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Secrets to employee satisfaction

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Articles - March 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pittman & Brooks // No. 1 Small Company

Work hard, play hard. That sums up this small Portland CPA firm, where the current record is 103.1 hours worked in one week. Employees have 100% flextime during most of the year. But when tax season comes, it’s 50 hours a week in the office, minimum. For those three grueling months, the company provides massages, catered meals and dry cleaning, and leaves gifts on workers’ desks with a card: “This too shall pass.” There’s the “End of Tax Season Party” to look forward to, when employees and their families get together for rock climbing, basketball, dinner and the Tax Season Oscars.

Employees rave about the on-site daycare being open on Saturdays during tax season, and the new wellness program. Fitness, cooking and yoga classes are offered in the evenings and walking contests challenge employees to get fit. (The trough of junk food that usually fuels employees through April 15 may have to be rethought.)

“We understand how valuable our employees are. If they’re not here and happy and productive, nothing works,” says co-founder Randa Brooks. “Our goal is to make it as fun, friendly, happy, accommodating, flexible to work as possible so they can perform at their best. And that’s what they do.”

Photo of Dr. Patrick Lewallen, Northwest Newborn’s medical director, tending to babies in the neonatal ward of Legacy Emanuel Hospital
Photo of Dr. Patrick Lewallen, Northwest Newborn’s medical director, tending to babies in the neonatal ward of Legacy Emanuel Hospital
Dr. Patrick Lewallen (top and above), Northwest Newborn’s medical director, tends to babies in the neonatal ward of Legacy Emanuel Hospital.

Northwest Newborn Specialists // No. 2 Small Company

The employees of Portland’s Northwest Newborn Specialists all admit that providing medical care to ill and premature babies can be stressful and have an emotional toll. Part of what diffuses that stress, say employees, is a culture of learning and respect fostered by administrative staff and co-workers.

Being encouraged to pursue individual growth and professionalism — such as attending conferences or authoring research papers — also buoys employees. “It’s a supportive environment,” says physician Valerie Newman. “In medicine, it really can be the opposite.” Practical rewards are also reaped: health insurance was increased by 10% last year when administration began receiving employee feedback that benefits needed improvement.

Physicians also don’t have to work the usual 9 to 5, five days a week (or more). “We individualize the amount of work,” says chief financial and administrative officer Cheryl Hughes Gaulke. “You can be less than fulltime, or you can even be more than fulltime.”

The flexibility allows employees to balance work with private life. One employee recently took a three-and-a-half-week vacation to visit a family member outside the country. “The whole team pitched in to make that happen,” Hughes Gaulke says.

Photo of President John Clark, with Frankie on his lap, making sure the workplace at at Stamp-Connection is relaxed and fun
Photo of rubber stamps
President John Clark, with Frankie on his lap, makes sure the workplace at at Stamp-Connection is relaxed and fun.

Stamp-Connection // No. 3 Small Company

Stamp-Connection owner John Clark is proud that his stamp manufacturing business can take orders as late as 3 in the afternoon and still ship the next morning. His top priority, however, is his employees. “They are the key to growth,” Clark says.

None of Gresham-based Stamp-Connection’s 15 employees were laid off during the recession, and no benefits were cut. Employees can count on a guaranteed 3% cost of living increase in April, and a merit-based raise ranging from 3% to 10% in October. That raise is based on an employee evaluation discussed one-on-one between Clark and each employee.

“We…make sure there are no misunderstandings,” Clark says. “We’re all on the same page here.” “No one’s on a totem pole,” says Jon Morse, a typesetter.

Employees make analogies to family when describing the camaraderie and tension-free work environment. Everyone plays on a softball team, belong to the Eagles Lodge and is free to bring their dogs or children to work. A group including Clark is looking forward to quitting smoking together and providing a work-based support group.

“There’s no person here who doesn’t like another person,” says office manager Serene Brown.




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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