Tampa Bay Economic Development Council
No. 3Small | Economic Development | Tampa
The Importance of Refueling
CEO Craig Richard
Turnover: “As an organization, we’re pretty small, so we haven’t had the same effects of the Great Resignation as larger corporations and organizations. But in terms of our work, working with companies in the Tampa Bay area whose No. 1 priority is finding talented people, yeah, we’ve seen some of those effects. It’s a constant churn on some of these companies, and I’m not sure when it’s going to end. It’s one of those things where even though you may have access to remote workers, some companies are feeling like they’re losing their culture.”
Employee Expectations: “I think our employees, just like everybody else, are re-evaluating their life and what’s important to them and how they’re spending their time and what type of balance do they have in their life. Our employees are no different. They’ve all gone through the same re-evaluation of priorities, and so I think the employees are feeling that stress, and they’re looking for more flexibility and balance in their lives. I think employees, our employees included, they feel a little extra stress, so I think it’s incumbent upon management to understand that, to be proactive about empathizing with those situations, and try to work accordingly to try to help alleviate some of it.”
Connecting: “We knew one of the challenges we were going to have, especially when we were working remotely all of the time, was communications were going to be really, really important. So our senior management team developed key systems to make sure we were communicating about what’s going on in the organization on a regular basis, top down, and we never missed an opportunity to have all-staff meetings and just give them regular reports on the status of the organization. Employees, if they’re not coming to the office every day, there’s a danger or concern they may not be as engaged, and so their engagement was key to us. Another key thing is you still need to recognize people and show appreciation for their efforts, and so we just wanted to make sure we did that on a regular basis.”
Refueling: “Even though people were working from home, we encouraged people to take time off, too. We said, hey, even though you may not have been in the office, you need to get away; you need to check out and charge your batteries and come back fresh, so we encouraged people to take their PTO or vacation, and our senior management team, we set an example of that. I tell all of my senior management team, if you have don’t have a vacation scheduled, schedule it.“
Differentiator: “Employees today want to feel like they’re part of something special, and we can show them that. We can show them their fingerprints on different parts of the city, that they’re touching lives, that they’re helping people get better jobs; they’re improving communities; we’re building a tax base, which helps provide better government services. I think people have responded to that. They feel it’s more than just a job. It’s more of a calling.”
Between 2000 and 2022, Americans quit their jobs at an average rate of about 1.97% per year. Over the past two years, so-called “quit rates” have skyrocketed across the country, including in Florida, where they averaged nearly 3.6% between December 2021 and March of this year. At the same time, unemployment in the state has remained low — at 3% as of May — suggesting that most workers aren’t leaving the workforce entirely but are simply switching jobs.
Florida Quit Rates
Percentage of Florida employees who resigned. Traditionally, the quit rate has been less than 2%.
Aegis Business Technologies
No. 2 Small | Technology | Tallahassee
Focusing on the ‘A’ Game
020, a number of laid-off IT workers came knocking on the doors. “We hired them, and I think some of those folks feel very loyal to the firm,” says Aegis CEO Blake Dowling — but in 2021, he noticed a shift.
“All of a sudden, people were changing careers, resigning, wanting to work part time, taking earlier retirement — you know, all of the scenarios that we’ve seen out there, and it just became such a different world. And as we continue to grow as a small business and thriving tech company here in Florida, it’s like, well, what do you do?” he says. “You put a job listing on Indeed and instead of getting 100 resumes, you get 10, so we started utilizing different resources.”
Dowling decided to bring a recruiter on board to help with hiring. Applicants are now required to take an aptitude test and must achieve a certain score to even land an interview.
The increased scrutiny, he says, is a by-product of the company’s hybrid work arrangements. “Just like any relationships, if you want the moon, you’ve got to deliver. I don’t hear enough about that. You always hear about employers making wild accommodations. If you want to work from home, you better be bringing your ‘A’ game every day,” he says.
In most cases, Dowling says, remote employees do deliver. “Like a law office, we track our billable time, and people on the home front definitely bill more than in the office because of the distraction level. You have different distractions, of course, a barking dog and maybe kids or a spouse or whatever it is in your home/work environment, but people seem to be more focused,” he says.
At the same time, Dowling has made an effort to show appreciation and provide perks to staff who are trekking into the office.
