August 21, 2014

What Makes a Company a Florida Trend Best Company to Work For?

They don’t necessarily pamper their employees, but they all value them highly -- and find ways to show it.

Mike Vogel | 8/1/2010

Years ago, managers at spirits-maker Bacardi U.S.A. in Miami (No. 28, Large Companies) tapped Shane Graber to make a presentation to company sales directors. It was his second day. He was an intern. Graber made the most of his opportunity and began a career climb that has seen the 36-year-old become a vice president for Bacardi's Grey Goose Vodka brand.

"What's really cool about Bacardi is the company allows you to move around and get new experience," Graber says. "You contribute regardless of your position, and people at all levels contribute. That's why people here are excited and motivated about what they do."

Shane Graber, vice president for Bacardi's Grey Goose Vodka brand
"The company allows you to move around and get new experience," says Shane Graber (above), a vice president of the Grey Goose Vodka brand. Below, Graber talks with co-workers behind a glass wall with a Sapphire Collins cocktail recipe. The wall separates a hall and a meeting area.
Shane Graber, vice president for Bacardi's Grey Goose Vodka brand
[Photos: Daniel Portnoy]
Graber's experience is instructive in why Bacardi made our list of Florida's Best Companies to Work For. It's true that Bacardi offers distinctive perks, such as free lunch for employees every day and a gym at its new Coral Gables headquarters. It pays 100% of employee health insurance and has kept up merit and salary increases in a down economy. But the company doesn't offer a slew of bells and whistles usually associated with Best Company rankings — no telecommuting options, no adoption assistance, no eldercare assistance, no profit sharing, no job sharing, no employee assistance program. Ask Bacardi Senior Vice President Julious Grant why Bacardi makes the list, and he talks first of a culture of innovation and family handed down from Cuban founder Don Facundo Bacardí-Massó. The focus, he says, is on high performance, recognition, opportunity, making sure employees know how their work is critical to the organization, rewards and bonuses.

Our Best Companies aren't immune to the business cycle; some have had to discontinue 401(k) matches or have had layoffs. But judging from our second annual survey of employees and interviews with companies, the takeaway for business owners and managers dealing with financial or organizational constraints is that they can cut employee turnover costs and foster a more satisfied, productive workforce without offering a smorgasbord of programs. It takes must-have practices such as offering employees opportunity, valuing their work, fair pay and incentive pay, combined with low-hanging fruit like flexibility and targeting some high-value programs such as tuition assistance.

> Advancement opportunity

Workers want to get ahead. For example, tuition reimbursement, even though offered at three-quarters of our companies, scored the lowest satisfaction level in the pay and benefits category at all companies that made our list. Clearly, companies aren't doing enough. Some, however, do a lot: Insurer USAA (No. 9, Large) offers up to $10,000 per year per employee in tuition help. Marketing company SapientNitro (No. 33, Large) offers $7,500 for graduate-degree assistance. But many companies are more in the $2,000 to $5,000 range.

Our survey showed that at midsized and large companies, employees were least satisfied with training and development. It's an issue at small companies too. Best Companies recognize this. At Miami-based travel technology company Amadeus North America (No. 15, Large), annual personal development goals — whether an MBA or an online course in PowerPoint — are mandatory for employees. Amadeus Americas CEO Kay Urban says she believes training and education inspire confidence, which inspires innovation. Urban is a product of a culture of advancement opportunity. She started as a part-time reservations agent at Eastern Airlines in Miami while considering going to grad school in art history. She made her way into the reservation systems area, stuck with it through a spinoff and rose to CEO. Urban says two mentors were critically important to her career, so it's not a shock that Amadeus stresses the importance of mentoring.

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