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September 24, 2008
Being a "Best" Company to Work For: Culture Is King

Chris Ceplenski
Senior Editor

What are the benefit practices of a"Best" company to work for? According to one award winner, organizational culture plays a pivotal role in shaping her organization's approach towards benefits.

"It's all about relationships," says Lee Johnston, one of the panelists at a keynote presentation at the 21st Annual Benefits Forum & Expo. Johnston is the Executive Vice President of Human Resources at Holder Construction, one of the companies designated among the "Best Companies to Work For" in America by the Great Place to Work Institute. Focusing on the relationship between employer and its employees/associates has "paid huge dividends" and helped "build trust at all levels" at Holder, Johnston says.

Johnston touched on some of the benefits Holder (based in Atlanta) offers that enhance the relationship between Holder and its employees. Holder found that many employees wanted to attend school events for their children (such as parent-teacher conferences, school plays, etc.) during their work shifts, but didn't want to use sick or vacation time. So Holder created a paid time off policy (called Family Pay) for the purpose of allowing employees to take time off for things such as school events, doctor's appointments for their children, or for elder care (doctor's appointments for elderly parents, etc.).

Johnston says there is no limit on the amount of PTO available to employees. She explains the company's reasoning as follows: Many of the organization's employees put in well beyond 40 hours of work each week. So, if Holder has an engineer who works 55 hours per week, "how can you say 'No, you can't take off 4 hours?'" Johnston asks. Nearly all employees have laptops and can still get their work done remotely if necessary. Having this leave available has made employees "more committed than ever to the company" Johnston says.

Other benefits that Johnston says are both low-cost and appreciated by employees include the assistance of a benefits liaison: This personal benefits consultant is available to employees for all benefits-related issues. She helps employees by resolving health insurance claims issues, providing information on health conditions and other benefits information, at no cost to Holder.

Holder also offers a financial advisor from their 401(k) plan administrator, also at no charge, who will sit down face to face with employees regarding 401(k) financial planning or to assist with other financial issues.

Another unique benefit Holder offers is offering early close of business times during the summer months. Johnston says that letting workers out at 3:30PM instead of 5PM makes a big difference to employees, particularly those who work in metropolitan areas where rush hour traffic can be a headache. Holder also traditionally closes early the day before holidays. Johnston says that the company hasn't experienced any lost productivity as the result of these policies.

While the benefits it offers are important, Johnston says, it's really a great company culture that makes Holder a "Best" company to work for. "Culture is king," she says. "It doesn't matter what you do. If [employees] don't have a great experience every day, it really doesn't matter."

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