The Best Companies Get Results Through People


Customer Care News recently asked Jennifer Kluge to provide us with information about 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For, a human resources awards program she created to recognize those companies that are making the lives of their employees better as well as the community as a whole. The following article highlights some of the strategies that have proved successful for those companies that have been deemed “The Best and Brightest.” We at CCN truly believe that learning from others’ successes (and failures) is a great way to improve your own policies and programs to ensure both your employees and customers are satisfied, which will ultimately lead to business success.

After more than 10 years of conducting best company competitions in several Midwest regions, 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For has found that successful companies understand that their business results, including the quality and strength of their customer relationships, are directly tied to how well they focus on the employee as a whole person. They know that an employee who is valued and connected to his or her work is more likely to listen and deliver the kind of value that today’s customers demand. They also know that engaged employees give higher levels of discretionary effort and are more loyal to their organizations.

Using independent research methods that evaluate company communication, community initiatives, compensation and benefits, diversity, employee development, employee engagement, and work-life balance to single out those companies that demonstrate exemplary human resource initiatives, the team at Best and Brightest has come to the overriding conclusion that outstanding companies purposefully keep employee welfare as a top priority. These companies achieve business results through meaningful policies and innovative best practices in human resource management proving that well-managed companies with good benefits and desirable incentives top the list for engaging employees, especially in today’s rapidly changing work environment.

“The happier the employees, the more productive they tend to be,” said Red Level Networks CEO David King, one of Metro Detroit’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For. “Employees thrive in a healthy work environment fostered by executives who care not just about the work being done but also about the people.” (“How to Create a Positive Work Environment,” Corp! April 21, 2011;

Compensation, Benefits Go Above and Beyond

Although the economic challenges of the recent recession hindered the ability of many employers to increase wages, 68 percent of the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For applicants still managed to increase base compensation in 2010. Not only that, it was noted that most menu-driven benefits packages and financial incentives now go way beyond insurance coverage and merit increases to include items such as:

  • Team incentives (25 percent)
  • Employee discounts with negotiated vendors (78 percent)
  • Wellness incentives (73 percent)
  • Referral bonuses (59 percent)
  • Annual performance awards (60 percent)
  • Process improvement awards (54 percent)
  • On-the-spot awards (58 percent)

The notable point is that these organizations concretely let their employees know how much their efforts on behalf of the company are appreciated. They understand that an engaged workforce will demonstrate through daily actions that customer service and performance are top priorities.

Personal Well-being Is Key

More and more, today’s successful companies have discovered the value in emphasizing the “quality” aspects of their workers’ lives. These companies go beyond routine human resource practices to demonstrate a genuine concern for each of their employees.

“For us, this philosophy of treating people the way we would like to be treated means we have a collaborative and nurturing work environment where people are given the opportunity to grow,” said Plante & Moran’s Managing Partner Gordon Krater upon receiving one of Corp! magazine’s 2011 reader-selected Best of Michigan Business awards. (Corp! April 7, 2011;

Clearly, more and more business leaders understand that workers are affected by both work and non-work factors and that by improving the individual well-being of their employees, they are more likely to have reliable, better performing workers and stronger bottom line results.

Work-Life Balance Grows

Work-life balance issues have grown in personal importance for workers during the past decade. Of this year’s 101 Best and Brightest, nearly 75 percent offer their employees opportunities to telecommute while more than 90 percent offer flexible scheduling that includes everything from flex-time to job sharing. Family-leave policies that often go beyond basic legal requirements are offered by nearly 60 percent of the winners while more than 48 percent offer a phased return-to-work process for those coming back from a leave of absence.

Policies that proactively accommodate the influence of family issues let employees know that their personal concerns are significant not only to them, but to their employer as well. It helps employees feel valued as a whole person rather than feeling the work/family dichotomy.

Community Involvement — Part of the Job

Community initiatives move an area forward and often strengthen the local customer climate for a business. More than 97 percent of the 2011 Best and Brightest participants routinely make charitable donations while more than 87 percent conduct on-site activities such as blood drives and food drives. In addition, more than 80 percent sponsor local charitable activities and more than 56 percent of the companies formally recognize their individual employees’ community involvement. Such activities underscore community support as a vital part of both the workers’ and the company’s roles in society, and at the same time they produce a “good will” effect among customers.

Focusing on People Works

“Customer loyalty is the fuel that drives financial success…Acquiring new customers can cost five times more than satisfying and retaining current customers,” said customer loyalty author Eva Jenkins. (“The Cost of Customer Loyalty Depends Upon Employee Engagement,” Customer Service Manager (CSM) May 3, 2011;

Diana Moss, senior director of employee engagement for Comcast, a Chicago 101 Best and Brightest recipient, said, “Paying close attention to what employees think and feel will help you increase employee commitment and employee engagement.” (“Strengthen Commitment: Focus on What Employees Think and Feel,” Corp! April 21, 2011;

Companies that take care of their workers realize better worker retention, performance and results. Experiences with hundreds of Best and Brightest Companies prove that using innovative, people-focused human resource policies and practices capitalizes on the greatest resource every company has — its human capital. Valuing the whole person not only makes an organization an ideal place for employees to work, but it also helps that organization achieve success in the marketplace.

— Jennifer D. Kluge, creator of 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For (, is a veteran HR manager, having worked for a large advertising agency, and is a consummate strategic thinker, Crain’s Detroit 40 Under 40 winner, and a two-time finalist for the Entrepreneur of the Year in the Great Lakes Central Region.

Perk Value Tied To People Perspective

Experience has shown that the value of any employee benefit or incentive strategy is directly proportional to its relevance to employees. A 2010 entry from the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For demonstrates a private club’s commitment to a positive work environment and its employees’ well-being, both on and off the job, by offering the following to attract and retain employees:

  • Daily changing selection of free nutritious meals that include hot entrees, soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts
  • Free soft drinks, coffee, milk and snacks available at all times
  • Annual holiday cash bonuses raised from members for employee service
  • Free (or very minimal fee) secure, protected on-site parking
  • Complimentary parking to attend downtown events
  • Extended time off and special consideration (time off with pay) for employees who are ill, grieving or have had a baby
  • Annual holiday turkey for all employees
  • Free annual flu shots and heart health screenings
  • Subsidized or free on-site weight management program
  • Retirement bonus and farewell events
  • Reduced rates for on-site car wash, barber shop, tailor and massage therapy
  • Uniform/business attire purchase assistance
  • Discounted catered personal on-site events
  • Discounted products and merchandise
  • Personal check cashing service
  • Sports, theater and event ticket/concierge service

While such perks might seem a bit unusual in many work environments, they are clearly matched to employee preferences and the employer’s resources. At the same time, they allow the employees to be not only the providers but also the consumers of the very services offered in the marketplace.