Commitment To Standards, Mission, Clients, And Fun

At Baptist Easley Hospital in Easley, S.C., CEO Roddey Gettys doesn’t see his 940 staffers as “employees.” To Gettys, they are heroes. “If you are satisfied, and well cared for as a patient, what do you call the person who helped you, the person who made your day, and made you better?,” he asked rhetorically. “Are they just healthcare workers? No, definitely not. They are heroes.”

It seems Gettys’ philosophy is working. This year, his heroes helped Baptist Easley place number two in the first annual The NonProfit Times’ 50 Best Nonprofits To Work For, and number one in the large organizations category, which included nonprofits with 250 employees or more.

The NonProfit Times worked with the Best Companies Group to seek out the best nonprofit for which to work. Email messages seeking nominations were sent to employees at nonprofits across the nation. The organizations applied and went through several levels of screening conducted by Best Companies Group in Harrisburg, Pa., which administered the survey.

Employees completed a survey, written or online. The survey consisted of 70 statements, allowing employees to rate their responses on a one to five scale, one being disagree strongly and five being agree strongly. Two open-ended questions — regarding why the company is one of the best nonprofits to work for, and what can be improved upon within the organization — are also asked of workers at the end of the survey, according to Susan Springer, director of workplace assessment at Best Companies Group. Both management and staff completed the survey. Additional information was sought from outside the organization, including businesses that work with the organizations.

Some 75 percent of an organization’s score was compiled from employee input and the remaining 25 percent came from the information the nonprofits provided about their organizations. The Best Companies Group took the percentage of agreement and used that aggregate percentage to calculate the employee score. The employer score is based more on their open-ended responses and how Best Companies evaluates them, which is proprietary information. “There is so much beyond the score,” Springer said. “We evaluate how much focus there is, how in-depth programs are and more. The numeric score is really just a launching point, and it identifies the companies that make the cut to be on the list. It is objective and subjective.”

On the employee satisfaction survey, staff members were asked to rate whether they agreed or disagreed with statements such as:

  • The leaders of this organization care about their employees’ well being;
  • I like the people I work with at this organization;
  • I am able to maintain a reasonable balance between my work and personal life; and,
  • My company tells me clearly what is expected for advancement.

Employers had to answer questions such as:

  • Do you offer job-sharing options?
  • Do you offer bonuses to employees who refer new hires?
  • What is the average number of hours a new employee spends in company orientation?; and,
  • Do you use renewable energy in your offices or production facilities?

Responses from both sets of information were combined to create a detailed data set, from which analysts determined the strengths and opportunities each nonprofit provides for its employees. Springer said a numeric score is compiled from the employee survey, and open-ended answers are used to confirm why an employee answered a certain way. Numeric values and comments are compared to gain insight as to if employees value the things companies supply for them and if employees are satisfied overall with their work environment and organizational culture.

On average, 86 percent of the answers the top 50 organizations provided were considered positive, or four and five on the rating scale, which correlated to agree somewhat and agree strongly. Of all organizations taking the survey, 82 percent responded positively to questions in the core focus areas.

Beating out Baptist Easley for the top spot was MANTEC, in York, Pa., which also ranked first in the small organizations category of nonprofits with 15 to 24 employees. Carol Morton Tebo, SPHR, director of human resources at MANTEC, said the charity tries to enrich its culture of accountability and teamwork from every angle, at every point possible. The nonprofit, which had zero voluntary employee departures during both 2008 and 2009, has completed cultural assessments for the past four years, and shared results with its 17 employees in an effort to continue to identify how the organization can improve. “We truly value our culture, and we take advantage of opportunities to assess and benchmark ourselves against other organizations,” Morton Tebo said. “Winning this award feels like my nine years at MANTEC have reached the culmination of what we can achieve. It’s a team award, and we won it because of our team.”

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice in Venice, Fla., ranked third in the top 50 and second in the small organization’s category this year. CEO Teri Hansen credits her employees’ satisfaction to their daily work environment, which she describes as positive, happy and helpful. “You can just feel the energy here when you walk in, and that comes from our staff,” Hansen said. “It’s a hallmark of our culture here.”

The employee satisfaction element of the study is divided into eight core focus areas, Best Companies’ Springer explained. The first area is leadership planning, where employees dish on their group’s executives and organizational strategies. The next, culture and communications, prompts employees to address their feelings on if the company shares information frequently enough, if the information is credible, and if it is easily understandable. Also, employees are asked if they believe they are treated fairly and highly regarded. The third area of focus is on each employee’s satisfaction within the person’s particular role, by asking if they believe they are properly compensated and recognized for their efforts, and if there are opportunities for career advancement within the organization. Work environment is also evaluated through statements on the physical workplace.

The next core focus area is employee-supervisor relationships, and whether employees think their supervisors give constructive feedback, allow two-way communication, and treats employees with fairness and respect, Springer said. Training and education are another focal point of the survey, and employees share their degree of satisfaction in the areas of orientation, ongoing professional development and cross training within the company. This area also addresses if the organization maintains a good work/life balance. Next, pay and benefits are explored through their satisfaction with vacation and paid time off; sick leave policies; the company’s share of the burden for healthcare costs; dental and vision benefits; 401(k) or 403(b) plans; life insurance; disability insurance; and tuition reimbursement.

