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Best companies to work for. (On the Cover).

As the economy continues to slump, it's producing a different type of employee, one with a whole new set of desires and needs. And fortunately, many companies have noticed, reacted and seen fit to oblige

THE POSH PERKS OF THE '90S, especially those enjoyed by people in the tech industry, have all but vanished and are hardly missed. Today's employees are not interested in having an office putting course or an endless supply of fresh bagels and cream cheese. They are not pining for corporate retreats at Lake Powell or slaving for stock options. They are prioritizing more practical and less indulgent benefits.

These benefits manifest themselves in our list of Great Companies to Work For. Many Utah companies are meeting these wants, and some are doing it in creative ways. Many employers have been able to keep employees not only happy and satisfied but embracing mission statements, contributing in new ways and enthusiastically working toward common goals.

These companies were chosen based on solicited advice from business associations, members of chambers of commerce statewide and community advisors in many fields. We asked them to nominate companies based on their knowledge of broad benefit packages and innovative approaches to employee satisfaction. From this large pool of nominees, companies were chosen from all industries based on the uniqueness and effectiveness of their employee benefit packages.

There is no denying that the past 18 months have caught us in a current of change. But it's a company's ability to adjust and yet unwaveringly maintain quality that makes many of these organizations attractive to talent and, ultimately, successes.

Sky West Airline

WHEN PEOPLE think of one company in southern Utah that has contributed most to the state's economy and quality of life, they think of SkyWest. With airlines struggling to stay aloft in our high-pressure, post-9/11 economy, one company has managed not only to avoid layoffs--not one--and cutbacks, but to thrive. SkyWest has instead hired about 700 new employees, added over 30 new aircraft, and expanded service to 10 more cities and five more states. It is the world's largest independently operated regional airline and is still based in St. George, where it was founded 30 years ago.

"We have a great business model and great managers who were able to weather the storm," says spokesperson Philip Gee. "We just keep moving forward."

The main benefit of working for SkyWest is travel. Partnered with Delta and United, all employees of SkyWest have access to 83 American cities, plus other destinations around the world. They get discounted seats on Southwest and Jet Blue. "There's no segregation of benefits," Gee says. There are deals on hotels, rental cars, FedEx, etc. But there's much more to SkyWest than great travel benefits.

With more than 5,000 employees, SkyWest remains a friendly, small-town airline at heart, like it was when it had only a propeller-driven Piper and a desert runway. The company's firm open-door policy welcomes any employee to share concerns and ideas with executives, all the way up to Jerry C. Atkin, president, CEO (and still a St. George resident).

In addition to excellent healthcare benefits, SkyWest also provides 12 weeks of job-protected childcare leave (for moms) and opportunities for teleworking, flextime, job sharing and compressed work weeks. On-site services include mailing, dry cleaning, banking, personal travel service and an extensive company store where everything is sold at a discount to employees. All this, plus being able to work at one of the company's many bases in relatively small communities, means a higher standard of living and quality of life.

Guru's Locally Owned Restaurant

GURU'S FOUNDERS Kevin Hall and Deven Moreno have built a unique business plan that works on many levels to provide employees with a different type of work experience. "There is a genuine sense of caring," says investor Lawrence Coffman. "It's a unique corporate model, because the employees are not numbers or units to be plugged into a business equation." The restaurant was designed to fund the activities of a program to promote leadership and responsibility in young people through its Guru's Foundation. The business also aims to foster employees' personal growth and encourage community involvement.

With about 150 employees at three locations in Utah, two in the Salt Lake Valley and one in Provo, the restaurant has an extensive volunteer program in place. Guru's employees donate time to various organizations in the Salt Lake area and are paid for up to four hours per month of this community service work, a practice designed to encourage them to do their own service work as well. The restaurant donates to organizations such as the Cancer Wellness House, AIDS Coalition of Utah, the Boys and Girls Club of Utah and others. The 9th and 9th location's employees have donated over 1,000 hours of volunteer work so far this year.

3M Health Information Systems Technology

CREATED IN 1983 when 3M Company of St. Paul, Minnesota, acquired Code3 Corporation of Salt Lake City, 3M Health Information Systems (HIS) specializes in innovative products and services for the healthcare industry that include software, training and consulting solutions for hospitals and clinics worldwide.

Part of a company with a 100-year history, 3M HIS offers calm in America's current storm. "The fact that we are such a stable company is attractive, especially in this economy," says Sue Boyle, human resources manager. "Our employees have been with us an average of 10 years--and those who do leave often come back." So what makes 3M HIS so appealing to 300 Salt Lake employees?

"We try to keep in mind that employees have a life outside of work," Boyle says, a philosophy that allows for flexible scheduling. 3M HIS also provides days off for vacation, sick and disability days, as is standard, but also Other Paid Absences, which employees use for personal crises.

In addition to tuition reimbursement, 3M HIS supports employees who want to get extra training or attend beneficial conferences. Also encouraged is volunteer work, for which 3M often donates money based on hours contributed, or even pays the wages of an employee who has been "loaned" to a local charity.

