The Best Places to Work
Frederick County's Top Employers Spotlighted for Perks, Benefits and More
SNOW CONES. SMOOTHIES. SPIRITUAL ADVISORS. IT MIGHT SOUND MORE LIKE SUMMER CAMP THAN A DAY AT THE OFFICE, but these are some of the tactics recipients of the 2014 Frederick County Best Places to Work Awards are employing to keep their workers satisfied and productive.
“Every year we do this it’s always amazing all of the great ideas businesses of all sizes come up with to offer their employees and to make their work environment stand out as somewhere ‘great’ to be,” says Michelle Day of Frederick County Workforce Services. “Some offer massages to ease employee stress bonuses, lunch with the CEO, pool parties—it’s just so varied and it’s so interesting to learn how creative many of the companies are.”
Each year, Workforce Services and several other local agencies partner in sponsoring the awards, including the City of Frederick Office of Economic Development, Frederick County Business Development and Retention and the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce. Businesses are encouraged to submit a survey and a committee considers a certain set of criteria, including professional development opportunities, benefits and amenities to provide work and life balance, encouragement of community and social responsibilities, tools for healthy living, and promotion of diversity and inclusion programs.
Whether they employ 10 or more than 10,000, the winners of this year’s Best Places to Work Awards share one thing in common: a commitment to their workers. And, perhaps the best news, they’re all hiring. The Frederick County Best Places to Work Awards will be presented at an awards ceremony Aug. 5 at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center.
(1–10 EMPLOYEES): Swift Systems, Inc.
When your business only employs 10 people, a close-knit working environment simply comes with the territory. However, that’s just the beginning of the benefits of working at veteran-owned Swift Systems, Inc., an information technology managed services provider that serves businesses, government agencies and institutions throughout Maryland, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
Swift employees are able to take advantage of weekly continuing education seminars, performancebased bonuses, biannual companysponsored outings, volunteer opportunities, in-house competitions with prize rewards, as well as an onsite chaplain and optional spiritual health program. A full benefits package including health, dental and vision, as well as flex spending and 401(k) pre-tax savings accounts make Swift Systems a small company with big worker incentives.
“This award is a testament to Swift leadership and staff efforts to foster a work environment with the opportunities of a large business and yet still maintain the feel of a family business as we grow,” says Shannon Smith, Swift’s Marketing Specialist. “There are so many great small- to medium-sized companies in Frederick County and we are proud to be a part of the vibrant business landscape.”
(11–50 EMPLOYEES): Orases, Inc.
Regular happy hours, social functions and a smoothie bar are just some of the perks of being an employee at Orases, Inc., a web design and marketing agency specializing in business and technology solutions.
The company has been operating in the Frederick area since 2002 and currently has 14 employees, including 12 full-time, who are allowed to alter their work schedules by up to two hours before or after the standard 9 a.m. start time. “We know that work isn’t everything and understand the importance of having time for yourself and your family,” says Orases President Nick Damoulakis.
Orases staff members are encouraged to suggest team-building activities dubbed “passion events” that showcase employees’ personal interests. Examples include sailing, bowling and a Greek festival. The company also recently instituted a healthy living challenge and replaced all of the junk food in the office with healthy snack options. During the month of May, staff earned points for healthy activities—such as drinking eight glasses of water or exercising 30 minutes daily—and a monetary reward went to the person with the most points at the end of the month.
Combine all that with a competitive benefits package and a 100 percent employer-paid premium for an individual health plan and you’ve got a recipe for happy and healthy worker bees. “We understand that we cannot be successful as a team without each individual being successful,” says Damoulakis.
(15–200 EMPLOYEES): Battelle National Biodefense Institute
Like real-life superheroes, 180 employees at the Battelle National Biodefense Institute come to work every day to catch the bad guys— specifically, those who seek to use biological weapons like Anthrax. Since 2006, Battelle has managed and operated the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The facility, located at Fort Detrick, was created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the passage of the Homeland Security Act, which mandated resources for biodefense research and development.
“The work our employees are doing here at NBACC is both cutting edge and critical to the protection of human health and our national security,” says Battelle President Dr. Pat Fitch. “Very few workplaces can offer inspirational opportunities like these.”
In addition to the pride that comes with a mission of protecting the public, Battelle also “provides a total package of compensation and benefits that are not offered by most employers,” as well as opportunities for training and advancement in the field of life sciences. “[Battelle] has been very proactive in staying in front of economic trends,” says Fitch. “We invest in a culture that supports learning, following rules and rewarding excellent performance.”
(MORE THAN 200 EMPLOYEES): Experient, Inc. and Fort Detrick (tie)
Living out of a suitcase is a skill most of the 240 employees at Frederick’s Experient, Inc. have honed over time. As a company that plans and manages large-scale trade shows and conferences, Experient’s average worker spends 35 to 40 percent of his or her time traveling to cities across the country. “We spend a lot of time on the road, so we try to have a very nice, warm environment when
we’re here and to celebrate employees’ successes,” says Shawn Pierce, president of Experient’s Frederick Division.
One way Experient strives to create that hospitable home base is by providing “huddle rooms”— spaces devoid of any technology except for telephones, decorated with soft lighting and comfy couches where employees can go to hang out, collaborate or just relax. Workers are recognized with the “Rock Star Award” for helping out fellow employees, are treated to snow cones at the office regularly during the summer and get to enjoy social events throughout the year—all contributing to the reason the average Experient employee stays with the company 12 years. It also appears to be a great place to find a mate, according to Pierce, who says 35 marriages have come out of the company’s ranks. Full benefit packages, 401(k) matching, competitive salaries and profitsharing don’t hurt either. “There is no other asset here at Experient,” says Pierce. “Our people are the face of this company and they’re the people that need to interface with our clients and attendees at the events so we make sure we treat them well.”
More than 12,000 employees and visitors pass through the U.S. Army’s
Fort Detrick daily carrying out diverse missions paramount to our national security: from global communications and medical research to the development of robotics and prosthetics. “Many of these efforts, products, and research are often transferred to civilian healthcare to improve health and healing,” says Maj. Gen. Joseph Caravalho Jr.
Frederick County’s largest employer, Fort Detrick supports service members, families, veterans, civilians, contractors and community partners who provide services at the Army post every day. “Frederick’s proximity to the nation’s capital and other metropolitan areas offers incredible resources to the diverse organizations operating on Fort Detrick,” says Caravalho. “We benefit from an educated and talented workforce willing to serve the nation while giving back to their community and sustaining the economic wellbeing of the Frederick community.”
In addition to health benefits, retirement and performance recognition, employees at Fort Detrick enjoy programs promoting advanced education and volunteerism, as well as physical, spiritual, social, familial and emotional health. According to Caravalho, Fort Detrick is “committed to building resiliency and esprit de corps”—a feeling of shared pride and loyalty.