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Keeping employees happy key to a successful workplace

Published: Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 11:36 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 11:41 p.m. CDT
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(Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com)
Laura Morales of Woodstock eats lunch Oct. 30 with co-workers at Watlow in Richmond.

The word “work” is defined as a job or activity a person does regularly to earn money. Some enjoy it, others not so much.

Employees punch their time cards in some fashion each day, often grinding hour-by-hour until the end of each pay period when they receive a dollar amount that creates some sense of fulfillment for a job well done.

“A paycheck isn’t enough anymore,” said Lisa Pinion, senior vice president of human resources at Schaumburg-based Assurance, an independent brokerage firm. “It satisfies the basic safety and security need, but how do we build on that?”

Creating a successful workplace environment for business owners across McHenry County means meeting the bottom line while keeping employees happy, local human resources experts agree. A combination of new offerings and the traditional philosophy of dollar-amount incentives are attempting to keep workers engaged.

Assurance recently earned the top spot on Business Insurance magazine’s Best Places to Work list for the second consecutive year. Over the past five years, the company has received more than 60 awards for client service and workplace environment. 

Pinion is a member of the executive management team at Assurance and is responsible for the company’s workplace culture, placing the focus on putting the employees first, rather than the customers.

That has equated to more than 90 percent of Assurance employees stating that they enjoy the workplace and believe managers have a clear vision for the organization’s future.

“Most companies put the client first, but we feel that a happy employee equals a happy client,” said Pinion, who has lived in Crystal Lake since 2001. “You treat the employee right, and they will treat the client right. It’s a win-win.”

An incentive-sharing program at the company places a collective focus on the ability to meet business goals for all employees. The incentive-sharing program also includes a wellness component geared toward employees working toward healthier lifestyles.

“Not every employee can affect total revenue, but they can affect components of successful business,” Pinion said. “We want to be profitable, but also want to contribute to the health and well-being of our employees.”

Professional development – the opportunity to work toward designations or further continue education – is also an aspect Assurance and others use to promote a successful work environment.

McHenry County College sends professors to manufacturers Watlow Electric Manufacturing Co. in Richmond and Scot Forge in Spring Grove. Graduates of the program are not guaranteed advancement, but many end up in higher-paying positions based on their added education.

“In times of financial difficulty, one of the first things a lot of companies do is stop paying for training, but not here,” Watlow human resources manager Joanne Morton said. “We are sincere about providing educational opportunities for our people.”

Employees also are trained in the “Watlow Way,” which focuses on a core purpose of enriching lives through inspired innovation, among other things. The company also supports employee-driven charity drives, and once a month hosts events where employees can offer their ideas on improving products.

“This is about helping our customers, our team members and the community succeed in the long term,” Morton said. “It’s all about teaching employees what good looks like.”

Helping employees feel certainty about where their organization is going, its mission and vision and their role in the company is an important aspect in creating a successful workplace culture.

“Their job, role or position may change, but for employees to deal with that, they need to know if they do their part they will have a place in the company,” said Kathleen Caldwell, owner of Woodstock-based Caldwell Consulting Group LLC.

Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington has one of the lowest turnover rates at Advocate Health Care, the largest integrated health care system in the state.

In addition to health and retirement benefits, the hospital tries to deliver the best care possible by creating the right work environment.

That includes Advocate Health Care’s voluntary Healthe You program, which includes biometric screenings and coaching calls with nurses for identified health risk factors. Continued learning and leadership development opportunities are also offered. 

“Everyone has a role, and without those roles working together, we couldn’t serve patients and wouldn’t have great outcomes,” said Karen Lambert, president at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital. “You have to be proud to live and work alongside these people.”

Creating that successful environment at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital also includes some fun, Lambert said. That includes birthday lunches and employee outings.

“We work hard and are results driven, but we need to be able to have some fun,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with a little laughing in the workplace. In the middle of a hard workday, that helps.”

At Assurance, large helium balloons with a $100 bill attached can be found at employees’ desks when they finish some type of professional development or reach an educational achievement.

The company also hosts happy hours, random casual days and brings in a food truck for lunch every once in a while, and also has an office where employees can relax and play some “Guitar Hero” or Nintendo Wii.

“In a fast-paced business like this, sometimes we need to let loose and let people have some fun,” Pinion said. “We encourage people to take a break and focus on having a little fun in order to get back to delivering results.”

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