Since the pandemic, Aegis has adopted a casual dress code, which, Dowling says, helps with retention when competitors are running around in July wearing coats and ties. The company also provides snacks — including beer and soft drinks — and added a standup video game unit and AV equipment to its conference room, where employees can play games or watch TV during their lunch break.
Regular staff meetings are critical to keeping all employees engaged, Dowling says. “We still have staff meetings every Friday regardless of who’s home, who’s working on an out-of-town project, who’s in the office. We’re going to have our staff meeting, and if you’re not present, you Zoom in, even if you’re in the car or the airport,” he says. “As long as you’re not on vacation, you’re expected to join in. Having that time, I think, is crucial.”
Striking a Balance
A 2021 LinkedIn survey found a good work-life balance to be the highest priority among job seekers. Here’s a look at some of the top practices and benefits of Florida’s 2022 Best Companies:
|Practice||% of Winners|
|Flexibility for children’s events||96%|
|Time off for family medical appointments||92|
|Flexible work hours||87|
|Family invited to workplace holiday events||86|
|Snacks, meals, meal stipends, beverages||75|
|Financial planning workshops||67|
|Tickets to sporting/entertainment events||64|
|Limits on checking e-mail/voicemail after hours||62|
|Personal development and/or stress management||62|
|Fitness or wellness programs||61|
|No mandatory overtime (or strictly limited)||56|
Wilson & Girgenti
No. 11 Midsized | Engineering | Tampa
When COVID-19 hit in 2020, Wilson & Girgenti decided not to lay off employees, despite the uncertainty. “To us, it was sink or swim,” says Joseph Girgenti, president. “As a result, we actually grew, and nobody lost their job. In fact, our employee count was 46% higher at the start of 2021 than it was at the start of 2020.”
The engineering and consulting firm has also made it a point to grow pay and perks. Nearly all staff received an “inflation raise” in January, completely separate from merit increases and bonuses, and the company implemented an incentive program this year that gives employees a portion of profits. Rewards and recognition are another priority — the company has an employee recognition program that awards points for dollars when demonstrating company values — and there’s an emphasis on making the workplace fun, with monthly pizza and movie nights, happy hours, sports game outings and other activities.
The 17-year-old company has also expanded its office space over the last two years to offer more amenities. It plans to add a golf simulator at one of its offices by the end of the year. “Work-life balance has become even more important, and meaningful amenities are no longer a perk — they’re almost a necessity,” Girgenti says. “Because employees expect to have the option to either work from home or from the office, homes have become more like offices and offices have become more like homes.”
Wilson & Girgenti also tries to differentiate itself by providing opportunities for employees to grow and move into leadership positions. “If anyone at our company wants a chance to be a leader, they don’t have to wait until someone retires to get that position. We’re always providing employees opportunities in some way so that they’re never stuck and they continue to enjoy their work,” GIrgenti says. “I like to compare our company to a tree. As the branches grow, the trunk gets taller and stronger. New branches are supported by old branches, and the tree continues to grow. Investing in our employees is vital to supporting our growth.”
No. 13 Small | Financial Services | Lake Mary
A Benefits Boost
Chris Hurn, founder and CEO of Fountainhead, a non-bank lender for small-to-mid-sized businesses, says there was “substantial turnover” in his industry late last year and early in 2022, but it has slowed down during the past few months. “We had about 12% of our team turnover from Q4 of 2021 through Q1 of 2022, but we quickly filled those positions and still have more people wanting to work for us than we currently have positions open,” Hurn says.
He says the company “retooled” some of its benefits last year to “demonstrate how valuable our people are to us,” both to enhance retention and attract hires. Those changes included increasing personal leave days — with more days for every additional year of tenure — and allowing team members to roll over their time or get an extra paycheck for unused leave. Fountainhead also increased its 401(k) match, boosted its training budget and gave out four-figure “vacation gift cards” to encourage employees to take time off to rest and relax.
The company also holds monthly “ask-me-anything” video calls and hosts occasional happy hours. Last year, the company held a large multi-day retreat at Disney, flying out-of-town employees and a guest to Orlando for the event.
He says employees’ expectations have changed in the post-COVID era — and they expect companies to be more flexible and accommodating.
Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs
No. 22 Large | Accounting | Miami
With average turnover rates approaching 25% annually, the public accounting profession had a retention problem long before the Great Resignation. But while many firms are scrambling to find talent, Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs has been on a hiring spree.
