Mike Carey has only worked for SPS Commerce since January, but already understands why his new co-workers nominated the Minneapolis-based software maker as one of Minnesota’s Top Workplaces.
“It is a somewhat unique culture. It is a very active and engaged organization,” said Carey, vice president of human resources for SPS, which earned the No. 1 spot among large businesses on the Star Tribune’s annual list. Employees regularly participate in sporting events, company picnics and United Way events. On March 14, executives celebrated Pi Day by unveiling a newly built employee deck at company headquarters and serving pie to all 772 employees at exactly 3:14 p.m.
“Our CEO and our chief technology officer were just geeking out about it. They were so excited,” said executive assistant Stephanie Braegelman. “We like to have fun here.”
Workers flock to three game rooms at lunch, regularly host charity auctions and have even formed teams to stay up all night building websites for charities.
“From the senior management on down, it is very much fostered that work can be fun. They try to blend the two together,” Carey said.
But what Carey likes most is that “it’s pretty egalitarian. There is no ivory tower or executive row here. Everybody is in jeans. It’s all the time. It just feels like senior leadership is part of the organization, as opposed to above the organization.”
Although the company has been around since 2001, this is the first year employees nominated SPS — which creates software that helps 60,000 retail and wholesale customers find, ship and track merchandise and store inventory levels — for the Top Workplaces designation.
Successfully engaging staff and offering various types of profit-sharing are consistent themes among the 30 large employers on the list compiled by WorkplaceDynamics.
Employees said their companies — from financial services firms to health care companies, convenience stores and real estate agencies — made them feel valued and made sure work was never dull.
Keller Williams Realty, with 1,600 agents and employees in 19 offices across Minnesota, ranked second. Perry Hurth, one of Keller Williams’ team leaders, said the agency invests heavily in its associates to help them grow personally and professionally.
“We will never make decisions in our organization without consulting our agents,” Hurth said. “When we let our agents weigh in, then they buy in.”
Proto Labs, a rapidly growing injection-molding firm with 800 employees in Maple Plain, Plymouth and Rosemount, ranked 28th on the list. Incentives mentioned by surveyed employees include a basketball court at each office and a set $10 employee share of monthly health insurance premiums. Beyond a 401(k) match and an employee stock discount, executives host barbecues at each plant, including a midnight picnic for the night shift workers.
“It’s fun, and employees like it,” said Katy McGovern, a human resources generalist at Proto Labs.
Mortenson Construction has been on the Top Workplaces list each of the six years of the Star Tribune program. This year, it was 13th. The construction firm, known for building Target Field and the new Vikings stadium, lets employees save time off to use toward an eight-week sabbatical every five years, said Jean McGrory, director of Mortenson’s total rewards program.
But sometimes it’s not vacation or money that matters. It’s knowing someone noticed your work, said Raenell Dorn, human resources vice president for the Minnesota Twins.
The Twins — a Top Workplace designee for five years — fielded a No. 9 spot on this year’s large company list. Mentioned was the company’s “High Five” recognition program that honors full- and part-time employees who do their job well. The winners receive a woven bracelet made of red, white and blue baseball thread, plus a card signed by their peers.
“It’s really cool when you see someone walking down the hall with multiple bracelets,” Dorn said. Also a source of pride for workers, he said, is winning an award for creating “Magic Moments” for fans or co-workers. The winners of that award are on a plaque posted at the entrance of the stadium and are called onto the field for a tribute.
“For our employees that is a big deal,” Dorn said. “It shows that we care.”