SI Review: April 2012

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The Best Staffing Firms to Work For

Top 15 talk about what makes their workers happy and productive

By Craig Johnson and Sean O’Leary

  • A trip to the Caribbean for the entire firm
  • An onsite medical clinic
  • Laundry service
  • Calisthenics training
  • Gourmet lunch service

This is not an employee dream wish list. Many staffing firms are offering their internal workers unusual perks to keep them engaged and happy. In fact, even the standard benefits include items — paid healthcare benefits, a pool table, free daily lunch — that many in this economy would kill for. Today’s staffing firms are pulling out all the stops to keep their internal workers happy.

Staffing Industry Analysts surveyed companies’ employees to see how the companies are doing at keeping them happy and motivated. The winners on this year’s “Best Staffing Firms to Work For” list are taking a serious approach to making their employees feel special. The recession has taught us that talent is going to be the key differentiator in the coming decade. Staffing firms have learned treating your workers well helps boost the bottom line. It’s not just about doling out perks. It pays to listen to employees, hire right in the first place and let workers build their skills, as these stories illustrate.

This year’s “Best Staffing Firms to Work For” list ranks the top five firms to work for in small, medium and large firm categories based on number of internal employees.

Here are the winning companies, grouped by company size:

20 TO 50 EMPLOYEES

1. LiquidAgents Healthcare LLC

Employee Voice

Every employee at Plano, Texas-based LiquidAgents Healthcare has a voice. “We value employee input,” CEO Sheldon Arora explains. “Employees feel free to openly discuss and debate the various workings of the company. We all care, so we take the time to listen.”

Even new staff members bring something to the table. “New people question old ideas and bring new ideas,” Arora says. Referrals are the number one source for new hires, which means there are no outsiders, which hospitals like when dealing with healthcare procurement firms. “Hospitals know that when you take people seriously, you do a better job,” Arora says.

Doing a better job is something that LiquidAgents values. A staff-favorite incentive program is the company’s quarterly Las Vegas meeting, during which deserving employees are invited to discuss their individual careers and goals with company executives in an informal, yet personal setting. It’s that individual attention that distinguishes LiquidAgents from the pack. “I see a person behind every success we’ve had,” Arora says.

Employees also enjoy the company’s Chi Lounge, where staff can blow off a little steam playing billiards. It’s not all play at LiquidAgents, but maintaining a positive work environment is an effective way of reducing stress. “Our philosophy is to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of our collective success,” Arora says. “We figure out what strategies work for us and then implement them.”

This is LiquidAgents’ third year on the list of “Best Staffing Firms to Work For.”

2. The Start Group

Planned Goals

The Start Group values its workers and knows they are critical for the firm’s success. And the Andover, Mass.-based specialty staffing provider works hard to communicate that message to its internal employees.

“We believe that when people feel needed, feel valued, they work even harder,” says CEO Mark Eldridge. “We really let everyone know whether you’re on week two or year three, you are a critical part of our success.”

The Start Group operates on a five-year plan — which is updated every two-and-a-half years — and communicates to workers how they play a part in meeting the planned goals.

Of course, everything starts with hiring the right employees, Eldridge says. The company maintains a careful hiring process aimed at identifying fun, happy and motivated people.

The Start Group hires a lot of entry-level people, and Eldridge says he is passionate about employee development. “I love taking those people and showing them they can be successful as soon as six to nine months out of school.”

The company also maintains an open-door policy; workers can go directly to top management if they need help or have a question.

And having happy and engaged workers can definitely boost the bottom line, Eldridge says. A happy employee will stay longer, and the longer he or she stays, the more productive he or she will be.

3. eTeam Inc.

Learning Pays

Part of the philosophy behind keeping employees engaged at eTeam is encouraging workers to keep learning.

“Challenge your employees with higher goals, which will prompt them to learn new skills, perform better and have more self-confidence,” says Ben Thakur, principal at eTeam.

If employees know their skills are growing, they know their lives are changing for the better, Thakur says.

