Best Companies to Work For: Taking Care of People

In the midst of the recession, some employees might have argued that a “Best Company to Work For” is whichever company gives them a job.In the midst of the recession, some employees might have argued that a “Best Company to Work For” is whichever company gives them a job. While times have been tough for many Nevada businesses, as the state comes out of this recession, it is clear there are a number of companies who continue to go above and beyond for their employees. These businesses make it a priority to take care of their people however they can and have won the loyalty of those they work with.

The following pages highlight 12 of these companies. They were chosen through a nomination process that began in early May of this year. After receiving well over 400 nominations from employees throughout the state, the editorial staff at Nevada Business Magazine had the unenviable task of narrowing the pool of nominees down.

In order to get a first-hand account of how these businesses run without actually applying and getting hired at each, the magazine staff looked at several points of employee well-being including how the company treats employees, the kind of benefits offered and the values each company holds sacred. This list was narrowed down several times in order to find the cream of the crop. Based on both individual nominations as well as staff research, the following companies represent Nevada’s 2014 Best Companies to Work For.

American Medical Response

Las Vegas

It’s not easy working in the ambulance business. Paramedics experience high-levels of stress simply by doing their jobs. “The bad part about this business is that you’re going to see the worst of people and the worst of circumstances,” said Tony Greenway, operations manager for the Southern Nevada based American Medical Response (AMR), which was founded in 1953. “All the folks who work here do so because they want to help and they want to feel good about what they’re doing,” he added.

AMR’s management team has made it a priority for the company to ensure that their people are able to do their jobs to the best of their ability. That has meant building an internal system that allows employees to have counseling sessions whenever they need them.

“There’s no crying in ambulance work, but there needs to be sometimes,” said Greenway. The organization has created a team of paramedics called the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) team.

“They have to be EMTs or paramedics who do not have supervisory authority,” explained Greenway. “We pay for them to have specialized training with licensed therapists in critical incident stress management and, specifically, in debriefing. The research suggests being able to share [bad experiences] with another person diminishes greatly the likelihood of developing PTSD. That was a priority for us.”

The CISM team is available 24 hours a day and proactively meets paramedics that have been on a tough call to see if they need to talk. In addition to their extensive counseling services, AMR offers medical, dental and vision insurance, encourages and helps pay for continuing education, has a robust bonus plan and sponsorship programs and remains flexible to the needs of their employees.

“Every time we turn around our management team is making an effort to improve our daily work lives, whether it’s seen by the employees or not. That speaks volumes,” said Damon Schilling, community outreach coordinator and field training officer with AMR.

“The best part of what we are and what we do is the people that are here,” said Greenway.

Brenkus Team at Keller Williams

Las Vegas

Creating a culture of service and an attitude of ownership in their employees, Rick and Teri Brenkus founded The Brenkus Team in 2005. The husband and wife team actively encourage their employees to move forward in their careers and provide them with tools and incentives to do so.

“We feel very fortunate and proud that we’ve got a sharp, customer service-orientated group of people that are harmonious in the way they interact with each other and with customers and clients,” said Rick Brenkus.

The residential real estate brokerage company offers a variety of ways for employees to benefit financially from incentives to profit sharing opportunities and bonuses. In addition, The Brenkus Team offers health benefits, agent classes and provides leadership resources and team building events for staff.

“[Rick and Teri Brenkus] are about ‘let me teach and grow you’ and they are fearless of that,” said Leticia (Letty) Rolon, office manager. “They genuinely care about every individual; they care and motivate. Here we believe that if you’re stressed or out of your comfort zone that means you’re going to be hitting a ceiling. We want to help employees break through that ceiling so they can grow in that area of their life and work.”

In fact, one of the cornerstone’s of the culture at the Brenkus Team is growing and supporting employees in their lives. Leadership at the company meets with their employees weekly to discuss goals, questions and ideas. Adding to the holistic approach to employee wellness, the Brenkus’ have made community giving a part of their employee’s workplace. Annually, employees are able to participate in “Red Day” wherein they renovate a house for someone in need. In addition, the organization contributes to a fund called “KW Cares” that assists those in need.

