Five ways in 2016 these 100 top Tampa Bay companies wow the workplace

Top Golf associates gather together with morale building wristbands and pose for a team photo.  Top Golf International is listed as one of the top Tampa area workplaces, pictured is the Brandon, FL location.  [Saturday, February 27, 2016] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
Top Golf associates gather together with morale building wristbands and pose for a team photo. Top Golf International is listed as one of the top Tampa area workplaces, pictured is the Brandon, FL location. [Saturday, February 27, 2016] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
Published April 11, 2016

What nuggets of wisdom are hiding in the year's Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces report, a metrowide ranking of 100 top workplaces? This is the Times' seventh annual look at what some companies, big and small, are doing better than others in this area to instill in their employees a real sense of mission and a higher level of engagement than the typical working scene. In short, this report examines the good reasons to go to work and build a career.

Top workplaces also leverage a culture that blends fun and sense of family. Those attributes not only help keep all tasks a bit more entertaining. They instill more of a very elusive quality these days: worker loyalty.

That's big in this economic cycle when the Tampa Bay's regional unemployment rate hovers strikingly low at 4.5 percent. This is when disenchanted workers, who during the recession kept an iron grip on their jobs, now feel emboldened to chuck one opportunity for another. Engaged workers tend to stick where they are.

Read about all the 2016 Top Workplaces here

Heard this all before? Sure you have. The Times' annual examination of what makes top workplaces stand out in this region is echoed by geographically broader "best places to work" lists published by Forbes, Fortune, the Glassdoor website and a host of others.

There is a secret sauce to be found here. There are nuggets of wisdom. The devil, of course, is in the details lurking in each of these workplaces.

Business leaders: What value can you add to your workplaces? Tampa Bay workers: Does your workplace boast any of the ideas explored in this survey? Maybe it's time to fill the suggestion box.

Here are five specific examples gleaned from the 2016 findings.

1. Fourteen companies (listed above) have made the Times Top Workplace seven years straight, since we started this survey in 2010. Their expertise ranges from health care to finance to law and manufacturing. It isn't what they do that makes them workplace rock stars but how they do it.

2. This year's No. 1 workplaces? T-Mobile's call center in Tampa was tops for firms with more than 500 local employees. Dunedin-based Achieva Credit Union ranked at the top of the midsize companies (150-499 employees), and deserves a special shout-out for the fabulously silly pop music videos its leaders created in recent years celebrating some of the three earlier appearances in the Top Workplace rankings. And Clearwater's anti-hacker training business, KnowBe4, ranked first among small companies with employees numbering between 50 and 149.

3. Three CEOs were cited for their leadership skills, recognized in the survey by their own employees. Among larger firms, CEO Denyse Bales-Chubb of Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel (the No. 2 ranked company) was cited for encouraging the hospital staff and keeping them informed. "Denyse is fully engaged," said one hospital employee. "She is constantly out and speaking to staff." The CEO accepted her position in the summer of 2014.

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In the midsize category, CEO Mitch Permuy of electrical contractor Power Design (ranked No. 8) in St. Petersburg was singled out. Why him? "Mitch is exceptional," said one employee. "His vision is clear." Among smaller companies, CEO Stu Sjouwerman of the Clearwater security awareness firm KnowBe4, was cited for "leading by example and his innovation."

4. One of the great reminders that resonates in this year's annual survey is to not get too serious too often. Nobody thrives on constant stress, even if some claim to. Work hard, but take time to enjoy the fruits of labor. Consider the annual meeting at Clearwater's USAmeribank, ranked No. 30 in this year's survey among midsized companies and one of the 14 to make the list every year. That's when senior bank executives get laughs at their own expense by putting on a show with costumes and skits. At the bank's recent rebranding, top managers brought a dunk tank to the operations center and took turns getting dunked by employees.

Sharing fun and more social interaction can have bottom line payoffs, too. At Bristol-Myers Squibb, the pharmaceutical giant landed its "North American Capability Center" in Tampa only two years ago and already ranks No. 11 in midsized companies in this year's survey. As the Times' profile in this section notes, the center operates with few separate offices and staff meetings are often followed by social gatherings.

Here's why that matters. The young are helping lead the old guard. "When Bristol-Myers Squibb updates its much larger facility in Princeton, N.J., soon, it's going to take notes from Tampa," the Times story says. "Executives have asked how the office has been so productive, what's in the water in Florida."

5. In sheer number of area employers, one company stood well above the others. BayCare Health System, the Clearwater parent of 14 area hospitals from Morton Plant and St. Anthony's to St. Joseph's and Bartow Regional, employs an amazing 21,400 in the greater bay area. That makes BayCare the largest area employer among all 100 top workplaces —four times the size of the next top workplace.

That's no simple feat. The larger the organization, the tougher it can be to sustain a quality workplace. But as the Times has discovered year after year, the annual top workplace surveys always includes many health care businesses and hospitals in the rankings, from Moffitt Cancer Center and Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel to two hospices. Why? Because helping people who are sick to get better, or to face their final days in some comfort, is a powerful motivation for workers seeking job satisfaction.

These are just a few insights. Take the time to learn more from the rankings. Congratulations to all 100 companies making this year's list. Hope to see many of you in 2017.

Contact Robert Trigaux at Follow @venturetampabay.