Top Traits: Transparency, company culture, hiring the right workers
One staffing firm brought in a guitar player from a local restaurant to serenade the office. Another firm, as a holiday treat, heads to the mall where employees get $100 to spend in an hour.
The top firms on this year’s “Best Staffing Firms to Work For” lists had a variety of tactics for treating their employees well.
While some tactics were unorthodox, there were some common themes among the top firms: transparency with employees, hiring the right internal workers and maintaining a company culture.
But whatever the strategy, they all added up to great places to work.
This year’s “Best Staffing Firms to Work For” lists include the top five firms to work for in small, medium and large firm categories based on the number of internal employees. The lists rank a total of 16 firms because there was a tie in one category.
A total of 118 firms took part in this year’s program. Quantum Workplace, an Omaha, Neb.-based firm, conducted the research and rankings for Staffing Industry Analysts.
The highest-ranking small firm was LiquidAgents Healthcare. The highest-ranking midsize company was USr Healthcare. And the highest-ranking large firm was Signature Consultants.
The top firms provide several different types of staffing and come from across the United States. However, three of the 16 are based in Alpharetta, Ga.
Two of the best staffing firms to work for also ranked on Staffing Industry Analysts’ 2010 list of fastest-growing staffing firms: Akraya Inc., No. 2 in the small firms category, and Accurate Personnel Services, No. 4 in the midsize firms category.
Below, are profiles of the winning companies, grouped by company size.
20 to 50 employees
Work Hard, Play Hard
#1 LiquidAgents Healthcare
At Plano, Texas-based LiquidAgents Healthcare, employees don’t just work hard, they play hard. It’s all about having a little fun during the work day. For example, they can play ping pong or pool in the company’s Chi Lounge.
“We decrease stress by creating a fun environment,” says CEO Sheldon Arora. “We morphed an ordinary office into a colorful space where employees can learn, produce and interact.”
At LiquidAgents, when staff members notice one of their colleagues doing something great — or perhaps having a challenging week — they can nominate that person to spin the company’s prize wheel.
Among the prizes that have been awarded are a free lunch, a “skip” pass that entitles the winner to leave work early, a car wash, a free tank of gas, cash, half a car payment and tickets to a concert.
Employees also appreciate LiquidAgents’ “Free Lunch Fridays,” which occur once a month.
Beyond the prizes and giveaways, the company maintains an open-door policy. “The staff feels comfortable approaching their leaders for help,” Arora says. “We talk, discuss and debate to realize any challenges they may face. Input is important to our success. Everyone wants to do a good job and we make it easy for them.”
#2 Akraya Inc.
There’s a saying at Akraya that once you’re an Akrayan, you’re always an Akrayan.
The Sunnyvale, Calif., company boasts an internal turnover rate of 3 percent, says CEO Amar Panchal. The only reasons people have left Akraya are a career or life change, Panchal says, never for a competitor.
At Akraya, everyone has a say in who is hired. People interviewing for a sales position, for example, will meet with the sales team as well as people in recruiting, operations and human resources.
Communication also is very important to Akraya. The company regularly shares its financial information with employees, even if it’s not all roses. Employees also learn how their work contributes to the company’s bottom line, Panchal points out. “We share with everyone what our vision is,” he says. “They know where we are going and how their work contributes to our getting there.”
Akrayans also celebrate success. A bell is rung for any major achievement. And for a new employee’s first major achievement, Panchal treats the office to ice cream.
During the holiday season, Akraya also gives employees $100 to spend at the local mall, which they can spend however they like. The only stipulation is that the money needs to be spent in an hour. “It’s a fun afternoon,” Panchal says.
#3 Hire Dynamics
At Hire Dynamics, the philosophy is to hire right — and to do it the first time around. The company strongly believes in the concept of topgrading, an interview process that helps employers weed out the high achievers or “A Players” from the rest of the pack, according to CEO Dan Campbell. The Alpharetta, Ga.-based company hires self-starters who don’t need to be micromanaged.
Every employee has three quarterly goals. The company also reimburses employees who want to take classes that will help them in their jobs. Additionally, Hire Dynamics surveys employees and then makes changes based on those surveys.