The company even polls employees on the type of training they need and where the training dollars should be spent. And that fits in with another aspect of eTeam’s philosophy on keeping workers engaged: getting them involved in the decision-making process and making them feel they contribute to the success of the company.

“As the company grows, they should feel and be able to say they were instrumental in the company’s growth,” Thakur says.

In addition, the basics are important to keeping employees happy, he says. The basics include competitive salaries, benefits and bonus packages. They also include setting clear expectations, providing direction on goals and recognition.

The South Plainfield, N.J.-based firm provides information technology staffing and solutions. It also provides clinical/scientific and commercial staffing.

Thakur says satisfied employees do benefit the bottom line, and satisfied employees are more engaged, and when people like what they are doing there is less stress.

In addition to encouraging its workers to learn new skills, eTeam also works to try out new ideas to become a better place to work. This includes surveying employees as well as taking part in other Best Places to Work For programs such as a local one in New Jersey.

4. Daley and Associates

Loyalty Is Rewarded

Isn’t it expensive to keep employees happy and engaged?

It’s more expensive not to, says Mike Daley, CEO of Daley and Associates. The Boston-based firm provides executive search and professional staffing, including finance/accounting and legal staffing.

“We are a people-conscious environment,” Daley says. “People come here and they have a platform to maximize their potential and their financial reward.”

Getting employees engaged begins with the onboarding of new hires. People get classroom time and then partner with an experienced staff member to learn the ropes. One new hire went with Daley on every interview and every job worked for two months in order to learn the way Daley and Associates sells.

And once on board, the company operates with an open database, allowing people to work together. Daley says in 90 percent of cases, one person has the job order and another person on staff has the candidate. This fosters great teamwork.

Environment is also important, and the company operates out of class A office tower. Besides the upmarket workplace, Daley and Associates has other perks to keep employees happy. For example, workers get membership to a conveniently located top health club that includes laundry service.

Loyalty is rewarded too. This year, two employees celebrated their five-year anniversaries. One received a Bahama beach vacation at Atlantis resort with his family and the other received a trip to New York to see the New England Patriots play the New York Jets.

And when things got tough during the recession, Daley and Associates did not do any layoffs. “We didn’t panic; we kept every single employee,” Daley says.

5. Veritaaq

Workers Are Heard

Listening to employees is one key to creating an engaged workforce at Veritaaq, an Ottawa, Ont.-based information technology staffing firm.

A company has a personality, and the people who work there should reflect that, says Paul Genier, owner and CEO of Veritaaq.

As a result, the company works to get employee feedback and act on it. For example, a couple of years ago the company implemented new performance-based metrics. Based on employee feedback, the company made changes to what was measured, how it was measured and what targets were set.

“The difference between companies that really engage their employees and those that don’t is taking that feedback,” Genier says.

Of course, there’s also fun.

Each year, the company has a “super green target.” When it’s reached, everyone in the company receives a four-day vacation to the Caribbean with his or her spouse.

In addition, Veritaaq works to hire the right people and give them the right tools and support to succeed. It works to empower them to make decisions and then get out of their way to let them do their jobs.

“We see our roles as being there to provide them with the tools, training and support they need to be successful,” Genier says.

“Veritaaq is a great place to work because we challenge our people every day and every day our people deliver,” he says. “We’ve been fortunate to be able to hire great people and it’s not a cliché — it’s the truth — our people are our greatest asset and we treat them that way.”

51 TO 200 EMPLOYEES

1. TekPartners/MedPartnersHIM

Leading by Example

There are no ivory towers at TekPartners/ MedPartnersHIM, a Coral Springs, Fla.-based information technology workforce and health information management workforce solutions provider. CEOs Vito Scutero and Harris Katz lead by example, maintaining a culture of fun and an opendoor policy that keeps employees motivated and productive.

“People make the difference. They are the center of the universe here at our company,” Katz says. “What we try to do as executives is create a company that gives them the highest rate of success, providing the best Coworkers, tools and compensation structure.”

Success at TekPartners/MedPartnersHIM starts with recognition. As part of the company’s core values recognition program, employees nominate deserving peers every month to be featured in a monthly newsletter. “We try to continuously provide recognition to the individuals that are making the greatest contributions to the company,” Scutero says.

