Companies like Oxford Networks point to awards like being named a Best Place to Work in Maine as achievements, but getting those commendations often requires some corporate self-reflection.
The Best Places to Work competition is sponsored by the Maine chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management. It’s open to companies with at least 15 employees that have been in business at least a year. And there’s a registration fee, as well, ranging from a low of $595 for small companies that choose to do employee surveys online to a high of $1,580 for large companies that choose to do surveys by paper.
But beyond the publicity and recognition of getting named one of the best places in Maine, there is real value in that employee feedback process, officials from several companies said.
In last year’s competition, Oxford got the multiple-page report summarizing the employees’ thoughts about the company, said President and CEO Craig Gunderson. While the majority of feedback was positive, there were about three pages that focused on the company’s decisions to stop contributions to the 401(k) program due to the tight financial times.
When the company budgeted for the following year, restoring contributions to the program was at the top of company leaders’ minds, said Gunderson.
Androscoggin Bank has participated in the best places program for the last three years, according to Brian Robinson, assistant vice president. The first year, the bank was not named a best place to work, he said, but the bank used the employee survey as a way to improve on some areas while acknowledging good work in others.
“Specific enhancements included strengthening organizational communication by having senior leaders meet with each department and discuss strategic initiatives,” said Robinson. “Our president also began writing a monthly organizational update on our company intranet.”
Robinson said that last year, the bank continued to focus attention on its strategic plan through communication.
“On the 2010 survey results, we saw a 10 percent increase in employees’ ‘understanding of the company’s long-term strategy’ as well as the ‘company’s communication is detailed enough,’” he said.
Another initiative that came from feedback: Last fall, the bank enhanced its tuition assistance program, which has allowed more employees to get back into the classroom and further their education, Robinson said.
Likewise, after Bangor Savings Bank got the feedback report in 2008, it focused on increasing employee recognition and enhancing employee communications, said Megan Clough, senior vice president and employee experience officer.
The company created a booklet that detailed recognition tools for managers, provided gift card resources directly to managers and added awards for superior customer service, Clough said.
The bank put together a work force communication plan that includes regular bankwide calls from the CEO and an upgrade of the intranet, as well, said Clough.