Hire Dynamics promotes from within. “We know that culturally they are a fit,” Campbell says. “They are not as much of a risk. They have proven themselves.”
The company has a deferred compensation plan that is based on its retention. The lower the turnover the company has, the more money there is in the plan.
All About Service
Picking up the co-pay for medical, paying for public transportation and “Wookie awards,” are just some of the ways Washington-based Keepers Inc. focuses on being a great place to work.
While a lot of companies provide their employees with health insurance, Keepers takes that one step further and also provides its employees with a credit card to cover their co-pay or other medical expenses that their insurance doesn’t cover, effectively providing medical care at no cost to them, explains CEO Joseph McDermott. “We feel that this is something they don’t need to be worried about,” he says.
Additionally, Keepers is a big supporter of public transportation: If an employee uses public transportation to get to work, the company covers the cost. “It’s a pretty lofty bill for us,” McDermott says. “It’s about $3,000 or $4,000 a month. We pick that up.”
Keepers holds a banquet once a quarter at which it gives out awards for world-class service, better known internally as the “Wookie awards.”
McDermott also calls employees personally on their company anniversary.
Synergis cares about its employees’ health. Last year, the company launched a wellness program that reimburses employees for out-of-pocket expenses related to their healthcare, according to President Doug Ross. For example, if employees get a flu shot, the company will foot the bill.
Early this year, Alpharetta, Ga.-based Synergis also launched a biggest-loser contest. Employees pooled their money and the employee who lost the most weight after two months won the money. Synergis also plans to award a bonus at the end of the year to employees who maintain their weight loss. “It’s amazing the enthusiasm we’ve had for this program,” Ross says.
Training is also important to Synergis. “We spend a fairly large portion of our budget on professional development, leadership and management training, sales and recruiting training, training on industry issues,” Ross says.
Staff with five years’ service receive an extra month of paid time off in addition to their regular vacation time. “We have high expectations for people but we also feel it is very important to give back and take care of them,” Ross says.
Furthermore, a new mother still gets her full income during her maternity leave. Aflac insurance pays 50 percent of her salary and the company pays the remaining 50 percent.
#5 John Galt Staffing
Bob Siemering, co-founder and chairman of John Galt Staffing, attributes much of his company’s success to alignment.
“We believe it is essential that each employee’s goals are in complete alignment with the company’s goals so that we can be successful together,” Siemering explains.
Each year, John Galt Staffing sets a goal and if employees meet that goal, they and a guest get to go on a trip. Having met the goal for 2010, employees and guests will be going to Las Vegas in May. Next year’s planned destination, should this year’s goal be met, is Reykjavik, Iceland.
John Galt Staffing invests a great deal of resources in training and developing its staff. New hires go through a rigorous training program that exposes them to every department within the company. The company also provides weekly classroom training for all employees on a variety of topics that are developed based on the company’s current challenges and opportunities.
The Burlington, Mass., company also strives to communicate with employees, holding “State of the Company” meetings two to three times a year to discuss its plans going forward, as well as evaluate itself on recent performance, Siemering says.
Volunteering is also important to the company. Staff will periodically go to regional unemployment offices to help job seekers write resumes and develop job search strategies, Siemering says.
51 to 200 employees
A Company of Equals
#1 USr Healthcare
When Mark Dixon worked for a large distribution company, there was a clearly defined hierarchy. Sales reps were on top and customer service people and warehouse people were on the bottom. And he hated it.
So, when Dixon founded USr Healthcare, he wanted to make sure everyone was on the same level. “We are what I define as a company of equals,” Dixon says.
Based in Brentwood, Tenn., USr Healthcare attracts people who work well in a team environment, are competitive and have a sales mindset from the very beginning, according to Dixon.
He says USr Healthcare is good about providing employees with work/life balance. His message is: “We want you to enjoy the relationship you have with the company. Family is important. Your personal time is important.”
Employees get an extra day off as a birthday gift. “They can use it whenever they want,” explains Dixon. Also, every single employee receives a $300 gift card at the company’s holiday party.