“Every time Rick and Teri sell a listing, they contribute money into KW Cares,” explained Rolon. “I have been able to witness KW Cares help out individuals. One was a coworker of mine who fell off a ladder and broke her back. She had no medical at the time; KW Cares paid her medical bills.”

Calculated Industries

Carson City

Calculated Industries (CI) must be doing something right; the average number of years of service for their employees is a decade. The manufacturing organization, founded in 1978, produces specialty calculators and digital measuring tools.

“It’s a very family orientated company,” said Steve Kennedy, president. “People recognize that it’s a place where people care about each other.”

“Everyone knows about everyone’s family,” added Stacey Coons, human resources. “We’ve seen people’s kids grow up. There’s just something special about that.”

The company pays one hundred percent of medical, dental and vision and contributes additional funds to cafeteria plans. Most impressively, CI provides a $10,000 bonus for every 10 years employed by the company. This past year, the organization handed out several of those bonuses and did so despite the state of the economy.

“This year we did four in one month,” said Kennedy. “We’ve had a total of six this year; three of them were for 20 years. I’ve actually managed to get three of them since I’ve been here.”

That’s quite an incentive for employees and is the icing on the cake for an organization that organizes monthly barbecues, catered luncheons and potlucks, works to spotlight individuals with great ideas and is a primary supporter of the Fred Alexander Golf Clinic, which encourages youth golf.

“They want to work so much harder for you when you treat them right and be respectful of them and get to know them personally to see what makes them thrive,” said Coons.

Kennedy echoed Coons and added that listening and getting employee input was a vital part of the organization. “They are really the people that hear the most and they’re the people we turn to for product development,” he said.

When asked why she enjoyed working for CI, Coons said, “It’s the people. To be honest with you, it’s just fun to come [to work]. I like everyone I work with.”

City National Bank

Statewide

Does a national organization whose leadership strives to personally know thousands of employees and genuinely cares about their goals sound like a fairytale? It’s not; rather it’s the culture of City National Bank (CNB) and a reality for the company’s 85 Nevada employees or “colleagues” as they are known at the bank. Founded in 1954, the bank celebrated their 60th birthday in January of this year by simultaneously providing lunch for each of their colleagues at every bank location at the same time.

“The people who work here are very, very important to us,” said John Wilcox, Nevada regional executive. “We are a performance-driven organization. We have a culture where we spend a lot of time mentoring, developing and coaching our colleagues so they can have the skills necessary to achieve the goals we give them.”

CNB offers a variety of health benefits and incentive programs including a profit sharing program and continuing education classes. The bank also encourages and pays for employees to go to local schools and teach students through the “Dollar and Cents” program and offers scholarships for dependents.

“Employees can nominate dependents, their children, to receive scholarships,” explained Laurie Burk, senior vice president of operations and HR. “You could nominate, submit an application and get awarded a $5,000 scholarship.”

In addition, CNB offers cash rewards for good ideas through their Ideas in Action program wherein employees submit money-saving ideas to management and are rewarded if those ideas are implemented. The bank’s award programs are also extensive and encourage employees to go above the call of duty. Called the Blue Ladder awards, colleagues are nominated by their peers for their work at the bank. Every year 12 colleagues are selected as Blue Ladder winners and receive an award, compensation and a picture with the chairman at the annual officer’s meeting.

“I’m not a number and I matter,” said Wilcox when asked why he enjoys working for the bank. “I’ve suggested things we might do differently in the bank that have been adopted and implemented bank-wide. That makes you feel like you really are making a difference.”

Cox Communications

Las Vegas

It’s clear an organization is serious about their employees when the founder mentions them in his will. Began 116 years ago by James M. Cox, Cox Communications is a well-known technology company in Southern Nevada. When Cox passed away in 1957, he had assurances from his heirs that they would carry on his philosophy regarding employees.

“In his will he made reference to the employees,” said Mike Bolognini, market vice president. “One of the things he instructed his heirs was to never take for granted the employees and that the employees were the single biggest asset the company had. They need to treat the employees with respect and provide an environment where employees enjoyed coming to work; then the company would flourish. That has really carried through.”

