Economic Development, Human Resources, and Small Business & Startups

Does your company have what it takes to be a Best and Brightest?

January 18, 2013
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The National Association for Business Resources is accepting nominations for its Best & Brightest Companies to Work For program through Feb. 1. Think your company has what it takes to earn a spot on that list?

Businesses might be interested in the asociation’s recent study on the shared components Best and Brightest companies have in common before filling out a nomination form.

Past winners are leading the way in human resource practices, creating cutting-edge programs and work environments to help employees excel, thereby creating economic success for the company. The study found that companies that made the list focus strategically on six key areas: communication, work-life balance, compensation and benefits, team building, community and diversity.

“Every year we look at what the marketplace is doing and we look at how we weight and score the program, and those weights do change from year to year,” said Jennifer Kluge, NABR president. “So, for example, strategic planning is weighted heavier than communication.”

Kluge said just because a company makes the list one year doesn’t mean it will earn a spot the following year. That’s because part of the program requires companies to continually implement new cutting-edge practices.

“If you truly are a Best and Brightest company, you need to learn and grow from other businesses who are also Best and Brightest,” Kluge said. “It’s about continuous improvement, continuously looking at these statistics, trends and models, and implementing them within their own firm.”

According to the NABR study, some of the best practices winning companies have in common are:

  • 91 percent use a company intranet or website to communicate with employees.
  • 80 percent use some type of survey to annually gauge employee engagement.
  • 90 percent offer flexible scheduling, including flex time and job sharing.
  • 75 percent offer employees the opportunity to telecommute.
  • 78 percent offer employee discounts with area vendors.
  • 98 percent encourage employees to participate in skills training.
  • 87 percent conduct on-site activities such as blood banks or food drives.

Diversity is a key strategic goal for many companies because it’s been shown again and again that diversity within a company’s work force equates to greater innovation, ingenuity and diversity in customers and suppliers.

Kluge points out what some of the top companies do differently in this area.

“As it relates to West Michigan, I think a strategic goal is not only welcoming diversity but ensuring that it’s beyond just the job. If I’m of diverse heritage and I come and work for a Michigan company, I might be the happiest person on earth within my job, but we also have to make sure that the community welcomes them and that the community respects diversity, and that they feel like they are part of a very diverse culture in West Michigan.

“What a lot of employers are doing is not only onboarding the employee, but they are ensuring quality of lifestyle for their family, they are helping them find the right schools, they are helping them get acclimated to the community, find the right community for them, and get involved in the community — feel like they are part of something, instead of just rewarded in their job. It takes both pieces.”

Another key area companies focus on is work-life balance. Best and Brightest companies share an understanding that each employee and generation has different needs and expectations in this area.

Kluge said Best and Brightest companies steer away from cookie-cutter policies and tend to allow individual employees to work according to their needs, whether it’s from a coffee shop or at a desk or through flex time policies that fit the person’s lifestyle needs.

She said companies also are finding innovative ways to deal with the impending retirement of the biggest generation of workers so far.

“One West Michigan company put together a program to do a slow retirement. Instead of people with talents and know-how just leaving, they roll them into a mentoring position and then they keep them in either a part-time or flex-time capacity to help ensure that knowledge isn’t lost.”

This also benefits the worker who might not want to enter full retirement but does want to cut back his or her time at the office.

Kluge said another important thing about top-scoring businesses is they consistently show leadership from the CEO and other C-suite members.

The Best and Brightest program is presented annually in five markets: Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Grand Rapids and Houston. West Michigan’s 2013 Best and Brightest awards will take place May 2, at
 The Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville.

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