#2 Veredus Corporation
After a year’s service at Tampa, Fla.-based Veredus Corp., employees can participate in a profit-sharing program that pays out quarterly. Fifty percent of the allocation goes directly to the employees and the remaining 50 percent goes into a vesting schedule, says CEO Dan Rodriguez.
Employees also can earn extra vacation time based on their productivity. Furthermore, the top 10 producers each year get an all-expense paid trip for themselves and a guest. This year’s top producers will go to London in 2012.
Management is visible, accessible and approachable. “Execs have one-on-one relationships with all employees. People like that,” Rodriguez says.
The results-driven company doesn’t micromanage. For example, the company doesn’t monitor the amount of calls employees make. “That stuff is for the other guys,” Rodriguez says. “We hire good people internally. We want all of the good staffers on our team. We hire every all-star we can find.”
All of this contributes to low turnover. “When someone leaves our company, it’s an event,” says Rodriguez. “We very rarely lose anybody that comes to work for us. It gives us continuity. Our customers like it because their sales rep isn’t changing (all the time). They have been dealing with the same person for four years, five years. They like that.”
Successful Yet Fun
#3 The LaSalle Network
Whether it is “re-birthdays” or bringing in a guitar player to serenade the office, The LaSalle Network aims to be successful while having fun.
“The No. 1 thing I do is I realize my staff has a choice to work here or other places, so I appreciate what they do every single day,” says Tom Gimbel, president and CEO of The LaSalle Network, a staffing provider based in the Chicago area. “I make sure that when I see my staff, I thank them for the work that they do.”
The company has a team of people dedicated to employee relations. Among other activities, the company celebrates “re-birthdays” on the anniversaries of employees’ hire dates.
The LaSalle Network also seeks other ways to boost morale. One day, to raise the energy level in the office, Gimbel asked a guitar player at a Chicago-area Potbelly restaurant to come in and serenade in the office. “My productivity for the next three weeks was on fire,” Gimbel says.
However, it’s important to have the right people in place, he says. Prospective internal employees will meet with no less than six of the company’s staff members in the hiring process, including Gimbel. “I’m not just the last interview; I’m the first or second interview.”
A Family Feel
#4 Accurate Personnel Services
Accurate Personnel Services, based in Schaumburg, Ill., strives to maintain a family feel, even as it grows.
“We’ve always had that feel, and our focus has been on maintaining that family atmosphere as we continue to grow to the level that we have,” says Rob Migliore, an owner of the firm. “Everybody knows everybody, everybody gets an opportunity to work with each other.”
Accurate Personnel also strives to ensure that people working in its nine offices aren’t isolated. “The more people work together, the more that family atmosphere continues,” Migliore says.
The company also has an open-door policy, encouraging workers to approach the ownership, says David Migliore, also an owner of the company. “Ownership is not too large to hear them out,” he says.
Accurate’s focus appears to be serving it well. In addition to ranking as a best staffing firm to work for, the company also ranked on Staffing Industry Analysts’ 2010 list of fastest-growing staffing firms.
“If our employees are happy in their job and are glad to come to work every day, they impart that to the contingent staff we’re sending out,” says Rob Migliore.
The Right Fit
#5 Jackson & Coker
Jackson & Coker strives to match new hires’ personalities with the appropriate jobs and also assigns each new employee a mentor.
“The main thing is getting the right people for the right job,” says Ed McEachern, vice president of marketing at Jackson & Coker, a provider of physician permanent placement and locum tenens.
Alpharetta, Ga.-based Jackson & Coker uses an online survey to help categorize a new hire’s personality, such as whether a person has the personality to handle the rigors of sales.
“By truly matching and caring about the hire, we have a much higher degree of retention,” McEachern says. “It works out better for all parties.”
Other benefits Jackson & Coker offers include an on-site cafeteria (subsidized by the company), an on-site gym and a game room. In addition, the company does charity and support work.
Being a best place to work can help attract the caliber of people the firm wants to hire, McEachern says. The company hopes to attract candidates who research the company before the interview, and therefore notice the best firm to work for ranking, because those people will bring the same amount of tenacity when they are working with a medical facility to determine what kind of doctor it will need.
Jackson & Coker was also on last year’s list of Best Staffing Firms to Work For.
