Among large-company employers, Minnesota's top workplaces represent a cross-section of the state's service industry where the customer is king and an engaged, satisfied workforce is a must for business success.
For the third year running, Keller Williams Realty is the top-ranked workplace among companies employing 500 or more -- impressive for a realty company operating in the toughest real estate market since World War II.
"We support agents and listen to them," said Todd Butzer, regional director of Keller Williams. "We share with each other to create an environment that fosters more of a partnership than a tug-of-war. When times get tough, you invest more in your people. You don't always hit a home run, but you've got to try it."
Successful workplaces have remained focused and attentive even in tough economic times.
"We hire the right people," said John Collopy, one of two owners of the RE/MAX Minnesota office. "Customer service is difficult to teach. You either get it or you don't. We look for those with strong self-esteem and the ability to do the task well."
At financial adviser Edward Jones, the key to a top workplace has involved taking a longer-term outlook in the marketplace rather than focusing on near-term results.
"We allow everyone the opportunity to succeed at whatever level they want to succeed," said Nick Lampi, regional leader for the financial services company. "One of the unique things about Edward Jones is that we're a partnership and everyone is pulling in one direction."
The Minnesota Twins, which ranked No. 4 on our 2012 list, surveyed the organization's 1,100 corporate employees (but not the players). The Twins have 3 million interactions with their fans each season so customer satisfaction is a must.
The team has a "high-five card" and "Wall of Fame" to honor its employees, from the front office to the Target Field aisles, who've done something special to help each other or help make the fan experience better.
"We've had out-of-state families with seating issues. We had a special-needs group where one child didn't have the financial means to go to the concession stand where we got him something without him knowing," said Raenell Dorn, the Twins vice president of human resources and diversity who is entering her 39th season as a Twins employee. "If we don't work together we won't be successful."
Up through the ranks
The large-company list includes public companies like Graco Inc. (No. 10), which makes sprayers for industrial coatings applications, and C.H. Robinson (No. 14), a global transportations and logistics provider, to U.S. Bancorp (No. 30), the nation's fifth-largest bank.
The list includes health care providers like 115-year-old Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare (No. 12), educational institutions including Northwestern College (No. 18) and the University of St. Thomas (No. 29), financial services companies such as Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America (No.13) and Mortenson Construction (No. 11).
Global delivery giant FedEx came in at No. 5. Phil Meadows has been a courier for 37 years. One of the FedEx traits that impresses him the most, Meadows said, is the large number of managers and executives who started on the front line loading and unloading packages and worked their way up.
"Eight of my last 13 managers all started as drivers," Meadows said. "They've been through the ranks. The president of the company even helped us load a plane once."
The key to each top workplace is a workforce that feels well-treated and well-respected and has open communication with management. The companies are ranked according to the results of survey questions based on anonymous employee responses.
"The company is always open to new ideas and wants what's best for its agents," said one anonymous survey respondent who works for Keller Williams.
There appears to be a correlation between employee satisfaction and independence.
One Edward Jones employee said of his manager, "He lets me build my business in the manner I see fit, with no pressure to sell certain products or services."
Other respondents to the survey were more practical about their employer.
When asked what makes you feel appreciated, one Twins employee said, "I'm still here."
David Phelps • 612-673-7269
Keller-Williams is the top-ranked large company for the third consecutive year. Here's how this year's top 10 has fared in three years:
Company 2012 2011 2010
Keller-Williams 1st 1st 1st
Edward Jones 2nd **NR **NR
RE/MAX Results 3rd **NR **NR
Minnesota Twins 4th **NR 5th
FedEx 5th **NR **NR
Kwik Trip 6th 3rd **NR
Bremer Bank 7th 4th **NR
AgStar Financial Services 8th ***others **NR
UCare 9th *23rd *14th
Graco Inc. 10th 9th 9th
* In medium-sized category; ** not ranked; *** recognized but not ranked