Leslie Caccamese, Director of Strategic Marketing and Research at Great Place to Work

Great Place to Work seems to have figured out what makes employees tick. The company is the mastermind behind the 2013 50 Best Small and Medium Workplaces list, and helps companies sustain positive workplaces that cultivate productive environments and are enviable to applicants. Leslie Caccamese is the Director of Strategic Marketing and Research at Great Place to Work and recently spoke to RE about the companies that are doing it right and how they have created workplaces that boost productivity while keeping employees smiling.

I’m not seeing big trends but I am seeing interesting practices. For instance, producers of marketing automation software for small business, InfusionSoft, keeps a Dream Manager on staff and has a Dream Room ss part of inspiring employees to meet their personal and professional goals, whether that goal be to write a novel, start their own small business, acquire presentation skills, or create a path to promotion. We’re seeing companies support employee talents like Rochester-based ad firm Dixon Schwabl, which has a couple of staff bands that regularly perform at company functions. League of Legends maker Riot Games has a quarterly hackathon called Thunderdome to help drive innovation in game development. Online retailer Etsy allows employees to offer classes that help fellow employees develop their creative skills including juggling and silk screening classes.

2. Are there particular management styles used by the 50 best small and medium workplaces that keep employees happy while fostering an open, creative and productive environment? If so, can you outline some of the particular practices?

I see many companies with senior leadership that strives to be approachable and caring about what employees have to say. For example, the founder of Granite Properties conducted his own experiment patterned after [television series] “Undercover Boss,” disguising himself as a field employee and spending time at company work sites to get the honest scoop on how employees are feeling. In the past two years, firm ENGEO has conducted 40 surveys to get feedback on everything from company events to health care. The firm also hosts an annual “team idea think session” where employees brainstorm ways to improve internal processes and operations, communication, and employee welfare.

3. What qualities of the physical workplace design contribute to creativity and productivity among employees, based on your research? Do you have examples of any companies on the list that have unique office spaces that directly contribute to productivity?

Common particularly among smaller companies, are open work spaces with low cubicle walls, less personal space and more communal space, and executives (including the CEO) seated among rank-and-file employees, or in offices with glass doors so that communications remain very transparent.

4. How are these companies creating and encouraging a work-life balance?

Consulting firm, Capco, has a novel practice to support their hard working consultants. The company believes everyone should take at least one vacation of two consecutive weeks annually to rest and re-energize -- we give a once-a-year $1000 "vacation bonus" when someone takes 10 consecutive workdays off. AgileThought reimburses employees for home broadband so that employees can take advantage of liberal work from home policies. Accounting firm EKS&H offers employees the option of an 11-month work year.

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