Top Workplaces are built for good times and bad

Employees love working for the Tampa Bay Times’ 100 Top Workplaces. How do we know? They told us.
New employees participate in classes at KnowBe4 U in Clearwater. The new employees were learning company terminology during the 1-6 week sessions.
New employees participate in classes at KnowBe4 U in Clearwater. The new employees were learning company terminology during the 1-6 week sessions. [ SCOTT KEELER | TAMPA BAY TIMES ]
Published April 3, 2020|Updated April 3, 2020

Creating a top workplace isn’t easy. It takes a delicate mix of capable leaders, good managers and a strong sense of purpose.

Employees like the foosball tables and the free after-hours beers. Solid benefits help, too. But those are just the ante to get into this game. For 11 consecutive years, Tampa Bay area workers have made that clear in our Top Workplaces survey.

Since the Tampa Bay Times launched Top Workplaces in 2010, employees have said they want room to grow their careers. They also like to feel they are rowing in the same direction and that the destination is worth their effort. They describe their work life with words like engaged, united, energized. Money alone doesn’t cut it.

The best example of that may have come in 2013. The lawyers, legal assistants and investigators at the Pinellas County Public Defender’s Office hadn’t had a raise in six years. Some had taken second jobs to pay the bills. Still, the office placed No. 28 in the midsize category.

Read more: The top small workplace of 2020

The magic combination can happen nearly anywhere, given the diversity of workplaces that made the Times list this year. Tech start-ups and 100-year-old insurance companies. Hair salons and construction companies. Law firms and hotels. Landscapers and home health care providers. Our Lady of Lourdes Church and School with just 52 employees made the Top 100. So did BayCare Health System with more than 28,000.

The Pasco County Tax Collector’s Office was one of 14 first-timers to the list. Progressive Insurance is back for an 11th consecutive year, along with Banker Lopez & Gassler, Bouchard Insurance, Century 21 Beggins, Capital One, Ditek, FrankCrum, Progressive Insurance, SouthEast Personnel Leasing and T-Mobile. It’s not easy to make this list. To do it every year is remarkable.

Business owners and executives can learn a lot from the top workplaces profiled in the Times’ special section. It includes advice about mentoring programs and how to attract employees in a tight labor market.

Stu Sjouwerman who founded KnowBe4 — No. 1 on the Times’ list of large workplaces — reveals why he thought it was important to create an employee handbook for his cybersecurity company months before hiring his first employee.

Craig Beggins, whose real estate brokerage was tops among midsize workplaces, employs a mix of rah-rah confidence building with hands-on training to help his agents sell more homes.

Read more: The top midsize workplace of 2020

Engel & Völkers, which placed first in the highly competitive small workplace category, takes a collaborative approach in the often cutthroat world of luxury real estate.

“We work together,” a broker told Times staff writer Malena Carollo.

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When the Times’ partner Energage performed the survey late last year, the economy was in good shape. Stock markets were hitting all-time highs. Very few people had heard of coronavirus. Today, the world is a scarier place. How long the economic slide lasts — or how bad it gets — is a big unknown.

But there are parallels to 2010, when the Times launched Top Workplaces. The country was still recovering from the worst recession in decades. Florida and the Tampa Bay area were particularly hard hit.

Read more: The top large workplace of 2020

Still, the employees of the companies that made the 2010 list were flourishing. They wanted to come to work every day and were eager to help. They showed how workplaces could thrive despite one of the country’s darkest economic downturns.

That’s one of the takeaways from 11 years of doing the survey: Top workplaces are built for good times and bad.