Then there’s the “World is Yours” club, an incentives program that rewards the year’s top performers with a vacation voted on by the staff . Twenty three winners from 2011, plus a guest, are slated to enjoy a trip to Cabo San Lucas in June. “We survey employees on what type of incentive trip would motivate them best,” Scutero explains. “We ask for feedback and are always collaborating on how to best motivate our employees because we know that happy workers are productive workers.”

“Life is about the ride,” Katz says. “As executives, we respect our employees’ decision to be with TekPartners/MedPartnersHIM, so we are continually working to make sure our associates’ career is the best, most satisfying experience out there.”

2. The LaSalle Network

Work Is Fun

Working for Chicago-based The LaSalle Network means you are likely to be successful. It also means that you are likely to have a lot of fun. “My goal as a leader is to do things so that my staff wants to call or text their friends or family and tell them ‘you’ll never believe what happened today,’” CEO Tom Gimbel says. “I laugh until I cry at least once a day.”

Fun activities include celebrating “re-birthdays,” in which employees are treated to a party, not to mention a new suit courtesy of Gimbel, on the anniversary date of their first day with the company, and its Olympics-style games, which last year saw Gimbel ride in on a horse wearing war paint and brandishing a sword. “People want to work for people who are engaged and care,” Gimbel says. “It’s OK to be friends with those with whom you work.”

The LaSalle Network aims to maintain its entrepreneurial culture and low turnover rate by acknowledging hiring mistakes. “One thing that allows us to maintain a happy working environment is if we make a hiring mistake, somebody with a bad attitude, we get rid of them quickly,” Gimbel says. For The LaSalle Network, it’s about quality growth, not rapid growth.

The staffing provider also believes in forgiveness. “Employees know that it’s OK to ask for forgiveness. We always believe in teaching. People get in trouble for not asking for help,” Gimbel says. “We celebrate accomplishments and don’t dwell on losses.”

3. Medical Solutions

All About Service

Scott Anderson, president of Medical Solutions Inc., attributes much of the company’s success to its dedication to service.

“Our mentality is to serve,” Anderson explains. “The job of management is to serve the staff and we ask the staff in turn to take that view and truly serve their clients.” The company is very protective about maintaining its service-oriented culture. “It’s almost like a club,” Anderson says.

Employees of Medical Solutions enjoy the full-time service of a concierge, a role established to assist staff with day-to-day tasks that may otherwise prove a distraction from their work. Also, in an effort “to provide a relaxed environment that is built on mutual trust and flexibility,” Anderson explains, the company employs a chief people officer, whose job is “designed around protecting culture and identifying ways to modify and improve the satisfaction of the staff .”

Mornings begin with daily huddles, where the various departments of the office meet up to discuss the day ahead in an effort to maintain transparency. “Employees are smart. They know what’s real, what needs to be transparent,” Anderson says. “You really need to have sincerity in your desire to create an environment that is truly happy and satisfying for them. It’s not something that can be contrived or can happen overnight.”

The company also provides complimentary meals at breakfast and lunch, an effective way to foster a positive work environment while promoting camaraderie among the staff . “We trust and respect our staff and in turn they trust and respect what we are doing,” Anderson says. “We do our absolute best to provide the tools and environment needed for our staff to be successful.”

4. Hire Dynamics

Hiring Right

At Duluth, Ga.-based Hire Dynamics, success starts with hiring quality people — “People with good attitudes that care about others and are really looking to work in a team environment,” CEO Dan Campbell explains.

Hire Dynamics’ philosophy is built around maintaining high standards, from its top-grading approach in the interview process to recently implemented investment in leadership development. “It’s more profitable to spend time and energy creating a quality environment,” Campbell says. “It’s a journey, not a destination.”

Hire Dynamics also surveys employees in order to better understand where changes need to be made, taking into account the subjective nature of work-life balance. “You need to spend time with people,” Campbell says. “The only way you effectively manage that is not from the top, but by each individual local manager understanding what that [work-life balance] means to each person.”

