With unemployment rates in excess of 11 percent and people throughout Nevada spending their days filling out employment applications, 2009 is definitely an employers market. However, smart employers realize the pendulum will swing in the other direction and strive to create work environments that create loyalty among team members.
Nevada Business Magazine’s annual quest for “Best Companies to Work For” resulted in hundreds of nominations from employees throughout the state, all making a case as to why their company should be honored as one of the best companies. The editorial staff of the magazine spent countless hours researching the companies, debating nominees and finally agreeing on this year’s honorees.
Congratulations to the following 2009 Best Companies to Work For.
Time out for fun and games
Employees at Answer Plus were loud in their exclamation that theirs was the best place to work in Nevada. The company has a total of 40 employees and is based in Las Vegas. The company’s motto is “We’re going to answer your phones with a smile in our voice” and it is the chief executive officer, Vicki Montgomery, who ensures that smile is genuine.
“I started the company from scratch 23 years ago and it was my goal to create a family atmosphere,” Montgomery said. “We’ve been able to maintain that atmosphere since then.”
Aside from offering medical, dental, vision and a 401k, the company offers bonuses and incentive packages as well as the employee dubbed “Relaxation Station,” a room that was added on after an office expansion. The room, which is a no-work zone, features cable TV, internet access and even a Wii game system.
According to several of Answer Plus’ employees, Montgomery is the driving force behind the company. Anthony Dorf, chief financial officer for the company said, “She cares about our clients and our staff the way a parent nurtures their children. We learn and grow more than the sum of our parts. I will retire in seven more years and I am dedicated to Answer Plus and to Vicki Montgomery.”
Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare
Communication is key
With approximately 1,200 employees, Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare has more than enough suggestions on what the company needs to do to keep employees happy. The company subscribes to a simple plan; listening. According to the President and CEO, Ed Epperson, the company holds monthly meetings in order to encourage employees to talk to management about issues they may be facing.
In addition to these monthly meetings, the company has an independent agency conduct annual surveys on employee satisfaction and any department within the organization can schedule a member of management to attend their department meetings.
Along with the hospital’s standard benefits package, the company offers discounts for gym membership, ski passes and various activities outside of work as well as offering two employee recognition programs.
“Far and away, the greatest assets we have are our employees,” said Epperson. “Healthcare is a pretty tumultuous business these days and for me, as the CEO, of all the things to worry about, one of them is not the quality of what our employees do. I never have to worry about who’s behind me and whether or not they are doing the right things for each other and the patient. That’s the quality of folks that we have. We treasure them,” he added.
Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada
Recognizing outstanding employees
With an employee perks program offering discounts on everything from gym membership to cell phones, Comprehensive Cancer Centers is a step ahead when it comes to caring for its 311 employees.
In addition to the company’s healthcare package, Comprehensive Cancer offers a cafeteria plan that allows employees to set aside pre-tax dollars for child care expenses or medical expenses.
To ensure that every employee has a voice, the organization conducts regular surveys among the employees and has formed an Employee Involvement Committee (EIC).
“We give them so much money per year and they set up functions for all of the employees and their families such as bowling, movies and picnics,” said James Kilber, executive director for the organization.
“We also do a star search every month for our Employee of the Quarter recognition,” Kilber adds. “Each person that wins gets free airline tickets with Southwest Airlines to wherever Southwest flies. At year end, we identify the employee of the year and they get $1,000.”
In addition to the prizes the employee wins for the Employee of the Quarter each nominee is recognized through the employee newsletter and a global e-mail from Kilber.
Encouraging community involvement
As one of the fastest growing wireless communications company in Southern Nevada, it can be difficult to manage growth while taking care of employees. Cricket Communications is set up to do just that. The company offers many unusual benefits, in addition to the standard healthcare plans, such as adoption assistance and fitness reimbursement. The communications company also gives employees the opportunity to participate in many non-profit organizations throughout the state.
“We are fortunate to be a part of a lot of non-profit organizations out here,” said Jason Biado, the area general manager for Nevada.
“We recently helped rebuild a home for a local resident who had been displaced by a home fire. A lot of these types of things fly under the radar. It’s just our employees devoting their time and resources to try and make the community better. We all live here and raise our families here and want this to be a better city,” Biado added.
Cricket’s management team also spends a majority of their time in the field connecting with their employees, holds quarterly meetings and solicits ideas on how to get better.
“At Cricket, diversity and inclusion is not just part of our culture; it is a core business strategy,” adds Lori Ross, regional human resource manager for the company.
Founded in 2001, eBiz Autos recently topped 100 employees and is managing to continue growth even in this down economy. Parker Dunn, CEO at eBiz Autos has strived to create an atmosphere where employees don’t feel closed in.
“People can just pop out of their desk and go play foosball and video games whenever they want,” he said. “There isn’t anybody saying, ‘Hey, get back to work.’ You get to do your work on your own schedule. When it comes to scheduling, that’s very flexible, too. People don’t have to be here. They can choose when they need to be here and when they want to leave. It’s a casual internet software company type of environment,” Dunn adds.
The company has a ‘game room’ complete with a foosball table and video games. Additionally, every Tuesday, the company caters lunch for the employees and the on-site café provides free drinks and snacks.
Dunn strives to create a fun, relaxed culture while remaining engaged in the work being done. “I work with just about everybody on a daily basis,” he said. “Everybody’s always a part of what the company is working on. Everybody’s always free to speak up and suggest improvement. We try to make sure there’s never any politics, nobody’s ever doing anything other than just being a team player.”
