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What Employees Want

Published Monday Dec 10, 2018

Author Matthew J. Mowry

Roundtable participants from left: Matthew Michael, staff accountant at Vapotherm; Stephen Isaacs, loan officer at Bellwether Community Credit Union; Craig Desrochers, tribologist at Klüber Lubrication; Tim Flight, systems administrator at Mainstay Technologies; Celeste Cole, sustainability research analyst at Impax Asset Management; Chris Lessard, business development at Worldcom Exchange Inc.; Matt Wilcox, application support specialist at Northeast Delta Dental; Rebecca Scalera, marketing and communications associate at Medicus Healthcare Solutions; and Jennifer Heimberg, technical recruiter at Digital Prospectors. Photo by Judi Currie.

What does it take to rope in the best candidates and what will it take to keep them? To find answers, we did what most of the Best Companies to Work For in NH do. We decided to listen to what employees had to say.

We invited employees (no managers) from the top 10 Best Companies to join a discussion at Business NH Magazine’s offices in Manchester about best workplace practices. (Only one was unable to send someone.)

We asked the group what they want in a company culture and a manager, how they want to be recognized, and to define what work/life balance means to them. We asked what they brag about when they talk about work. Not surprisingly, this group had a lot to talk about.

“Culture is one of the most difficult things to create but one of the easiest things to destroy,” says Jennifer Heimberg, a technical recruiter at Digital Prospectors in Exeter.

This is Where I Belong
The people you work with can make work fun or a nightmare.

Employees from the Best Companies say they appreciate their co-workers and the care their companies take in building a sense of team and family.  

“Everybody that works here is easy to work with. You can tell on most days they enjoy coming into work,” says Tim Flight, a systems administrator at Mainstay Technologies in Belmont. “That environment it creates is pretty awesome to be a part of.”

Roundtable participants from left: Rebecca Scalera, Tim Flight and Stephen Isaacs. Photo by Judi Currie.

“It’s a family environment,” Stephen Isaacs, a loan officer at Manchester-based Bellwether Community Credit Union, says of the Bellwether culture. Isaacs, who works out of the Merrimack facility, continues, “I am genuinely friends with the people I work with.”

He says he and the CEO, Michael L’Ecuyer, know about each other’s families. In fact, during the onboarding process, new hires meet with every member of the executive team for 30-minute conversations not about the credit union, but about each other. “It’s to get to know the other person and for them to get to know you,” Isaacs says. “There are genuine relationships here.”

As an example, Isaacs says after he returned from work after taking two months to bond with the child he and his wife adopted (time he notes that did not come from vacation but a family-friendly time off policy the credit union recently instituted), he found a mound of gifts in his cubicle. The gifts were from both the credit union and co-workers, including some who work in other locations and whom he’s never met in person. “I tell people all the time I work for a company that I truly feel cares for me and cares for my family and cares for the community,” Isaacs says.

His sentiments are echoed by Matt Wilcox, an application support specialist at Northeast Delta Dental in Concord, who says CEO Tom Raffio sits with new employees for 30 minutes within their first month at the company for “Coffee with the Coach” so he can learn about the employee and their family. He says he too enjoys the family atmosphere at his company. “The vice president of our division pushes that idea that if you know somebody on a personal level, you’ll go that extra mile [for them],” he says. “That family atmosphere gets me in the office every day.”

One way that Northeast Delta Dental cultivates a sense of family is by holding company lunches for employees and encouraging people to sit with colleagues they don’t already know. Wilcox says, “It’s not about talking about work,” but rather about family, interests and even movies. “It’s about connecting on a level that’s not about what deadline is coming, what project your facing. It’s about the interpersonal connections.”

Celebrations add to that sense of team and family, not just for business wins but for personal milestones as well, says Chris Lessard, business development at Worldcom Exchange Inc. (WEI) in Salem. He says he appreciates that WEI highlights important moments in the lives of its employees.

Roundtable participants from left: Chris Lessard and Craig Desrochers. Photo by Judi Currie.

That sense of belonging comes from a culture of trust, says Heimberg of Digital Prospectors, the number one Best Company in 2018. “It’s in all directions. I trust that management is doing the most that they can for me and they trust I’m doing the best for our clients. All the employees trust that we’re doing [our best] for each other.”

It’s About Purpose
Many employees noted they valued having a sense of purpose at work and that they are proud that their companies think about the greater good.

“I really like the fact that in my company we incorporate environment and social governance factors into our investment process,” says Celeste Cole, a sustainability research analyst at Impax Asset Management in Portsmouth. It’s not just the business model she likes, though, but the fact that Impax lives its mission by incorporating socially responsible practices into its culture. The examples Cole gives include Impax hiring a compost company to reduce its environmental footprint and rewarding employees for using alternative transportation to reduce carbon emissions. “The business is helping to make the transition to a sustainable global economy. I want to work for a company that’s doing that,” she says.  

Roundtable participants from left: Matt Wilcox, Celeste Cole and Matthew Michael. Photo by Judi Currie.

Heimberg says she too appreciates working for a company that lives its mission. “We are a staffing agency and our mission and vision is that we believe that all people should love their job,” she says. “Everything that they do is with that in mind.”

Wilcox says Northeast Delta Dental’s commitment to giving back to the community is a big reason why he works there.

Northeast Delta Dental, he notes, also encourages employees to get involved in the community. “It’s not just words. They really back it up.”

