In fields where competition for talent is keen, some companies here say they often go beyond monetary compensation to create a community workplace culture they hope will help them attract and retain employees.
The steps they take to establish that culture range from holding in-house contests and socializing events to disbursing money for local causes through charitable giving committees and sponsoring sustainability committees.
Representatives for the Spokane offices of David Evans & Associates Inc. and Coffman Engineers Inc. say those companies grew up with a community culture, starting with the attitudes of the founders of those businesses.
Dave Coffman says, Work hard, play hard, says Jennifer Van Vleet, spokeswoman for Coffman Engineers, which has 53 employees in Spokane.
Our only assets are our people. Keeping them happy is like oiling a machine, says Steve Long, interim manager at the Portland, Ore.-based David Evans Spokane office.
The company, which has a staff of 44 here, including 10 employees in Coeur dAlene, is ranked 73rd on Fortune Magazines 2008 list of the 100 best companies to work for. The rankings are based on a survey of randomly selected employees from the companies and on the companies responses to a culture audit.
Hollister-Stier Laboratories LLC, which employs 500 people in Spokane, works to create a culture that reflects and supports its employees personal lives, says Bette Munroe, a human-resources representative at the company. Such efforts help the company recruit and retain employees at the Spokane facility, which was purchased last spring by Jubilant Organosys Ltd., of India.
Our culture is our primary recruiting tool, says Munroe, who also currently is president of the Inland Northwest Society for Human Resource Management. She says the company often competes for employees on a national level, and uses its workplace culture as a selling point.
Aside from attracting new talent, companies extend their sense of community to encourage a spirit of camaraderie among employees.
We have fun as we work. Its not just about making money, says Greg Holder, a project manager who has worked for David Evans for 13 years. He says the culture of the company is a big part of why he has remained there for so long.
At both David Evans and Coffman Engineers, the employees have fun committees that plan events and in-house contests, such as a root beer float break or a Halloween costume competition.
Coffman Engineers, David Evans, and Hollister-Stier all also encourage camaraderie outside the office, obtaining blocks of tickets to events such as Spokane Indians baseball games and Spokane Chiefs hockey games. Van Vleet says a lot of Coffman Engineers employees also get together informally for poker nights or barbecues.
For myself, I really appreciate how much friendship has been built, that theres a lot of camaraderie, says Van Vleet, who has worked at Coffman Engineers for nine years. She says a lot of her peers have changed jobs several times since graduating from college, but shes been happy to stay where she is.
Both Coffman Engineers and David Evans took advantage of moves to new, bigger spaces to cultivate certain aspects of their workplace cultures.
Van Vleet says after an off-site lunchtime pickup basketball game, as many as 10 employees will cycle through the two showers that Coffman Engineers installed when it leased the fifth floor of the Peyton Building at 10 N. Post three years ago.
David Evans, meanwhile, has devoted some quiet physical space solely to creative thinking in the offices at 908 N. Howard that it moved into in April 2006. To encourage the type of broad enterprising that it needs from employees as it competes against larger concerns, it set up a creative corner with a variety of reference materials and a view of downtown Spokane, but no electronic devices such as computers or phones.
Holder says David Evans move to a bigger facility was largely a response to employees unhappiness with the companys previous space, which was overcrowded, with a conference room shared as an office by two employees. The Spokane group moved to its current 12,000-square-foot location from a 5,000-square-foot space, and had a contest to name some of its new bigger rooms, such as its big sky conference room and plot central drafting room, with cash prizes awarded to the winners.
Meanwhile, Coffman Engineers provides company cars for use by employees who choose to commute by bus, foot, or bike to its downtown office. Both David Evans and Coffman Engineers also regularly stage commuter challenges, encouraging employees to hold friendly competitions to increase use of alternate transportation.
During one such challenge, Coffman Engineers founder Dave Coffman rode his horse to the companys Spokane office, says office manager Penny Lynberg. She says about 30 of the companys 53 employees routinely take advantage of its bus pass program, getting 50 percent discounts on passes the company helps them buy.
The companies have institutionalized other community values that are employee driven, such as sustainability and philanthropy.
David Evans has a standing sustainability committee, and invites employees to participate. The committee gathers comments from employees regarding proposed workplace changes, such as using china plates rather than disposable paper plates in the lunch room. It has a budget to implement the changes, and since the process is employee-driven, the ideas are well-received, Long says.
Similarly, Coffman Engineers designates a budget for a charitable-contribution committee. The company sets aside a certain lump sum each year, which is disbursed by the committee based on applications submitted by employees urging financial support for various community causes.
At Hollister-Stier, to promote a culture of openness and accessibility to the companys decision makers, employees are encouraged to bring ideas directly to management, says Janelle Kraft, the companys communication manager.
She says one employee returning from jury duty asked Anthony Bonanzino, the companys CEO, what Hollister-Stier did with the jury-duty payments it received for employees who are excused, with pay, to fulfill their jury service obligations. The employee wondered if the money could be donated to a nonprofit organization, Kraft says. Bonanzino checked into it, and implemented the suggestion, she says. Now, the jurors designate their stipends to The Childrens Waiting Room, a Spokane County facility that offers free childcare for parents or guardians that have business at the courthouse.
You create a culture where people want to help each other, Kraft says. The company also has an active service committee, which organizes one or two fundraisers each month, such as bake sales and auctions of prime parking spaces, raising about $12,000 a year for charity, she says. Hollister-Stier doesnt fund the committee per se, but encourages it and provides the time during the workday for the committee to meet, she says.
Holder says the culture of flexibility and creativity at David Evans is a big part of the reason he has been with the company for the so long.
Ive seen that they are serious about what they say. Ive been able to carve my own course, Holder says. Holder was hired to do land development, but became interested in projects with the Idaho Department of Transportation and now solely works on those types of projects.
Hollister-Stier has an education benefit, paying for employees to get additional education, paying up to $7,500 per year, Kraft says.
David Evans selects 20 emerging leaders from its company each year, recognizing them among the company and providing them with additional mentoring and training. Long is on the selection committee for the internal program, and says the additional focus on the emerging leaders gets those young, talented employees more personally invested in the company.
Coffman Engineers encourages its employees to take their skills beyond the doors of the company into the community. Several of its employees are adjunct professors at local universities.
Contact Jeanne Gustafson at (509) 344-1264 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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