Four Businesses Take Home 2015’s ‘Best Places to Work’ Honors
Fans of the sitcom The Office may recall branch manager Michael Scott’s awkward—and highly inappropriate—efforts to create a winning work environment. Remember the Christmas parties, Café Disco and the Booze Cruise on Lake Wallenpaupack?
Turns out Michael had it all wrong. The winners of Frederick County’s Best Places to Work for 2015 have found the winning formula and it has nothing to do with on-site dance rooms or even Survivor-inspired promotion outings.
Patty McDonald, business and employment consultant with Frederick County Workforce Services, the organization that partners with the Frederick County Office of Economic Development, the City of Frederick Department of Economic Development and the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce to bestow the annual honors, says all of 2015’s winners have several things in common.
In addition to providing compensation and benefits that are in line with a livable wage, McDonald says these businesses encourage a work-life balance. “Respect for an employee who may be fully engaged in other things—education, parenting, athletics, care-giving, etc.—is viewed as a value,” she says.
They also offer opportunities for employee engagement, and through celebrations, contests and wellness activities, create work environments that are fun and friendly. Michael Scott would be proud.
Small Business Category: Antietam Technologies, Inc.
As the owner of a business with less than 10 employees, Richard Fouke, president of Antietam Technologies, Inc., acknowledges he can do things a little differently. His company, which identifies compromised data and then secures it against future threats, doesn’t invest a lot in traditional office space. “Most of our work is done on-site in contract locations,” Fouke explains, noting that nearly all of their work is with the federal government.
What he saves in office overhead Fouke gives back to his employees through perks such as additional vacation time, paid leave for time they spend away from work volunteering, and a $6,000 annual education benefit that covers anything from undergraduate or graduate courses to specialized training. “The more we offer in terms of education we believe the better our employees will do their jobs and better represent the company in front of our customers,” Fouke says.
Although his title may be owner and president, Fouke jokes, “You could call me the chief cook and bottle washer. I like to lead by example: If I have to cover a night shift to fill in for someone who has a family emergency I will do that.”
His employees clearly appreciate his leadership. In fact, his marketing and human resources director nominated Antietam Technologies for the “Best Places to Work” honor without even telling Fouke she did so. When he got the call that his company had won he was shocked. “I was happy I was sitting down,” he says.
Tony Benedetto believes strongly in two-way communication.
As CEO of ASI, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Association of Social Workers that provides insurance and benefit programs to social workers across the U.S., he annually surveys his employees on their understanding of their roles, the company’s mission, and the authority and responsibility they have to do their jobs. The results are then compared to previous years and industry standards. “We get very good, positive feedback and suggestions,” Benedetto says. “Being open to change is really, really important.”
ASI’s 13 employees enjoy competitive medical and compensation plans, as well as opportunities for telecommuting and additional training and education. The company also covers up to 75 percent of the cost of joining a health or fitness club. Bonuses are based not only on what employees achieve, but Benedetto says they also factor in how they did it and what obstacles they may have had to overcome.
“I think these things create continuity because you tend to have people who work well together, and a positive environment lowers turnover and burnout,” he says.
With an employee retention rate in 2014 of 98.6 percent, Nymeo Federal Credit Union must be doing something right.
Actually, they are doing several things right. The company offers a variety of benefits employees have indicated are important to them, including telecommuting, flex scheduling, tuition reimbursement and career advancement opportunities through in-house and national trainings. They also receive incentives for participating in wellness programs.
But what Nymeo’s 80 employees say really makes a difference is the fact that they are heard. “I meet with staff at least two times a year in a roundtable setting and listen to their suggestions,” says Nymeo’s president and CEO Vicki Johnston. “This tells them that their ideas are valued and that they actually have a voice in things that happen here.”
Since establishing its headquarters in Frederick four years ago, Nymeo has become one of the community’s biggest supporters. Nowhere is that more evident than at the home field of the Frederick Keys, now known as Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium. Johnston says being connected to a Frederick tradition like the Keys is in many ways another perk for her employees. “Our staff is very proud to have our name there,” she says.
As part of one of the world’s largest companies, the AstraZeneca Biologics Manufacturing Center offers its employees top-notch benefits, including generous 401(k) savings plans with a retirement match; health, dental and vision plans; short- and long-term disability insurance; paid maternity and paternity leave; and employee assistance programs for stress management, depression, or substance abuse. There are also bonus and employee recognition programs.
But just as admirable as the benefits themselves is the company’s commitment to helping its approximately 600 employees enjoy those benefits throughout their careers. “Our philosophy is hire-to-retire,” says Doug Scott, AstraZeneca Biologics Manufacturing Center’s vice president and general manager. “We invest heavily in our employees’ educations. They work with their managers to develop learning plans to ensure they have the right skills to do their jobs, and at the same time focus on areas for growth.” Employees can train for and perform job rotations at other AstraZeneca sites around the world.
Yet payment incentives and training opportunities can pale in comparison to the intangible benefit employees receive when they meet a patient who has benefitted from the company’s life-changing and life-saving products. “Our employees will be able to look back when their careers are over and enjoy the legacy of knowing that they played a part in advancing breakthrough science to patients,” Scott says.