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Two Top Tampa Bay Top Workplaces earn national recognition

KnowBe4 and Grow Financial finished near the top in their size group.
Employees at Clearwater's KnowBe4 are largely working from home. So the company has organized themed trivia contests to help employees socialize. In this image, employees dress as characters from the Hunger Games movies. [Courtesy of KnowBe4]
Employees at Clearwater's KnowBe4 are largely working from home. So the company has organized themed trivia contests to help employees socialize. In this image, employees dress as characters from the Hunger Games movies. [Courtesy of KnowBe4] [ KnowBe4 ]
Published Mar. 26
Updated Mar. 26

Two Tampa Bay companies that have routinely topped the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces lists can add a new distinction to their mantel.

They’re now two of the top companies to work at nationally, according to a new ranking.

Clearwater cybersecurity awareness firm KnowBe4 and Tampa’s Grow Financial Federal Credit Union ranked as the third and fourth best workplaces in the country among companies with 500 to 999 employees. KnowBe4 has 824 Tampa Bay-based employees and Grow Financial has 536, according to survey responses from late last year.

Read more: Here are the Top 100 Tampa Bay Workplaces of 2021

For years, the Times has released a list of the top 100 Tampa Bay workplaces based on employee surveys on topics such as benefits, company values, retention, management and connection. This year, for the first time, the Times’ survey partner, Energage applied those same results at a national level.

More than 1,100 companies participated in the surveys, and only about half of those — 570 companies — were ranked, according to Bob Helbig, Energage’s media partnerships director. Making the list meant exceeding a benchmark, and Helbig noted that a company had to have “really strong employee feedback” to get a spot on the list.

Aside from KnowBe4 and Grow Financial, 13 other Tampa Bay-based companies made the list, including Pasco County government, Tampa-based staffing agency Kforce, American Landmark Apartments and Bay Area Youth Services. In the case of American Landmark Apartments, its local operations made the list of Tampa Bay’s Top Workplaces while its national operations scored in the broader ranking.

At KnowBe4, senior vice president of people operations Erika Lance says the company has received so many awards that it’s become a bit of a company joke.

“Oh, another award?” she said. “Let me put that on my shelf.”

There’s good reason for that confidence: The company has been named the top Tampa Bay workplace numerous times since its founding in 2010.

Read more: These Tampa Bay CEOs led their companies through a turbulent 2020. Here’s how

Still, it’s the fact that the award comes straight from employee responses that sticks out to Lance.

Like many companies, KnowBe4 adjusted to the pandemic by going fully remote around the beginning of March. Almost a year later, Lance says the company is still 95 percent remote, and she thinks it may never go back to 100 percent of employees in the office.

That means her job takes on a whole new significance. How do you connect people when they’re no longer in the same room, no longer having organic, face-to-face interactions? At first, part of what Lance and her team did was simple: They checked in with employees, reminding them how to use different services and that someone was there.

KnowBe4 also utilized care packages and stipends to keep their employees connected. The care packages with hand sanitizer, gloves, masks and toilet paper to employees when finding toilet paper was not a given.

Instead of snacks in the office and end-of-the-month lunch, programs that would have taken place in a physical space, KnowBe4 gave a stipend to employees for snack spending.

For special occasions, Lance figured out how to innovate events. On Halloween, KnowBe4 hosted a drive-through that they opened up to the community. The event had a Wonderland theme, and each part of the event came with something families got to take home. Lance dressed up as the Queen of Hearts — yelling “Off with their heads” at visitors was a highlight.

They also held themed trivia contests in which employees dressed up as characters from Schitt’s Creek or the Hunger Games.

And while some things have changed, some things have stayed the same. Every single day still begins with an all-hands meeting, now virtual. There are virtual group gatherings for holidays and special events.

Allyson Wicker, 31, a relationship specialist at Grow Financial, right, works with client Alex Rodriguez, 36, of Tampa March 5 in Tampa. Grow Financial, a Tampa-based credit union, won best top workplace for large companies and also ranked highly in our national survey.
Allyson Wicker, 31, a relationship specialist at Grow Financial, right, works with client Alex Rodriguez, 36, of Tampa March 5 in Tampa. Grow Financial, a Tampa-based credit union, won best top workplace for large companies and also ranked highly in our national survey. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

At Grow Financial Federal Credit Union, leaders wrestled with how to keep public-facing employees safe during a global pandemic. The company decided to keep its branches open, but they practiced social distancing and provided employees with personal protective equipment. It also installed plexiglass shields and limited capacity at its branches early on.

Read more: How a hands-on Tampa Bay real estate broker went virtual

Given the economic turmoil and loss of jobs, Grow Financial’s employees sometimes had to help out in other departments. In many ways, it led to a more nimble workplace.

“We all kind of got together and said, ‘Where are the needs?’ Who is uncomfortable? Who needs an accommodation?’ We were really able to work through that,” said Monica Ayoub, assistant vice president of human resources at the credit union.

At the same time, the company didn’t cut employees’ pay or 401k contributions and actually gave out a one-time $500 “hero bonus” to staff in addition to an annual bonus, according to chief human resources officer Kimberly Woollard.

To boost employee morale, vice president of people development Marsha Falkenburg sent gifts home and instituted coffee talks, a way to make employees feel like they were milling around the watercooler, when in reality they couldn’t.

“That’s kind of what we resorted to, being in this new environment,” Falkenburg said. “We really are trying to be thoughtful about what we’re doing to keep people engaged and not make it too kitschy but something that people will appreciate.”

The workplace difficulties that have come from COVID-19 made it the perfect time to unveil the national top workplaces list, according to Helbig.

“We find that really good companies have been working incredibly hard at communicating with employees and listening to employees during all of this disruption,” he said.

The other Tampa Bay workplaces that ranked nationally

(Only those in the Top 5 received a numerical ranking)

2500+ employees

Pasco County Board of County Commissioners

1000-2499 employees

CAE USA Inc. - Tampa

Kforce Inc. - Tampa

Power Design Inc. - St. Petersburg

500-999 employees

American Landmark Apartments - Tampa

Baldwin Risk Partners - Tampa

City of Largo - Largo

150-499 employees

American Integrity Insurance Group- Tampa

Banker Lopez Gassler, P.A. - Tampa

Bay Area Youth Services - Tampa

Bouchard Insurance, A Marsh and McLennan Agency LLC - Clearwater

PostcardMania - Tampa

The Oaks of Clearwater - Clearwater