The company’s individual approach to employee needs contributes to its low turnover, which in turn contributes to a retention-based deferred compensation plan. As employees stay with Hire Dynamics, more money goes into the plan. This is one part of a collective effort of employees taking more ownership in their commitment to the company, which is in turn reflected in Hire Dynamics’ commitment to its clients. This is the company’s third time on our list.

5. Veredus

Rewarding Productivity

Employees at Tampa, Fla.-based Veredus know they work for a growth-oriented company, an energetic environment built around achievement and recognition. “We create an environment where individuals can achieve their goals,” CEO Dan Rodriguez says.

Productivity has its perks at Veredus. The top five recruiters and top five sales people, as well as the top national account rep for the year make up what is known as the Founder’s Club. The club members are awarded a week-long vacation. This year will see the Founder’s Club enjoy a trip to London. Other performers have a choice between a trip to San Francisco or a beach vacation in Florida.

Veredus’ culture of productivity and recognition contributes to the company’s low turnover. “We put the focus on our employees. They know that we have their interests at heart,” Rodriguez says. Management encourages input, and rarely does the company have to micromanage its staff . “We want to get as many talented people as we can in our organization,” Rodriguez explains. “We want to treat them in a manner that makes them want to continue with the organization.”

As Veredus looks to expand, it is increasingly calling on employees to step up. “Those who want to be involved in leading that charge to a bigger and better company should speak up,” Rodriguez says. “The longer people are in our business, the better they get.”

201 OR MORE EMPLOYEES

1. Collabera Inc.

Get the Basics Down

Part of the philosophy at Collabera Inc. is that a successful, growing company sets the stage for engaged employees.

In addition, keeping employees happy starts with getting the basics right. That includes the right infrastructure and environment for sales people and recruiters to succeed, says Hemin Shah, co-founder and executive vice president of Collabera. Infrastructure and environment include both the right tools for workers to do their jobs as well as other things such as compensation. It’s also about empowering people.

“Everybody should have the right opportunity to succeed,” Shah says. Collabera also maintains an open-door policy with top executives despite being a large firm, allowing workers to communicate their thoughts.

Team-building events and year-end parties are also part of creating the right environment. And so is recognition. Collabera awards “president’s club” status to its top salespeople and top recruiters each year. Membership in the president’s club includes an extra week of vacation with the company paying for a trip anywhere in the U.S. or the Caribbean for the employee and a significant other. President’s club also includes a free gym membership.

Shah says the process of keeping employees happy is ongoing with the firm continuing to gather new ideas on becoming a better place to work. The hope is to get employees excited about working and furthering the company’s goals.

Collabera is based in Morristown, N.J., and provides information technology staffing. It is also a finalist in the “Best Staffing Firms to Temp/ Contract For.”

2. Signature Consultants LLC

No Employee Is an Island

Keeping the lines of communication open with staff is a priority at Signature Consultants LLC, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based information technology staffing firm. Also important is involving the whole team when it comes to making a decision, which is another aspect of the company’s culture.

Will Schwerin, national account manager who oversees the firm’s San Francisco office serving California, says it was the whole team that sat down around a conference table deciding which business to pursue when the company first opened that office.

“Decisions around here are never made by one,” Schwerin says. “They are assessed by many, and then decided accordingly.”

Internal employees at Signature Consultants also connect with each other countrywide and can travel between Signature’s offices to meet their counterparts in those other locales. This ability to travel creates bonds between internal workers and gives them access to expertise from across the company. Coworkers also become friends at Signature Consultants. There are many occasions to get together as a group. It helps that the company has weekly celebrations with internal workers such as happy hour.

“You’re not on your own island when you come to Signature Consultants, you have the entire company backing you from a resource perspective,” Schwerin says.

Internal workers also attend sporting events; there are team-building activities and there are dinners for hitting milestones.

This is the company’s second year on the list of “Best Staffing Firms to Work For.” It is also a finalist in the “Best Staffing Firms to Temp/ Contract For.”

