Right at Home

CEO Paul Blom has spent the past decade building the Right at Home home health care franchise he co-owns with Bob White into one of the most employee-friendly workplaces in town. Workers say it’s because managers listen to their concerns, making it easier for them to do the sometimes-difficult work of helping elderly, mobility-impaired clients navigate at home. Blom calls his management style “authentic” leadership. “We keep adding people to management who buy into the idea that when you have authentic relationships with each other, we’re a better team,” he said. “What ‘authenticity’ means to me is that there’s no hidden agendas in our relationships; employees always know what to expect from us.”

Vinland National Center
In a social services landscape filled with tough jobs, few are more challenging than what staffers at Vinland National Center in Loretto are tasked with: working on drug addiction treatments for clients with mental illness, brain injuries or learning disabilities. That’s why Vinland Executive Director Mary Roehl and Operations Manager Colleen Larson place so much value on giving their employees the flexibility they need to balance their home and work lives. It’s mainly small things, they say: allowing workers to bring a new puppy from home, or integrating personal interests into the workplace such as yoga or flower arranging, where they may also be of benefit to patients in their recoveries.

Clockwork Active Media
Many businesses that have had to seek help from tech consultants in adapting to the digital workplace have horror stories to tell. Some discover the field is a bit of a Wild West. One of the qualities that has made Clockwork Active Media stand out among its competition — as well as with its own employees — is its scrupulous ethical code, said CEO Nancy Lyons. “I’m very clear on ethics and how important they are, and so the staff knows they don’t have to guess about ‘how things really are’ with management. They know that we really are living our values here.” Unlike typical corporate environments “plagued by diplomacy and protocol,” Lyons said she will tell it like it is — which, she admits, can sometimes hurt.

It’s surprising how many companies in the communications industry have trouble communicating with their own employees, but that’s certainly not the case with the advertising firm Mono, judging from the high marks it received in that category in the Top Workplaces survey. Co-founder and managing partner Jim Scott said communication is intrinsic to Mono’s business culture. “It’s how businesses absolutely and positively have to operate today,” he said. “We’re really close, and we want our employees to know what’s happening at the agency. For instance, when we recently lost a client, we wanted everyone to know exactly what we knew, and because of that, they were invested in doing what we needed to do to replace them. We’ve actually grown since then, and I really think it’s because everybody felt like thcey were a part of it.” Another example, Scott said, came when Mono moved to Uptown and employees were closely involved in the process.

Minnesota Twins
The Twins have traditionally held Fan Appreciation Day each year during the final home series of the season. But every day is Employee Appreciation Day for those who work for the team, at least according to their responses to the Top Workplaces survey. Ensuring that’s the case is Raenell Dorn, vice president of human resources and diversity and the Twins’ longest-serving employee at 41 years. “We want our fans to see good customer service from our employees, and the best way to do that is to make sure the employees are happy themselves,” she said. The team accomplishes that through initiatives such as the Magic Moment program, which honors employees who do something special for fans or fellow workers with a “High Five” bracelet. There’s also the Wall of Fame, which recognizes workers who go “above and beyond” with a plaque in the team offices.


Bridge Realty
The managers of Bloomington-based Bridge Realty take pride in their status as the transactions leader among independently owned, non-franchised real estate companies in the Twin Cities. Owner Tony Oskooi and administrative assistant Erin Hughes said one reason is they do whatever is necessary to give the more than 400 agents working under the Bridge Realty banner whatever advice and assistance they need to close their deals. “We run this company like a family, with the right technology and the right human resources support,” Oskooi said. “As the broker serving all our agents, I make myself completely available to them to answer their questions. They know we care.” Oskooi also said he diligently stays on top of changes in real estate law.

Bremer Bank
Employees at Bremer Bank can personalize their benefits packages, making changes as needed as their life circumstances change. The company offers three different medical plans, dental and orthodontia, life insurance, short- and long-term disability coverage and a “telemedicine” program in which physicians can diagnose patients and write prescriptions by computer. Other benefits include employee stock ownership, a 401(k) plan with an employer match and a range of retirement options. The bank is especially proud of its wellness programs — which seem to be paying off, said Julie Schneider, director of benefits and human-relations operations. Employees who participate can reduce their health-plan premiums, and participation exceeds 80 percent. Afterward, people comment on how the programs have helped them, such as losing weight and managing diabetes. 

The Phoenix Residence Inc.
It’s no mystery why employees of the Phoenix Residence, a nonprofit organization that serves people with disabilities, would find meaning in their jobs. “I believe there’s no greater job in the world than one when you have the experience of making a difference in someone else’s life,” said President and CEO Darlene Scott. Working with clients with serious disabilities has a way of making employees’ own problems seem milder by comparison. “In our workplace, we realize there’s nothing you should take for granted,” Scott said. Nor does Phoenix take its employees for granted, she said. Management finds ways to create a sense of a community among its staff.

Aerotek, a provider of technical, professional and industrial staffing services, trains more than 4,000 people a year, said Kelly Eisele, director of business operations. At its offices around the country, the Hanover, Md.-based company holds 220 training events a year, and provides thousands of hours of online courses on topics ranging from computer to management skills. The training covers both professional skills, such as recruiting techniques, and soft skills, such as leadership and management strategies. “Training is very much part of not only Aerotek’s competitive strategies but also our values and our culture as an organization,” Eisele said. “We create opportunities from within the organization.”

RE/MAX Advantage Plus
The tone at RE/MAX Advantage Plus is set by Eric Malmberg, owner of the Savage-based real-estate brokerage, said marketing director Sarah O’Bannon. Malmberg supports sales associates’ efforts to grow their businesses, and is willing to invest in the technology, mentoring and coaching to do it. “Ultimately, within this company, our sales associates are our customers and they come first,” O’Bannon said. “Eric is a great leader to follow. He knows the industry and can project where it’s going to go.” He’s also willing to make time to sit down with associates and discuss their business plans, “whether they sell 10 houses a year or 350 houses a year,” she said.

Because the Minneapolis office of, a national home automation and security software company, primarily performs customer service and technical support, it is very customer-focused, said Jason DaCosta, vice president of customer operations. “We might be the only human interaction they have with our company.” So employees are explicitly empowered to do whatever it takes to provide “the exceptional experience we want our company to be known for.” The company’s products, complex as they are, can sometimes challenge clients. Employees are encouraged to “think outside the box” to maintain customer satisfaction — perhaps, for example, giving the customer an advance look at a beta feature while waiting for a replacement product to arrive. “We trust them to do what is necessary to make sure those customers are happy,” DaCosta said. “That leaves customers feeling like we’re an exceptional service provider and employees feeling like they have the judgment and the tools to try to make the customers happy.”

Edward Jones
“At this company, we do things efficiently and well” was the consensus of Edward Jones’ Minnesota employees who responded to the Top Workplaces survey. Kim Renk, a financial adviser and regional leader for the national chain of financial advisers, can think of at least three examples. First, the company gives its employees the opportunity to become limited partners, believing that it encourages people to work toward the same goals. Second, its advisers occupy individual offices. The company believes the system attracts high achievers who want to run their own businesses and “supports a more efficient and consistent client experience. … The same person answers the phone, the same person sits at the desk.” Finally, the company is using technology to communicate more conveniently with clients. “Our clients no longer have to carve out an hour and a half of their time to leave work or find a baby sitter,” Renk said. “We can fully review a client’s account through a WebEx presentation that the client can access from virtually anywhere.”