Today, Cox employees can take advantage of a number of perks from healthcare benefits and wellness programs to leadership development, educational reimbursement, children’s scholarship programs, adoption credits, service awards and profit sharing plans. In their Las Vegas headquarters, employees have access to a full service restaurant called Cox Café and can partake of healthy food options from a highly-trained chef. The organization encourages openness and strives to ensure every individual voice is heard.

“You can get your best work that way because there’s no intimidation or a feeling of chain of commands,” said Carrie Pierce, executive field director, human resources. “Employees are really able to speak to anybody they want to about concerns or ideas they might have. Our culture is very diverse, inclusive, collaborative and energized.”

“It’s really important for a leader to have the skills of listening because that’s how we really enhance the business,” added Bolognini. “How we make our business better for our employees and our customers is by listening to our employees.”

To encourage that openness, Bolognini hosts roundtables for employees and responds to questions or concerns posted in an “Ask Mike” section of the company’s internal intranet.

“He just really wants to know what is on folk’s minds. He works to make sure their concerns or ideas are brought forward,” explained Pierce.

To further enrich their employees, Cox actively participates in several local charities and events and encourages their people to get involved in the community.

ENEL Green Power North America, Inc.

Reno

ENEL Green Power North America is unique in its approach to their employees. The company owns and operates renewable energy plants all over the world. Nevertheless, the company’s Reno presence remains rooted in the community while giving their employees the opportunity to travel internationally.

“What’s interesting about us is, because we’re so integrated amongst our team, we’re able to take a look at our manpower tools,” said William Price, vice president of engineering and construction in Reno. “It’s always better to work with people within your company to try and best allocate those resources. It creates opportunity and also diversification.”

For employees of ENEL, that means they can be working in Reno one day and Rome the next. The company gives employees the opportunity and tools to live and work in over 40 countries. In addition to global training and work programs, ENEL offers full medical, dental and vision, a gym sponsorship, tuition reimbursement, an internal education program and comprehensive giving opportunities for employees.

“For me, it was important for us to allow employees time to give, on us, to charities that were important to them and to allow our employees to give money and know that it’s being matched and supported by the company they work for,” said Amee Desjoury, vice president of human resources and administrative services.

“We adopted a park in Reno where we dedicate a whole day to community service,” added Price. “Basically, the Reno employees work in Mayberry Park. We painted picnic tables and did a bunch of yard work.”

ENEL also awards their employees for excellent work, good ideas and outstanding contributions. The Mega Watt, Giga Watt and Terra Watt awards provide employees with monetary compensation or gift cards for going above and beyond in their positions.

“I’m pretty enthusiastic about our team,” said Price. “I’m very appreciative of the fact that we’re making on impact on people’s lives.”

JBA Consulting Engineers

Las Vegas

JBA Consulting Engineer’s employee philosophy is best summed up by the company’s president, Allyn Vaughn who said, “We don’t sell product; we sell professional services. Our biggest asset is our people. They can make or break the company. Our people are the most important part of our professional service.”

Founded in Las Vegas in 1966 by Ralph Joeckel, JBA is an engineering company with offices all over the world. The company prides itself on its transparent environment where employees are encouraged to talk to management.

“Our offices are based on open ‘bull-pen’ cubicles,” said Vaughn. “Our CEO, chairman, founder and myself all sit on the open floor. We try to be as transparent as we can with everything. If somebody wanted to know how we’re doing financially in the company, they can walk right up to the CFO on the open floor and ask.”

Perhaps JBA’s open-door policy is responsible for the longevity of their employees, some of whom have been with the company for over 40 years. The company also foots the bill for both employee’s and their spouse’s health, dental and vision insurance and provides opportunities for voluntary, supplemental insurance. Tuition reimbursement, community giving, company picnics and employee appreciation lunches are par for the course at JBA. One of the most beloved traditions at the organization is JBA’s annual “Take Your Child to Work Day”.

“We get anywhere from 25 to 40 kids in here and it’s a big event,” said Vaughn. “We make them go through interviews and come in like they’re going to join the JBA team.”