3. Roth Staffing Companies L.P.

Culture Is Key

Roth Staffing Companies L.P., based in Orange, Calif., ranks as a finalist among the “Best Staffing Firms to Work For” for the second year in a row. The firm’s culture is one of the key things that sets it apart.

“More than any strategy or process or system, it always comes back to culture,” says President and Chief Operating Officer Adam Roth. “Our culture places reverence upon our coworkers doing good things and the right things. Our coworkers join and stay with our company mainly because of their natural alignment with what our company stands for and the experiences that we create for others.”

“The culture at Roth Staffing isn’t just one thing, it actually defines everything,” adds Ben Roth, founder and CEO. “It’s a north star; it provides a framework for behavior and for decision-making.”

“We want to keep making this a great place to work, it’s certainly evolving, it’s a constant focus for us to keep making it better and stronger,” Adam Roth says.

Roth Staffing is also a finalist in the “Best Staffing Firms to Temp/ Contract For.”

4. CHG Healthcare Services Inc.

Happy Employees Boost Bottom Line

How does CHG Healthcare Services Inc. make sure its employees are happy and satisfied?

“We start by listening to our people,” says CEO Michael Weinholtz.

The Salt Lake City-based healthcare staffing firm aims to improve its workplace by hearing about what is needed. To that end, the firm has an annual employee survey administered by a third party. In addition, Weinholtz has a weekly internal blog that allows employees to ask question of him, which he answers directly.

But CHG does more than listen.

“We do a lot of celebrations,” Weinholtz says. “We also encourage work-life balance in terms of flexible schedules.”

CHG also tries to add new programs for employee each year. This year, it’s adding an onsite medical clinic for employees and their families. The clinic will offer primary care and be staffed with a physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner. It’s scheduled to open in July.

The company’s defining core value is “putting people first.”

Weinholtz says happy, satisfied employees do benefit the bottom line because increased engagement correlates with improved performance. This is the company’s third year on our list; it also is No. 9 on Fortune magazine’s 2012 list of best companies to work for.

5. Express Employment Professionals

Integrity

Integrity between management and employees as well as integrity between employees is a cornerstone of what makes Express Employment Professionals a great place to work.

“Our culture is a very open, honest communicative system,” says Chairman and CEO Robert A. Funk.

To help foster that communication, the company holds quarterly meetings where employees may ask questions of management. The company also fosters for employees a sense of belonging and a feeling of being part of something that is much bigger than themselves.

Express Employment Professionals also encourages staff development via a leadership training program.

“We design the goals for them so they know what direction we are going in and where we hope to end up in the near and distant futures,” Funk says.

One of the company’s goals is to have 750 to 900 offices in the U.S. within the next three years; including Canada and South Africa, it currently has 568 offices.

Express Employment Professionals’ philosophy helps retain its employees. Many of the employees have been with the company for 20 years or more, and this is the company’s second year as a finalist on the list of “Best Staffing Firms to Work For.”

“I think most importantly, we have a family environment,” Funk says.

Recently, the company started a relief program called “Expressions of Hope.” Express’ board members donated money to establish the fund which aids workers who undergo tragedies, such as devastating tornadoes that can strike in the Midwest. Workers and franchisees can contribute to the program.

“That’s what a family is all about, helping one another,” Funk says.

Craig Johnson is managing editor, staffing publications, at Staffing Industry Analysts. He can be reached at cjohnson@staffingindustry.com. Sean O’Leary is a freelance writer based in Mountain View, Calif. He can be reached soleary@staffingindustry.com.

[SIDEBAR]

Methodology

This year, 143 firms took part in the “Best Staffing Firms to Work For” program, which was conducted for Staffing Industry Analysts by Quantum Workplace, an Omaha, Neb.-based company.

Internal employees at each firm taking part were asked to complete a 40-question online survey that measures 10 key engagement categories focusing on items including teamwork, trust in senior leaders, feeling valued, manager effectiveness, compensation and benefits.

In order to gather statistically sound results, participating companies must have reached a minimum level of employee participation, based on total number of employees. Responses from each question of each completed survey were compiled and evaluated. Companies were ranked in each size category according to their overall composite score. Winners were chosen based entirely on the survey results.

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