Large Firms (201+ employees)
#1 Signature Consultants LLC
Culture is what makes Signature Consultants a great place to work, and that culture includes teamwork, says Debbie Green, a senior account manager at the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., information technology staffing firm.
“It definitely is a true partnership at Signature,” Green says. “The people that are successful here are truly team members.”
The company stretches the teamwork approach to handling difficulties.
Signature also listens to its employees, she says. “From the day you walk in the door, you can voice your opinion on whatever the topic may be.”
The company also focuses on motivation and training of its staff, Green says, while striving to maintain a sense of humor as well. Having a passion for the business is also a key component shared by employees, according to Green.
Being considered a great place to work is the icing on the cake, she says. Being respected by clients, the resources and the competition is key.
A Lot of Heart
#2 Express Employment Professionals
“We try to find people who have a lot of heart for each other,” says Robert A. Funk, a founder of the Oklahoma City-based firm, which recently ranked as the 11th largest staffing firm in the United States. “I think our principle of helping others to succeed is you have to have a lot of heart.”
To that end, Funk still interviews each internal worker and franchisee. One question Funk asks in interviews is what motivates the person — work environment, recognition or money. “Usually how they answer that question tells me what kind of heart they have,” he says.
Another important ingredient is transparency with workers. Employees can interface with upper management at quarterly meetings. “There are very few issues we can’t share with them or don’t share with them,” Funk says. When a difficult situation does arise, the workers understand it and work to solve it.
Express also strives to maintain a fun workplace, holding Christmas parties and outings; the company also has a track and field team that competes in Oklahoma City.
Being a great place to work without a doubt helps the bottom line, Funk says.
“Our productivity is extremely high for the number of employees we have,” he says. People “will work a lot harder if they’re happy.”
#3 CHG Healthcare Services
“It starts with our company culture,” says CEO Michael Weinholtz of making CHG Healthcare Services a great place to work. “We invest a lot in building a culture of trust.”
As part of that trust, the Salt Lake City-based healthcare staffing firm works to include as many people as possible in decision-making processes. For example, all the company’s employees were divided into brainstorming groups at the start of the recession and asked to come up with ideas to improve efficiencies or lower costs.
“Our first core value is called ‘putting people first’ and we reflect that in the investment we make in our people,” Weinholtz says.
CHG did not have mass layoffs during the last recession, and the company tried not to cut back on anything that had to do with its employees, their benefits or their training, he says.
A couple of years ago, the company’s benefits costs decreased. Rather than keeping those savings, the company passed them on to its employees by lowering their benefits costs.
Of course, the company strives to have fun as well. CHG had 200 separate events in 2010 — from celebrating awards and milestones to birthdays, Weinholtz says.
This is its second year on the Best Staffing Firms to Work For list.
An Honor and a Journey
#4 Roth Staffing Companies LP
“Becoming a great place to work is an honor, but it’s also a journey,” says Ben M. Roth, founder and CEO of Orange, Calif.-based Roth Staffing Cos. L.P. “It’s been a goal of ours since we opened the company.”
The company’s core values are strong, and the company’s culture is defined by those core values, Roth says.
“We understand the purpose of our company, which is to make life better for the people we serve,” Roth says.
It’s those core values that form a culture that is a great place to work, he says. And despite the company’s size, it has one culture.
“Today, a good portion of our candidates come to us because of the culture ... they want to be part of what we stand for,” Roth says. “We understand that our industry gives us a platform for doing good things for people and we want to enliven that throughout our company.”
“Aerotek has always believed in creating an environment where there is a high value placed on relationships both internally as well as with our customers and the employees we put to work,” says Todd Gardner, vice president of marketing and communications at Aerotek.
“While we have implemented many employee-friendly programs, we believe that the reason we have attained this high level of employee loyalty is most likely attributed to creating a strong performance-driven culture held together with strong relationship built on mutual respect,” Gardner says.
Aerotek is part of Hanover, Md.-based Allegis Group, the largest staffing firm in the United States, as ranked by Staffing Industry Analysts.
Craig Johnson is managing editor of SI Review. He can be reached at email@example.com. Julie McCoy is associate editor, staffing publications, at Staffing Industry Analysts.