Retaining top employees: Tampa Bay's top workplaces get it done

Published April 11, 2014

We started the Top Workplaces section five years ago during the turmoil left by the worst recession in decades.

The downturn had clobbered home sales, stifled tourism and crippled companies that made things. Still, our list of Tampa Bay's top workplaces was peppered with real estate companies, hotels and manufacturers.

The primary question back then: How did they overcome such long odds to create a workplace their employees so cherished?

Today, the economy is rebounding. Profits are on the rise. Employees, in general, feel a little better about their personal finances. So the question now is how do these top workplaces hang on to their best performers? Many of the companies in the Times' Top 100 will tell you it's the most important thing they will do this year.

It's not as simple as throwing more money around.

Tampa's Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners, a risk management firm, revamped its performance evaluation process with more emphasis on long-term career planning.

Bay Area Legal Services takes the Teddy Roosevelt approach: Make sure everyone has important work to do and put them in a position to be good at that work. How? Training and then more training.

At Hunter Warfield, a debt collection firm, employees now receive quarterly evaluations and managers get feedback from superiors, peers and underlings twice a year. The result: improved communication.

Modern Enterprise Solutions takes a more physical route. The Tampa telecommunications company provides a full basketball court, an on-site mixed martial arts gym, yoga classes, a weight room, locker rooms, laundry service and free healthy meals.

For Bouchard Insurance, retaining employees also means understanding that not everyone works the same way.

"We acknowledge the generational differences in the workplace," the company said, "and know that work/life balance and service to community may be more important to some employees, while others look for fun in the workplace and recognition of their successes."

Wallace Welch & Willingham, a St. Petersburg-based insurance company, participated in several surveys similar to the Times' to get a grip on what was working and what wasn't. In: better benefits. Out: soul-sucking time clocks.

These Top 100 companies, and the ones you will read about on the following pages, offer a master class on how to create a better workplace, in good times and bad. They have captured an elusive alchemy: productive, efficient workplaces, with oodles of happy employees.