April 19, 2014

Improvements helped this Best Company build a better workplace

A better team atmosphere has helped revenue at Partners in Association Management in Tallahassee, Florida

• Partners in Association Management
Tallahassee - No. 28 / Small Company - Management services

Lauren Wynsma & Whitney Roberts
Member service representatives Lauren Wynsma (left) and Whitney Roberts work on a mailing. Every employee was assigned to work in a group tasked with creating a better work environment. [Photo: Colin Hackley]

Implementing changes that had been percolating for a couple of years paid off this year for Partners in Association Management — employees speak of a better workplace, and the perception was reflected in their evaluations of the firm, which made the Best Companies to Work For list for the first time.

Based in Tallahassee, Partners provides management services to non-profits, mostly trade associations and foundations. Although the firm has only 27 employees, workers tended to operate in small groups and had little cross-group interaction.

Bennett Napier
CEO Bennett Napier hired a consultant to improve teamwork at his company, which has seen revenue grow as a result.
In 2008, as it entered its second decade, CEO Bennett Napier brought on a consulting firm called Catch Your Limit to figure out how employees could better operate as a team, with a unified set of principles. Napier saw the move as a way to keep growing, but it ended up changing the entire character of the firm's work environment.

Catch Your Limit interviewed and conducted workshops with every employee. It identified problems, chiefly a lack of trust among the groups. As the work continued, employees in the company analyzed their own communication styles and learned what people with other styles need. They participated in exercises to decide what Partners' brand would be going forward and how they would present that brand internally, to clients and to the public.

Every staff member was assigned to a group tasked with coming up with ways to reinforce the brand that the employees had created and enhance the work environment, then take those ideas and execute them. Projects included an internal company newsletter, fundraising initiatives and training workshops. Partners made it clear that the tasks were part of everyone's job — and lightened employee workloads to account for the added responsibility.

"At first I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I really don't need to have something else in my workload,' " says Jill M. Jackson, a meetings department manager who joined the company 2½ years ago. "But in the end it was more of a benefit than an obligation ... to participate in making the company a better company for everyone."

As the workshops, meetings and retreats continued, employees began to trust each other more, which led to collaboration and knowledge-sharing. A shared company culture began to develop. The office atmosphere lightened up, too. "We realized we have to have fun with what we do or we're going to get burned out quickly," says Leigh Ann Bradley, a chief staff executive. "There was just this serious cloud over the entire office. Now we just have a feeling of not so much weight on our shoulders."

Leigh Ann Bradley
"We realized we have to have fun with what we do or we're going to get burned out quickly." — Leigh Ann Bradley, chief staff executive [Photo: Colin Hackley]

The cross-departmental groups continue to plan and implement new workplace-enhancement projects. Groups of staff and managers keep to a formal schedule to discuss the issues that were raised. Managers evaluate employees' communication styles.

Meanwhile, Napier realized his original goal. With better collaboration, Partners is more nimble and fixes problems in days rather than months. That has allowed it to expand efficiently, growing revenue 7% last year and adding four new positions.

Florida's Best Companies to Work For 2011
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Domestic Partner Benefits
Catching On
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Engineering a Best Company
Employee Retention
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Improvements
Making the Cut
Employees
Why I Work Here

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