Fennemore Craig, P.C.
Fennemore Craig, a full service law firm, opened in Las Vegas in September of 2006 and now has 34 employees in its local offices. The firm offers a comprehensive benefits package as well as employee recognition perks, annual picnics and Friday chair massages.
The firm encourages employees to get involved in where they work and live. “If an employee would like to participate, we’ll come in on Friday’s once a month and the employee contributes $5 to a selected charitable organization. They can then dress casual and wear their blue jeans,” said John Mowbray, Las Vegas managing partner.
Additionally, the firm works to ensure that each employee has a voice and to that end conducts annual employee satisfaction surveys.
“We strongly encourage opens lines of communications,” said Mowbray. “The big thing is employee morale,” he adds, “If someone comes up with an idea that they can improve on a practice or procedure, we welcome that input.”
The Glenn Group
Babies on board
Led by President and CEO Valerie Glenn, The Glenn Group is a statewide marketing agency that thrives on teamwork and has managed to seamlessly integrate a Northern Nevada office and a Southern Nevada office, no small feat.
Glenn has worked hard to promote an office culture that allows everyone to enjoy coming to work. “We put a shower in one of the bathrooms so if employees wanted to work out at lunch they would be able to clean up,” Glenn comments. “We also try to provide a nursery office for moms and dads to be able to bring their baby into work. It’s a great stress buster, if you’re having a crazy day, go pick up and hold a baby,” she adds.
In addition to the office perks, the company empowers its 40 employees to feel good about their communities and help change them. Recently, employees participated in the Great Resolution-A-Thon whereby each employee chose a New Year’s resolution and went out and raised nearly $32,000 in donations for Nevada’s food banks.
“Basically, we thought, ‘What would happen if every employee came up with a New Year’s resolution and then went out and got pledges for doing what they said they were going to do?’ Employees got into it and went out and raised the pledges,” Glenn said.
“We really try to promote a culture of communication because that’s the business we are in,” she added.
Lionel Sawyer & Collins
Raising the bar
“At Lionel Sawyer & Collins, we rely upon and promote teamwork among staff, paralegals and attorneys to meet the needs and expectations of our clients,” said Trish Ham, client services coordinator for the firm. The law firm has approximately 190 employees and, aside from traditional benefits, the company offers innovative benefits for its employees such as a smoking cessation laser therapy and a 24-hour nurse hotline for any medical questions employees may have.
The company encourages employees to get involved and contribute ideas that can help everyone as a whole. “We have firm wide meetings where we call everyone in and talk about what’s going on in terms of the economic uncertainties and ask for suggestions and help,” said Paul Hejmanowski, managing partner for the firm. The company uses input from these meetings to improve the work place by incorporating employee suggestions.
Promoting family values at work
One of the core values at Martin-Harris Construction is to “offer the best opportunities for associates to achieve their goals.” The company’s founder, Frank Martin works to achieve that every day. The company, founded in 1976, offers employees everything from a medical program and time share program to flexible work hours, an educational program and free seminars.
Promoting teamwork within the company is important to Martin and to that end he and his wife annually open their ranch to employees for the spring picnic. Additionally, the company encourages employees to contribute to their community and offers to match funds raised. At the core of the company is the family atmosphere throughout.
NV Energy has approximately 3,200 employees throughout the state. There’s power in numbers and NV Energy harnesses this power to improve the company’s work environment.
“We have a very inclusive way of working with employees. We reach out on all levels of our employee base to get ideas and to find ways to do things better,” said Michael Yackira, president and CEO of NV Energy. The company offers excellent benefits and opens up the lines of communications between management and staff. Additionally, the company recognizes excellence and gives employees the opportunity to expand their knowledge base.
“I think our employees recognize that we are a good company to work for. We respect the employees and treat everybody with dignity. We look for the right answer by getting everybody’s input on how to direct the company in the appropriate way,” said Yackira.
Home ownership assistance
It’s no small feat for a non-profit organization to be named as one of the Best Companies to Work For. With budget restraints and intense scrutiny, non-profits deal with a different set of rules as it relates to employees. Opportunity Village has risen above these challenges and provides its team members outstanding benefits.
One of the most appreciated of these benefits is the Homebuyer Assistance Program. Opportunity Village offers any full-time employee that has worked there for a year or longer the option to borrow $10,000 towards the purchase of a home. Additionally, the non-profit forgives $2,000 for every year the employee remains with the company thereafter until the loan is paid.
“I think part of what makes Opportunity Village such a great place to work is that we work very hard trying to get the employees’ input,” said Ed Guthrie, executive director for the company. “We’re here to help people with disabilities become full members of our community. To do that, we need staff members that feel like they are full members of our team,” he added.
University of Southern Nevada
Open door policy
The University of Southern Nevada prides itself on promoting a successful and comfortable work/life balance for its employees.
“USN has strived to establish and maintain a distinct culture where each and every employee, whether faculty, staff or administration, has the opportunity to participate in shaping the future of the institution as it continues to grow,” said Dr. Harry Rosenberg, president of the university. To that end, he promotes an open door policy and a feeling of openness and inclusion among all staff members.
The school has frequent employee forums, hosted by Rosenberg, in which each employee has the opportunity to offer input and ask questions. At these forums, Rosenberg shows the financials of the institution so everyone knows where the school stands.
In addition to the benefits package, the university also provides employees with $2,000 annually to fund attendance at professional development seminars and conferences.