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Secrets to employee satisfaction

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Articles - March 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010

What do the Top 10 Best Companies do that keeps their employees motivated, loyal and upbeat? It’s as big as paying 100% of health care insurance and as small as a contest for the ugliest shirt. And let’s not forget the free massage.

Microsoft // No. 1 Large Company

Here’s one company where you won’t hear the usual gripe about needing new laptops. Employees at Microsoft’s sales and customer service branch in Portland are using software so cutting edge it hasn’t been released yet. That means these 49 tech-savvy employees work from home whenever they want without customers knowing the difference.

“Microsoft cares much more about quality of work, impact you have and value you bring,” says Chris Preston, Northwest sales manager. “Where you do that work is not important.”

Letting employees work in their PJs shows the faith Microsoft has in its workforce. Employees have autonomy (and accountability) in dealing with clients, who happen to be some of the biggest firms in town. The lofty clientele means employees have “an outsized impact,” Preston says. One worker writes, “I get the chance every day to change the world for the better.”

Photo of Portland Microsoft employees; from left: Bill Allen, Chuck Britton, Laurie Pottmeyer, Brian Lake, Sara Rice, Sarah Goodwin and Jeremiah Talkar. PHOTO COURTESY OF MICROSOFT
From left: Bill Allen, Chuck Britton, Laurie Pottmeyer, Brian Lake, Sara Rice, Sarah Goodwin and Jeremiah Talkar.

Microsoft treats its employees like royalty. Benefits are excellent (employees can call a doctor at any hour for a phone consultation or home visit to avoid the emergency room) and Microsoft pays employees for volunteer work of their choice and matches their charitable donations, up to $12,000 a year each. 


Hitachi Consulting // No. 2 Large Company

Pay and benefits at this Portland-based IT and business consulting company are “fair,” in the understated words of Vice President Mike Broberg. Employees are entitled to 30 days of paid time off, paternity and maternity leave, comprehensive dental and health including alternative care, and so on. But the things that make Hitachi Consulting a great place to work are harder to quantify.

Camaraderie, for one. Hitachi’s 30 employees overwhelmingly cite “the fun people,” “the wonderful people,” and “the smartest, [most] hard-working, talented people in Portland” as the reason they love their jobs. Employees eat lunch together in the conference room every day. They also have dinner together, hit happy hour together and compete against each other during Funquest, a citywide scavenger hunt — all archived in a mosaic of photos tacked to the hallway wall.

Empowerment, for another. Junior employees get 300 hours of training a year on average. A group of employees from the lowest to the top levels decides how to spend the generous community philanthropy budget. “We enable and encourage those in the office to be involved and define what that looks like and own it,” Broberg says. “As a result they’re more happy with it.”


Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront // No. 3 Large Company

The 209 associates of the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront Hotel gather in one room every month for a “total hotel rally” where managers give news updates, recognize acts of exemplary service, and of course serve some great food and drinks.

“One of the most famous or routinely used slogans is, ‘If we take great care of associates, they’ll take great care of our customers,’” says Lance Rohs, general manager.

And as one associate puts it, Marriott really “puts its money where its mouth is in respect to caring for and paying its associates.”

Associates have comprehensive benefits — which were extended for workers when hours were cut back due to the recession — plus travel and hotel discounts, health club access, flexible schedules, and the chance to join committees influencing operation and procedure at the hotel.

After 25 years with the company, associates can stay at any Marriott hotel, anywhere in the world, for free. And if they’re not satisfied, associates have the chance to vent once a year when the company does its Associate Opinion Survey.


Click through to the next page for secrets of the 100 Best Companies 2010!



0 #1 Wellness Alohawellnessaloha 2010-05-29 07:53:08
Thank you for the tips.Now I know what should be the do's and dont's..thank you.,Wellness aloha
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-1 #2 Duh!!!karl 2010-06-03 15:08:42
Seems like a lot of folks don't get what makes a great company to work for--seems like a no-brainer to me!
The Number one reason, Benefits.
The number two, pay...and on, and on, and on...So why are so many taxpayers up set with Government when they provide those exact things?
We all make choices in life and public service is a choice...just like say, a small business owner...IT'S A CHOICE!
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