Focusing on the wellness and happiness of their employees has proven successful for JBA who now has nine offices both domestically and internationally.

“I like to think that, while we have a business that needs to be run, I can see things from the employee’s perspective,” said Vaughn.

McDonald Carano Wilson

Statewide

A statewide law firm, McDonald Carano Wilson (MCW) was founded in 1949 by US Senator Alan Bible and Robert (Bob) McDonald.
“[Bob’s] philosophy with respect to the staff is that you take care of staff and the staff will take care of you,” said John Frankovich, the firm’s managing partner in Reno. “Over the years, we’ve had a lot of stability. We’ve had a lot of people stay a long time, both the lawyers and the staff. It’s a testament to the way we treat people and the way we do business.”

An important part of MCW’s culture is pride in the company’s home state, Nevada. Frankovich said, “We have a large number of lawyers who were born and raised in Nevada and a lot of people who have been in Nevada for long periods of time. That’s one of our hallmarks; we’re really dedicated to the state of Nevada.”

The firm dedication extends to their employees. MCW provides a fully-stocked kitchen, catered lunches for employee anniversaries, summer pool parties and potlucks throughout the year. The company encourages employee feedback and actively seeks input on ways to improve operations, policies and procedures. Additionally, MCW pays full medical, vision and life insurance for their employees and half the costs for employee dependents. The firm also regularly gives bonuses and contributes to a 401k and profit sharing plan.

In particular, the health and wellness of employees is very important to MCW’s management team. The company has an on-site gym and discounted gym memberships and hosts lectures on healthy eating and the importance of exercise.

“We have memberships and health club discounts that are offered to employees,” explained Frankovich. “We have a program that we run every year called ‘Bike to Work’ where we give people gift certificates to markets and grocery stores for riding their bike to work.”

How has the firm stayed successful through the years? “I used to say it was good lawyers who were also good people, now I think it’s good people who are also good lawyers,” said Frankovich.

One Nevada Credit Union

Statewide

Member-owned and operated since 1950, One Nevada Credit Union, formerly known as Nevada Federal Credit Union, has a vested interest in keeping their employees happy. With branches in Reno, Pahrump and Las Vegas, One Nevada recognizes the importance of employee morale and it shows.

“When we did our employee opinions survey, we asked everybody to describe, in their own words what the culture is,” said Beth Galofaro, assistant vice president of human resources. “The employees really did say that, at One Nevada, they believe employees matter. They wrote it.”

The organization works to recognize employees regularly through awards ceremonies and encourages them to promote one another and nominate each other for those awards. The company’s “TOPS” (teamwork, opportunity, progress and service) awards are a big hit and one of the events the credit union’s president, Bradley Beal, looks forward to each year.

“Once a year we close the offices early and have a great big meeting where everybody gets together,” said Beal. “About 45 minutes is spent on recognizing people that have had special accomplishments.”

Beal personally encourages his executives to get to know employees at each of the branches and to be involved with their lives. “[One Nevada executives] really do walk the talk,” said Galofaro. “It’s not just lip service. Just yesterday, the president of the credit union was giving out individual cups of ice cream to people because it’s so hot right now.”

The credit union offers a variety of choices for health benefits to their employees from traditional HMO or POS plans to health reimbursement accounts for employees that want to take a non-traditional approach to healthcare. The organization also recently participated in a national program called “Healthy Wage” to incentive weight loss throughout the organization.

One Nevada believes that education is important for their employees and offers tuition reimbursement based on the grade an employee receives in class. The credit union also offers training for their employees and encourages them to grow within the organization.

“We’re big on employee retention,” said Beal. “We invest a lot of money building skills and the abilities of our folks. To get full advantage of that, we obviously need to retain them. One of the most important retention tools is career advancement. Whenever we have an opening, internal applicants are given first consideration for the position.”

Opportunity Village

Las Vegas

It could be argued that Opportunity Village (OV) had an unfair advantage as one of the “Best Companies to Work For” because their employees are in the business of helping people which is its own reward.

“They provide hope for individuals with disabilities and their families,” said Edward Guthrie, executive director. “Each and every one of us has the chance to make somebody’s life better that day because of what we do. Because of their efforts, people with disabilities and their families will have a better day that day and every day.”

