At the Ditek Corp., a Largo company making surge protectors, manufacturing employees asked for a four-day work week and their bosses figured out how to make it happen.
Over at the St. Petersburg public accounting firm Gregory Sharer & Stuart (GSS), a partner learned that an employee got a guitar as a Christmas gift and then went out and bought the worker three months of lessons.
Five support and service employees at Bouchard Insurance in Clearwater earned a Mexican cruise for their outstanding work.
Each of the 13 companies that have ranked in the Tampa Bay Times "Top Workplace" list every year since its launch in 2010 has a slightly different recipe for keeping employees happy. Outsiders can see those individual business philosophies play out in the tiny details not seen in even the thickest employee manuals. They're the intangibles that make a company hum.
Yup, all these companies also talk about the over-arching themes that make good employee relations and, in the end, good business, too.
Those include good communication, a tightly knit workplace and excellent salary and benefits. But it's often the small stuff that reverberates.
The Times interviewed both management and employees at Ditek, GSS and Bouchard, three of those 13, to get a flavor of what makes that elite 13 tick. What separates them from the pack?
Here is a sampling of what we heard:
• "I know people get tired of hearing about that family atmosphere. But you know, when you hear the same thing over and over again, there's got to be some truth to it." — Bob McIntyre, CEO, Ditek.
• "We've retired five partners. And we've made a commitment to remain independent. So we've funded their buyout… We were able to write them a check and say, 'Here you are. And we owe you the balance over a period of years.' So we have made it so that new people can come on board and take over and continue to grow the firm without the thought, 'Are we going to sell to another firm or be merged in?' It's not going to take place… We control our own destiny. If you make partner, you don't answer to anybody. You're the boss. And so if you are with a national firm, it's a long way to go before you become the decision-maker. You can be a partner. But you're one of a thousand. So here we're one of 11." — Jim Newman, managing partner, Gregory Sharer & Stuart.
• "This is a great place to work. It's so basic, but yet true. We've been fortunate to create a culture where employees like each other and they like working with each other. It's not about the facilities we have… or leadership. It's about the people who rub shoulders with one another day in and day out. They're working on projects together. They're also asking each other about their personal lives, what they did this weekend, their kids… That creates a culture of caring for one another." — Doug Bishop, CEO, Bouchard Insurance.
• "Company upper management communicates very well. You understand what their true beliefs are and their direction of the company. That really makes for a very nice atmosphere for everybody because there's no guessing where you are or what's going on, or how things are done. And it really leaves you with a sense of belonging. (CEO Bob McIntyre) comes in on a daily basis and walks through the production floor and says hi to folks, chats with everybody, makes them feel a part of the team. And you know, when it comes to drive, we're all willing to drive." — Roy VanNostran, engineer, Ditek.
• "The view is amazing. Sadly, we're not in the office enough. When I am, I don't mind taking an extra five minutes in the break room just enjoying the view." — Rob Mainelli, assurance services manager, GSS, speaking of the view from the firm's sixth-floor office at the City Center building in St. Petersburg.
• "People are happy to be here. The company supports them and allows them to focus on our communities. And we support employees for being involved. One employee does a mission to Africa every year to help support orphans. The company and other employees support her efforts (through donations and other aid). When she goes, the whole company feels as if they are a part of it. In a sense, we're going with her, too." — Kelly Newton, HR director, Bouchard Insurance.
Contact William R. Levesque at [email protected] Follow @Times_Levesque.