable projects, where energy and recycling rebates are put back into projects to be even more efficient.