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After 8 years, 100's of companies, 1000's of interviews, celebrate Times 2017 Top Workplaces

Think of 2017's Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces report as a celebration of 100 area businesses where employees like to work, feel recognized and supported, routinely give back to their community, see a clear corporate direction and believe their bosses will guide them there. Oh yeah, staffers at these businesses generally work hard and have fun along the way.

Related coverage: A complete breakdown of Tampa Bay's Top Workplaces of 2017

This is the eighth year the Times and research firm WorkplaceDynamics have identified top Tampa Bay area workplaces. Since then, literally tens of thousands of Tampa Bay workers have been surveyed, interviewed, poked and prodded to tell us: Why is your workplace special?

As we have done since 2010, Times writers and photographers delved deeper to understand and convey why specific companies have the right mojo to land on our annual list.

By now, let's just say we've become pretty sure of the key components that distinguish top workplaces from humdrum or just plain crummy offices. It's well documented by Gallup and other polls that most U.S. workers are disengaged. That indifference comes at a competitive price in productivity, a fundamental workforce measure that peaked in the 1950s and 1960s.

Times survey collaborator and WorkplaceDynamics CEO Doug Claffey works with newspapers nationwide to identify the top workplaces in many major metro areas. As he writes in his own column in this Times report: "Motivation matters."

This year, we again break down the Times Top Workplaces winners by size. This year's Big 3? Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, which just opened in 2012 and now employs 990, has made the list three years running. This year it regains its No. 1 ranking won in 2015 among workplaces with 500 or more workers.

In the mid-size category of area businesses with 150 to 499 employees, Clearwater cybersecurity firm KnowBe4 leapt to the No. 1 spot. Only last year the anti-hacker startup led by CEO Stu Sjouwerman ranked No. 1 in the small business category of firms with fewer than 150 workers.

SPECIAL REPORT: Tampa Bay's top 100 workplaces

To jump, in a single year, from No. 1 in one size category to No. 1 in the next size category? Pretty remarkable.

And 2017's small business category leader is the Renaissance Tampa Hotel at International Plaza — the fourth year the Marriott-owned hotel has landed on the top workplace list. As one Times staff writer found in her visit there, special touches brighten the experience of hotel guests. Renaissance employees set up a "selfie" area — with flower petals for Valentine's Day — and a letter-writing station with a mailbox for children to write to Santa in December.

In our first survey in 2010, the Progressive Group of Insurance Cos. took first place in the large category, American Strategic Insurance was tops among mid-sized firms and St. Mary's Episcopal Day School was first among small organizations.

Yep, a school took a top spot. This year, four schools made our list.

But this isn't only about the No. 1's.

As in past years, three leaders are cited in the latest survey for their leadership qualities. This year's trio, examined more closely in an accompanying story, are Raymond James CEO Paul Reilly, BlueGrace Logistics founder Bobby Harris and J. CON Salon's Joe Connell. Of note, Reilly was handpicked by Raymond James CEO Tom James — singled out in the past as a top workplace leader — to succeed him. In this case, one strong leader could apparently recognize another.

Finally, kudos to some pretty innovative up-and-comer firms who made this year's top workplace list — from 3 Daughters Brewing to The Penny Hoarder financial advice site, one of the fastest growing startups in the country. And to the 13 companies that have nailed a spot on this list every year since the start — including Capital One, JSA Healthcare, Ditek and Bouchard Insurance — well done. That's a formidable track record.

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com. Follow @venturetampabay.

IF you answer 'Yes' to all five questions, you're in a top workplace

1. Mission: Do I understand where this company wants to go and is this a trip I want to be part of?

2. Motivation: Do I get up every day and feel pumped to do my job as well as I can?

3. Peers: Do I work with smart people with mad skills who have my back and share best ideas?

4. Career path: Do I learn new ways to do things that matter at work and am I recognized for my contributions with the chance to advance?

5. Giving back: Are there real opportunities to give back to my community and does my company wholeheartedly support those efforts?

After 8 years, 100's of companies, 1000's of interviews, celebrate Times 2017 Top Workplaces 04/07/17 [Last modified: Saturday, April 8, 2017 12:50am]
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