What makes a Top Workplace? Central Indiana business leaders share their keys to success

September 10, 2018

The best businesses invest time and resources in their employees.

That’s what representatives from several recent winners of IndyStar’s Top Workplaces survey had to say about creating a positive company culture.

“We have a statement that says we’re only going to go as far as our people take us and that is the absolute truth,” said Julie Wright of Royal United Mortgage which was recognized as the top midsize company in 2016 and 2017. “It is really our people that influence the trajectory of how we succeed.”

IndyStar partners with employee research-and-consulting firm Energage to conduct the annual survey of Central Indiana companies that allows employees to nominate and share a candid assessment of what they do and don’t like about their workplace.

Energage works with participating companies to distribute the 24-question employee surveys that measure workplace factors, such as leadership, communication and training. The surveys are free, anonymous and take about five minutes.

After the surveys are assessed, Energage provides all participating companies — from banks to grocery stores to schools — with survey summaries to help shape their employees’ future work experience.

Wright said Royal United Mortgage has participated every year to learn what employees feel is done well and what can be improved in the company.

“We want to know their thoughts,” Wright said. “We want to know how can we help you, what are your goals?”

IndyStar has published the names of winning companies for the past 10 years. Last year, Energage surveyed 125 Central Indiana organizations and received nearly 18,000 employee responses.

With nominations for this year’s survey beginning on Sept. 10, here’s what leaders at a few Top Workplaces had to share about creating a winning work environment.

Invest in employees

Royal United Mortgage began prioritizing leadership training several years ago after employees expressed a desire for growth through their Top Workplaces surveys. Wright said Royal United now engages all new hires in 30-minute one-on-one meetings with a member of the company’s executive team to discuss individual career goals.

Indianapolis electrical maintenance company, ERMCO — ranked top large company in 2017 and recognized for its training in last year’s survey — emphasizes training for both new employees and it’s 20-to-30-year veterans.

Senior Vice President David Peterson said ERMCO’s continuing education and career training teaches soft skills, the latest developments in technology and business ethics, among other topics, to invest in long-term growth.

“We want to do well for not just the short term,” Peterson said, “but for a career.”

Provide flexibility

At Tendercare Home Health Services, a 2016 large company winner, employees are attracted to flexible hours and holidays away from the office. Tendercare President Leslie Deitchman said the company allows its home health care nurses to choose when they work, an incentive for some parents who want to work while their kids are at school, but take off time during school breaks.

Peterson said ERMCO similarly offers flexible working hours, acknowledging the need for a work-life balance that allows employees to leave early for a kid’s ball game, for example. He said ERMCO has embraced changing technology to allow employees to work from home for a couple hours, or to work four-day weeks as needed.

Engage in the community

Engaging with employees outside of work can be just as important as interacting in the office. Peterson said a big part of building ERMCO’s culture is getting to know co-workers through summer cookouts, regular “Lunch and Learn” events and frequent meetings.

“The long-term vision is that as we grow, we continue to maintain the environment and culture we’ve had when we were smaller,” Peterson said. “Our goal is to make sure we continue to work as a unified team.”

Deitchman, of Tendercare, said she works to maintain personal relationships with her growing company through regular office-wide wellness challenges and an annual Christmas party. She said the celebration allows Tendercare’s large staff — who work in different locations — to come together. Deitchman said more than 1,000 employees and guests came to last year’s party.

Royal United looks to build teamwork by organizing at least one group community service opportunity a month. Wright said the company pays employees a total of four service hours each month and only completes service projects nominated by employees.

Make the most of small gestures

Wright said it’s not just enough to bring in a ping-pong table for the break room or recognize employees once a year. Leaders must make a conscious effort to put employees first every day, she said. “Culture is a process. It doesn’t happen by accident.”

At Royal United, this means birthday balloons for every employee and opportunities for public praise via appreciation pins awarded for work anniversaries, community outreach or helping others in the office. At Tendercare, employee recognition comes in the form of handwritten letters.

Peterson said ERMCO also recognizes the value of public praise, displaying work achievements, birthdays and even baby photos on TV monitors positioned around the office.

“At ERMCO, we’ve got a good balance of hard work, but also a culture that leads itself to have fun,” Peterson said. “We work hard for each other. We support each other as teammates.”

Listen to feedback

The best managers make time to not only ask for feedback, but to make changes when needed. Deitchman said she makes this a priority at Tendercare. When nurses asked for short term disability benefits, Deitchman said she and her management staff worked to make it happen.

“My nurses know that I’m fighting for them,” Deitchman said. “If your employees give you their opinion, you have to listen.”

Wright said the Top Workplaces survey has been an integral part of Royal United’s process of self-evaluation. She said each year after Top Workplaces results come in, each department identifies five strengths and five areas of improvement, and upper management teams work to make changes. Leaders then issue a follow-up survey with employees to see if these changes achieved a positive effect.

All leaders that spoke to IndyStar said that fostering open communication throughout all levels of a company is key to building successful work environments.

“My door’s open 24-7,” Peterson said. “It’s just being completely open and honest with your employees, showing that you truly appreciate that effort every day.”

Nominate your company

Are you an employee with strong opinions about where you work? Are you a business owner looking for feedback? Nominate your company to take the survey. It’s open to any organizations — public, private, nonprofit or government — in Central Indiana with 50 or more employees.

Nominations accepted now through Oct. 19.

Surveys distributed September through mid-October.

Results available Summer 2019 in print and online at indystar.com.

Nominate online at http://indystar.com/nominate, or

Call to nominate at 317-288-3410.

Contact Carley Lanich at 317-444-6487 or [email protected]. Or follow her on Twitter at @carleylanich.



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