Building Great Places to Work

Research shows that investing in a high-trust workplace culture yields distinct, tangible business benefits. Great workplaces enjoy significantly lower turnover and better financial performance than industry peers. In fact, a study from the Great Place to Work Institute shows that companies on the FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For provide nearly 3 times the return for shareholders as the S&P 500 and Russell 3000 indexes.

Earlier this month Pinnacle hosted a panel of business leaders who have been recognized by the Nashville Business Journal for building great places to work. The panelists, inductees of the Pinnacle Financial Partners Best Places to Work Hall of Fame, discussed their companies’ hiring practices and the various ways they keep employees engaged.

The first takeaway is that each company deliberately set a goal to make their workplace the best in their industry. Here’s what worked for them.

Invest in Talent

Talent is the most precious commodity that Rustici Software has. President Mike Rustici said that when he and his business partner founded the software development company, they focused on creating a place that they wanted to go to on Monday morning. It made great business sense, because they believed in J. Willard Marriott’s philosophy—take care of associates and they’ll take care of your customers, and your business will take care of itself.

Hire the Right Fit

When hiring, Mike takes his time to find someone who would be a good cultural fit and has aptitude for the job. The only question a candidate can fail is “What do you do for fun?” They better have an answer.

Scott D. Carey, Nashville managing shareholder for Baker Donelson, said an extended six-week interview for law students gives them an opportunity to see how they interact with clients and at social events. KraftCPAs PLLC’s internship program also allows chief manager Vic Alexander and other leaders the time to get to know who would be a good cultural fit.

Pinnacle’s President and CEO Terry Turner shared that Pinnacle’s process differs from other companies in that the bank generally doesn’t hire people who send in resumes. Instead, managers are responsible for recruiting associates who are happy and successful where they are.

Show Them You Care

Once a good candidate is identified and hired, the onboarding process can begin. Vic sends every new hire at Kraft a letter that welcomes them to the firm. A tin of Christie’s Cookies arrives soon after. The firm appoints a mentor who contacts the new employee before he or she joins. Two times a year Kraft holds a two-day orientation session that goes even further in-depth.

Similarly, Pinnacle distinguishes between the technical and the cultural aspects of onboarding. The first two days on the job consist of walking through the benefits plans and how to access the systems. Within a few months, each new hire attends a three-day orientation session focused on the firm’s mission, vision and values.

Balance Work with Home Life

At many software companies, employees are treated like robots who crank out code. Rustici, in contrast, realizes that their employees have a life outside of work. Recruits are attracted to the company for the refreshing change of pace. It also helps that the company employs a personal concierge to make life a little easier. Dubbed “Jenafits,” Rustici budgets $5,000 per employee a year for perks like house cleaning, oil changes and other errands so their people can focus on work when they’re in the office.

Baker Donelson employees often choose the firm over the competition because they’re looking for the work-life balance equation. They also appreciate the transparency and that everyone is invited to celebrate successes.

Measure Engagement

Each panelist measures employee engagement, either formally or informally. Kraft, Baker Donelson and Pinnacle conduct annual work environment surveys to collect feedback. Rustici fosters a culture of open debate, where employees are encouraged to walk into leaders’ offices to discuss anything from the correct direction for the toilet paper roll to ideas for new product developments.

Vic at Kraft conducts roundtable meetings with 10 to 12 people to gather suggested improvements and see what tools they need. Teams at Baker Donelson meet every morning for five minutes to check in on the company’s culture. Ideas from these “Daily Docket” meetings feed up to Scott so he can respond accordingly.

Ultimately, these practices have earned each company multiple “great workplace” awards in their fields and have garnered national attention. Even more importantly, the panelists credit their excellent work environments for being the reason for their businesses’ financial success.

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