Workers’ overall satisfaction with their employer is measured in the last section. In the leadership and planning section, 87 percent of organizations that made the list had positive responses, as compared to 81 percent of the total group of organizations that participated. For corporate culture and communications, 87 percent of nonprofits on the list provided positive answers, as compared to 80 percent of the organizations participating.

In the role satisfaction section, 88 percent of responses from organizations on the list were positive, as compared to 85 percent of organizations participating. For work environment, 92 percent of the top 50 charities responded positively, and 89 percent of all organizations had positive responses. For relationship with supervisors, 89 percent of the top 50 responded with positive answers, compared with 86 percent of the participating organizations.

In the training and development section, 74 percent of the nonprofits on the list responded positively, and 68 percent of the total organizations participating responded with positive answers. In the pay and benefits focus area, 84 percent of the top 50 responded positively, compared to 78 percent of the total group. Finally, in the overall employee engagement section, 90 percent of the top 50 responded positively, compared with 87 percent of the participating organizations.

Gettys wasn’t surprised to hear of his organization’s success in the survey. He attributes it to one thing — listening. “I don’t ever want them to feel it’s not ok to speak up, speak out or ask any question that they want to about our hospital,” he said. “I want them to know what’s going on everyday here. We don’t want to be just a great place to work. We want to be the best. Period.”

At Baptist Easley, with a retention rate of 11.2 percent for 2009, Gettys has three simple rules for his employees to follow — treat others as you want to be treated, have fun at work, and the 10-5 rule. At 10 feet away from one another, employees must make eye contact, and at five feet they have to say something. “When people see us being friendly with them and each other, it greatly reduces their anxiety,” Gettys said.

To enforce his rules, Gettys administers pop quizzes to his staffers when passing them in the halls or working with them on projects. If they answer correctly, they are rewarded with a gift card from Gettys himself. An employee partnership survey is given annually at the hospital, according to Liz Parsons, human resources business partner at Baptist Easley. From the survey, the nonprofit takes employee feedback and makes their requests a reality. Employee Development Institutes are held yearly, as are Employee Forums. Gettys also conducts monthly sessions with staff, called the “Three I’s,” where information, inspiration and ideas are discussed with groups of 16 to 18 employees.

A competitive benefit plan is in place for staffers, however, Gettys said the work environment is what truly makes Baptist Easley a standout place to work in the sector. “Its not the fact that we pay people more, and it’s not the fact that our benefit plan is more generous,” he said. “We are not buying votes by giving away a whole lot of benefits. When you connect the dots for your employees, and help them understand that there is purpose in what they do, they take greater pride in their work everyday. Today we have more people applying for jobs here than we have employees.”

Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s Hansen said it is her charity’s lack of hierarchy that makes the organization a desirable place to work. The average length of service at the nonprofit, which has a staff of 18, is 4.4 years, Hansen said. She encourages communication to break down silos within the organization. “It’s about empowerment and training,” she said. “I am constantly making sure people are challenged and growing in their positions, and getting outside of what they normally do. I think people find it more interesting.”

The charity creates mini-teams and task forces to help one another achieve goals, and works hard to reinforce teamwork. The staff goes on annual retreats, and also participates in team building exercises and games, Hansen said. “We are getting away from the office and having people get to know each other on a human level,” she said. Their bonds outside of work translate into a solidified unit inside the office, Hansen said.

John Lloyd, president and CEO of MANTEC, said his organization is attentive to its employees’ individual needs, and surveys them both formally and informally to evaluate where the charity stands. Each year, Lloyd has a luncheon with his employees one-on-one to hear what they have to say on a more intimate level. “I think what we do is critical,” he said. “We have an open dialog at our meetings, and an open door policy all year. As a result, our staff is very communicative. Our leadership feels just as accountable to the staff as they do to the leadership. We have equal accountability.”

Morton Tebo said MANTEC takes a team approach to hiring and offers its workers a flexible schedule and access to an internal wellness program. Family accomplishments are shared throughout the office, she said, and employees participate in luncheons for team building opportunities. “We believe that if we can help people be and feel healthy, this will improve their overall lifestyle and they will be more productive at work,” she said.

Lloyd said MANTEC’s mission is to help manufacturers improve their growth and profitability, and encouraging a positive culture that is valued by the staff is part of what they teach. “Organizations have a better chance of succeeding if they have a strong culture,” he said. “That is one of the things we work on with the manufacturers’ HR departments, and we practice what we preach.”

Participating in staff evaluation surveys is beneficial not only for managers, but also for staff, Springer said. Reports are returned to the participating companies so they can gauge their workforces’ overall satisfaction and make changes accordingly if necessary. “Making the list (of top companies) is great for recruiting and marketing, but the real value in participating is getting the response data from your employees,” she said. “Benchmarking information also helps you compare your work with what others are doing.”

Said Springer, “It’s a great cost to create that employee experience, and more satisfied employees are more productive and more profitable.”