Why employees stay at the Best Places to Work

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If you want to make your company a great place to work, how about starting by developing a corporate culture and listening to employees?

If you really want to go the extra mile, how about picking up the tab for them to see a lawyer?

A panel of 2017 Best Places to Work award winners talked about what makes their companies special at the Plastics News Executive Forum in Naples, Fla.

That's where the subject of paying for lawyers unexpectedly came up.

Donald Starkey, Progressive Components' co-owner and chairman, said the company gives employees a professional services benefit. So if workers need to talk to an attorney, it's paid for. People need some basic legal advice at some time in their lives, and if they can't pay, they should not be limited, he said.

The No. 1 on the Best Places to Work list is PolySource LLC, a resin and compound distributor based in Independence, Mo. President Grant John said PolySource pays all employee costs for medical benefits.

"Our goal is our employees will have zero out-of-pocket expense for health care," he said. The company funds the Health Savings Account for its 15 employees and their families.

"We want to know we're making a difference to our families and our team," John said.

The session focused on the extraordinary efforts of four of the 12 winning companies.

Here's another story that raised eyebrows: For the 2014 World Series, the first for the Kansas City Royals since 1985, PolySource sold its four tickets behind home plate and bought enough tickets so the entire team could go to upper deck seats. Not customers. Not management. The employees.

"The goal was, we only got four seats, let's take the entire company," John said.

Dymotek Corp. won the Processor of the Year Award, as well as a Best Places to Work honor. The custom injection molder and specialist in liquid silicone rubber operates in small-town Connecticut.

Human Resources Manager Laura Gayton said Dymotek gives each employee a T-shirt with his or her own comments on the back.

The company was listed as one of Connecticut's Best Places to Work in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

"At Dymotek they understand that they will be listened to," Gayton said.

Each person gets a personal birthday card. What a great idea, for smaller companies, especially. Stop with the email and get back to snail mail, at least for birthdays.

It's a sign that the company cares.

"Our management team is really good about promoting people from within," Gayton said. "It's important for our employees to get in their car at the end of the day and say, 'I like working at Dymotek.'"

Karen Diedrich, director of human resources at CMD Corp., an Appleton, Wis.-based manufacturer of bag-making equipment, said CMD management supports employee ideas for community involvement. "We say yes whenever we can," she said.

Diedrich gave an example: An employee was deployed to Afghanistan and he had a wife and a young child.

"It felt not just like a coworker leaving, but he's one of ours that's going to Afghanistan," she said.

So employees asked if they could cash in their paid time off and give the PTO money to his wife. That's what CMD did.

Progressive also pays 100 percent of short- and long-term disability, "because we're afraid that if we do not, they will not."

Starkey said in 2003, Wauconda, Ill.-based Progressive Components set up a nonprofit organization to help the community through education and donations. "This is a volunteer, employee-led and employee-driven organization," he said.

Public service work emphasizes corporate responsibility, favoring programs that "support our community and how we have put together our benefit package," Starkey said.

It boils down to hiring the "whole person," Starkey said: You're hiring, and you want to retain, the high performers. But that means you're also taking on their sick kid, and the stress they feel when they have an in-law with dementia.

The payback of doing good by employees is having loyal employees. Starkey said more than 40 percent of Progressive Components workers have been with the company more than 10 years.

Is there a payback to the company? Sure, customers appreciate dealing with experienced people, Starkey said.

Click here for links to other Best Places to Work businesses for 2017.

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