CEO Joseph Saka says his firm has hired more than 167 employees since May 2021 and suspects it is one of the few firms feeling the impact of the Great Resignation in a positive way.
Saka says the company took steps during the pandemic to make sure staff felt connected and “cared for” by giving them technology to work efficiently and providing stipends to pay for supplies, wifi and other services they needed at home. The firm also sent food and Thanksgiving baskets to staffers’ homes and conducted online activities via Zoom, such as bingo, stress busters, trivia and other games, when everyone was working from home early on in the pandemic.
Since then, the company has embraced “hybrid-for-everyone” work schedules. Quite a few employees have alternative work arrangements, which include limited hours, evening schedules and accommodations for working in other time zones. To further promote a flexible work-life balance, the company offers unlimited PTO. “It is really important for us to be pro-active in working toward a more favorable work-life experience for our firm members,” Saka says.
Excellent pay and strong benefits are a given, he says, and so are opportunities for advancement. “We have a history of developing our professionals, which is something that many junior accountants are really excited about,” Saka says. .
Right Management Florida/Caribbean Region
No. 27 Small | Outplacement and Talent Management | Fort Lauderdale
Keeping Employees Engaged
Maureen Shea, co-founder and CEO of Right Management, an independent franchise of Manpower Group, says her company’s been fortunate to experience low turnover in recent months — but her clients have seen plenty.
“A lot of it is driven by COVID and multiple factors that influenced individuals living through the COVID years. It’s a lot to do with family needs, truly measuring the purpose of your life and meaning in your life,” Shea says.
The shift to virtual work amid the pandemic is also having an impact. Employers are struggling with methods to keep employees engaged in a virtual environment, and nervous employees are balking at their company’s plans for a return to the office. “There’s still folks who are frightened about their own health and what if they get COVID,” she says.
While there are no simple fixes to the retention puzzle, Shea believes keeping employees engaged is important. Her team has been helping to coach managers at client companies on ways to keep employees motivated in a hybrid work environment. That means reaching out regularly, be it by phone or a weekly social gathering on Zoom, so that employees “feel that culture, the mission” and “feel they’re being respected and heard.”
In a hiring environment where ghosting has become a problem, Right Management has been working to help clients interview and get new hires acclimated more quickly. The firm is also working with clients to ensure they have strong career development programs “so people do feel that sense of meaning and growth in where they’re going next” within a company. Mentoring can also help foster loyalty to a company, and businesses are wise to focus on mindfulness and employee well-being, she says.
“There’s been so many mental health issues that have come up with kids and parents and illness and dying. It’s just been a real, real challenge,” she says. “We need more mental health specialists, and we don’t have enough of them, so therefore it’s really important that employers can help employees cope and have a place to go to speak to your supervisor and air things out — and have that open-door policy. I think that’s really, really important.”
Holland & Knight
No. 24 Large | Law | Statewide
Culture as a Differentiator
Managing Partner Steven Sonberg
Turnover: “We experienced turnover that was above normal levels in 2021, although our rate was below industry-wide benchmarks. The turnover was the result of many factors, including changes of residence, retirement and opportunities at new positions. It has been slightly more difficult to find quality staff and support personnel, and some of our teams have been strained over the past year. Thankfully, this trend has slowed down considerably in 2022.”
Adapting: “Offering flexibility and work-from-home arrangements has been important, as well as minor changes like a more casual dress code. We are also devoting significantly more resources to our firm’s well-being program and trying to create opportunities for increased engagement among employees. Our offices and teams are encouraging personal interactions by scheduling in-person meetings and social gatherings. We find that our employees appreciate and benefit greatly from having personal connections.”
Worker Leverage: “It has been a very favorable environment for employees for the past few years. Employees want to feel like they are valued. Today, some have more leverage to negotiate promotions and compensation, especially if their company is doing well and growing.”
Workplace Culture: “We believe our firm’s culture is an important differentiator. Our firm’s senior leaders emphasize collaboration, inclusion, fairness and respect. They decide what is acceptable vs. unacceptable and drive that message in both big and little ways. New employees notice right away that our firm is an incredibly collegial place where teamwork is encouraged and rewarded. As a leader, it can be hard to convince outsiders that our culture makes a difference, therefore our current attorneys and staff are sometimes the best recruiters.”