While they do have a certain edge when it comes to providing rewarding work for their employees, the Southern Nevada non-profit still works to support its employees in a variety of ways from recognition programs to education reimbursements and healthcare benefits.

“In November, we will have an employee celebration awards program in which we recognize ‘Employee of the Year’,” said HR Director Leonard Wilson, Jr. “That person will receive a $2,200 voucher to travel anywhere they want to in the world as well as one week of vacation time.”

One outstanding benefit for employees of OV is the non-profit’s Homebuyer Assistance Program. After one year of service, any full-time employee is eligible to borrow ten thousand dollars towards the purchase of a home. In addition, for every year of service thereafter OV forgives $2,000 of that loan.

Guthrie contends that taking care of their employees is vital to do the work Opportunity Village does. “You’re only as good as the people who provide the service. We have to make sure we hire and retain the best people so that we can do that. These benefits are important to us because it’s one of those things that helps you attract and retain the best people so that you can continue to maintain high quality services,” he said.

Sands Corporation

Las Vegas

An internationally recognized brand, the Sands Corporation must meet the challenge of providing a happy and fulfilling workplace for thousands of employees. Nevertheless, the organization’s leadership has managed to do just that. Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO for the corporation has made it clear to his team that employees are a priority.

“The major thing here is Sheldon Adelson’s view with how employees should be treated,” said COO Michael Leven. “We have higher benefit and pay structures than any of the competing hotels. We have 1,500 employees who were here from the very beginning. Our turnover rate is probably one of the lowest in our industry.”

The company offers a range of benefits from daycare centers, team member dining rooms and an on-site gym to a concierge service for employees. The Sands culture is important to its leadership team and it shows in the way they treat employees and the loyalty those employees show to the company.

“Engagement is a term we talk about broadly,” explained Todd McCarthy, senior vice president of global HR. “That has been, from the start, the focus of our culture in terms of wanting to have a direct relationship with our team members and making this people’s second home as much as we can.”

“Sheldon’s position was to make sure we were the best employer on the Strip,” added Leven. “As a consequence, I think people are very satisfied with their workplace. It’s not only about money and benefits; it’s about the atmosphere that you create. It’s pretty much an open shop here; people can talk to anybody. It’s an open door.”

One thing is clear, Sands employee are not lacking in benefits or atmosphere. In addition to non-traditional benefits, Sands Corporation offers employees quality health benefits on the company’s dime as well as leadership training opportunities.

“There’s no way you can run a business like this and be successful without the [right] kind of employees,” said Leven. “They help you to be successful; they have to execute the strategy of your investment.”

Valley Electric Association, Inc.

Pahrump

Valley Electric Association (VEA) may not be the first name that comes to mind when thinking of energy in Nevada but, among its employees especially, it is a well-loved name. Located in Pahrump, VEA is a non-profit cooperative utility that began in 1965. The utility cares for their employees and offers tuition assistance, time off for studies, a full-range of benefits and a retirement plan.

“We have a real, old-fashioned, qualified retirement plan that we fund one hundred percent for our employees,” said Bart Thurgood, director of human resources. “We have, in my humble opinion, one of the best benefit plans I’ve ever seen. We also have a short-term disability benefit for employees that the company pays for.”

Thomas Husted, chief executive officer for VEA added that the co-op’s tuition reimbursement is top-notch. “If any of our employees would like to continue their education, they can do so. With a successful passing of those classes, we reimburse one hundred percent of their expenses. Employees can expand their education and get their degree or a second degree to advance themselves professionally,” Husted explained.

VEA also encourages employees to contribute to their community and began a “Fill the Bucket” program about ten years ago that collects school supplies from the public to donate to children in need.

“Everything we’re doing is to better things,” said Thurgood. “There are no politics here. The employees are valuable because they’re the ones that make it happen. It doesn’t matter what level of employee it is, every person is a critical part of this organization. Without them, we cannot provide these incredible services to the members that we have.”

“We’re a representation of the good people that own this company and the community,” Husted added.