A culture of innovation and customer service is also a draw. “We have a customer first focus. I appreciate that,” says Lessard of WEI. Craig Desrochers, a tribologist at Klüber Lubrication in Londonderry, says he likes that his company is focused on innovating, and, as such, works with customers who are pioneers in their field. “We’re always working on new innovative products or designing a new product for a company we’re working with,” he says. “I get to see a lot of cool things.”

Balancing Personal Life with Work
Life is hectic and the line between work and one’s personal life is sometimes blurred when family issues arise during work hours.  And, for some, it’s hard to unplug from their devices, when not in the workplace.

Flight says Mainstay respects that employees have lives beyond work. “One of our philosophies is give more than you get,” he says, adding the firm takes that to heart by offering flexible schedules.  

Wilcox of Northeast Delta Dental agrees, noting how he is able to work remotely when he needs to. He adds his company is more concerned about the quality of work and meeting deadlines than when and where the work gets done.

Rebecca Scalera, a marketing and communications associate at Medicus Healthcare Solutions in Windham, says she had previous jobs where taking time even for a doctor’s appointment was frowned upon. At Medicus she not only has the PTO to make the appointment but she knows no one is going to take issue with her taking time. And, if she gets sick, her manager encourages her to stay home to get better, she says.  

Roundtable participant Rebecca Scalera, third from left, speaks to the group. Photo by Judi Currie.

Heimberg of Digital prospectors says she appreciates that her company respects her paid time off and has no expectations that she check in or check email or voicemail. “At a lot of companies, the unwritten rule is that you’re never really off and I think that can really drain people quickly because you never have a chance to fully disconnect,” she says.

Desrochers of Klüber says when he sent work emails while on vacation, his manager told him to get off his phone and enjoy his vacation.

These employees talked about how work/life balance starts at the top. “My managers and colleagues are great role models for this. They take their vacation, they work hard when they need to and take time off for family appointments,” says Cole of Impax. “It’s really great to see that.”

But it’s not just flexible schedules and time-off that people appreciate. Lessard of WEI says his company welcomes family members at company events. “We do a lot of fun stuff, but my family also gets to do it,” he says. “They appreciate not just the employee but the family of the employee as well.”

And, these employees say they know they have a good thing and they don’t want to lose it. Matthew Michael, a staff accountant at Vapotherm in Exeter, says he has friends who don’t have the same level of flexibility at work. “When you are working from home, it makes you want to perform as well, if not better than you would in the office,” he says.

Roundtable participants Matthew Michael and Jennifer Heimberg. Photo by Judi Currie.

Heimberg chimes in, “I have this perk, don’t blow it.”

Rewards and Recognition
While one common trait among winning companies is showing appreciation for employees, they find different ways to do so.

Scalera says Medicus is a sales-driven organization, which, in some companies, results in only sales people getting the glory.

But at Medicus, “We all work together, we all need each other and that is recognized,” she says. Medicus hosts a President’s Club that treats high performing employees (sales and non-sales) to a luxury vacation. Medicus also throws a lavish holiday gala to thank its employees, even paying for hotel rooms, she says.

Appreciation doesn’t need to be big to have an effect. “What I really appreciate at my company is that there seems to be recognition almost on a daily basis. It’s those little things like saying thank you,” Cole says.

Michael of Vapotherm says on Fridays, his manager highlights employees’ “wins of the week.” “He recognizes us for what we do. It keeps us motivated,” he says.

Among the ways Digital Prospectors lets employees know they are appreciated is a peer-to-peer program, says Heimberg.

Each employee receives $100 in Kudos Kash to give to other employees for going above and beyond. “That’s important to have the kudos coming from all directions versus just from the top down,” she says.

Wilcox says while Northeast Delta Dental also gives financial rewards and gift cards, he’s just as fond of the company newsletter that recognizes ways employees went above and beyond.

Isaacs says when he was part of a major project at Bellwether, the CEO sent an email to the entire staff and the board of directors thanking each individual on the team for their work. “It meant a lot to get that recognition,” he says.

However, not every employee wants to be recognized in the same way. Some want the limelight, while others prefer a subdued approach. Desrochers recalls a long-time employee who was retiring. He was shy and did not want a big party.

“They really listened to his feedback,” and took him out for a low-key dinner, which the employee appreciated.

Leading Versus Managing
Managers are the chief reason employees stay at (or leave!) an organization. We asked the group how they liked to be managed and what would have them heading for the door.

They talked about not being micromanaged and instead being well trained and then trusted to do the job. They want to be treated with respect and not belittled and they want managers who praise publicly and coach privately.

Flight says he appreciates a manager who asks for feedback and then acts on it. “It’s really cool to see them take action about something I’ve said,” he says.

“People don’t need to be managed like you manage your checkbook. They really need to be led,” Michael says.

Scalera says she values that she can ask her boss questions without feeling judged. She says she has worked at other companies where she felt “physically uncomfortable asking my boss a question” because of how they might react. She also likes the fact that Medicus is a meritocracy where people move up the ladder because they earned it.

“I see a lot of women in leadership too, which is something I really appreciate,” Scalera says, adding that the company’s president, Cristina Muise, held a forum for an employee group of mothers about her career trajectory and balancing work and family.

And all of this leads to employees who are engaged at work and happy to brag about their workplace. “I enjoy going to work.

That is something so precious to me,” Scalera says.

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