Employees pay a strikingly low premium for health insurance, Boyle says, "because 3M recognizes that preventive costs a lot less in the long run." The company also offers competitive pay, a pension plan (unusual these days), and quarterly profit sharing, and children of employees have the opportunity to apply for scholarships.

Bard Access Systems Manufacturing

THE NUMBER of areas in which a company offers perks often defines its worth in the eyes of its employees. Bard Access Systems, a healthcare product manufacturing company that employs 220 people at its Salt Lake division, stands tall when measured by this yardstick.

In recognition of the long days of summer, Bard switches to a nine-hour workday Monday through Thursday during the season, which means the workweek ends Friday at noon. Instead of offering a traditional reward system, Bard opts for a peer-to-peer recognition program with a variety of prizes and rewards for work well done. A comprehensive benefits package includes an employee stock purchase plan.

Beyond company-sponsored community involvement projects like blood and food drives, Bard also offers its employees the chance to work for eight hours a year paid at any nonprofit agency, an opportunity to let Bard workers choose their own cause.

Fidelity Investments Financial Services

WITH ITS western regional operations headquartered in Salt Lake, Fidelity Investments employs over 1,200 people at four locations in the valley. Because Fidelity is one of the largest financial service providers worldwide, local employees profit from benefits based on the company's extensive experience with a large workforce.

If you were to ask Fidelity employees to name one of the highly unique perks of their workplace, most likely they'd mention the concierge service. The service aims to help save employees time by providing personal shopping, event ticker buying, weekend getaway arrangements, dining reservations and much more. This benefit seems to be Fidelity's way of recognizing the hectic, demanding pace of the financial world.

The company also offers an employee discount program, tuition reimbursement, and a referral and consultation service for everything from getting a mortgage to childcare. In addition, an adoption assistance program reimburses parents for up to $5,000 per year for each legally adopted child, and employees are encouraged to participate in a variety of company-sponsored volunteer activities. (Fidelity boasts that employees donate more than 1,500 hours of volunteer time to service projects each year.)

MJSA Architects

IN 1973, Max J. Smith started MJSA Architects, a multidisciplinary planning and design firm that has grown to its current staff of 28 architects, interior designers and their support team. The firm is highly regarded in the planning community because of renovation and preservation projects, such as the Governor's Mansion and the Brigham Young Academy, and was recently contracted to work as the sole design firm responsible for the large-scale Capitol Building renovation.

"I think people come here because we do interesting projects," says Verne Hanssen, an intern architect who has worked at MJSA for over five years. The elite nature of this work produces the opposite of a regimented office environment. Hanssen says that flexibility is the greatest benefit at MJSA, a perk developed from the company's recognition of the competence and drive of its employees. "It's baptism by fire," Hanssen says. "You're given a project that is beyond your abilities and they intend for you to grow into it."

MJSA's physical environment encourages creativity with a warehouse-type office space on the famously artsy Pierpont Avenue. The staff also seems to understand that good work is generated by how people interact with each other--on both the employee and client level. "There are very personal relationships from top to bottom, from the senior partner to the draftsperson," Hanssen notes. The specifics of the benefits package at MISA include free health insurance for an individual and a 401 (k) within six months of employment, with immediate vesting.

Intermountain Health Care Healthcare

AS UTAH'S largest healthcare employer, with about 24,000 people currently on its payroll, IHC values its employees' commitment to the company's goals and missions. This concern starts with the "Annual Census Survey" which was designed to gauge and evaluate the needs and concerns of IHC's extensive work force. Such employee surveys are highly regarded by many of the staffing agencies we contacted for this article, because the method assures an open venue for the discussion of a variety of employment issues.

Employees who answered the survey (last year's return rare was 70 percent) were impressed with their flexible schedules, competitive benefits package, which includes 25 paid personal days off each year, eldercare resource and referral services, an in-house education service for professional development, tuition reimbursement and on-site child care (at six of IHC's facilities). The Healthy Balance program provides preventive healthcare--a worthy aim for such a large cog in the local healthcare machine--including fitness programs, prevention screenings and stress management classes.

IHC's success is revealed not only with employee surveys but through the size of a truly devoted workforce--over 500 IHC employees have worked for the company for over 25 years.

Swaner Design Land Preservation

SOMETIMES, the benefits of working at a certain company correlate strongly with its overall mission and the attitude of employees and management. These aspects of working life can translate into unique office environments and satisfied workers. Swaner Design, located in downtown Salt Lake City, employs a staff of people who seem less concerned with the specifics of their benefits package than in what they are capable of accomplishing.

The company helps communities plan for and preserve open space, a mission that each member of the staff feels strongly about. Land Planner Sharen Hauri calls it "working for a good cause with a good conscience." The company's small size allows for flexible work schedules, career development (staff members are encouraged to form alliances within the community by speaking, teaching and writing for nonprofit organizations and universities) and the autonomy to approach projects creatively. Swaner's unique workspace is organized "studio style" to promote interaction between workers.

Setpoint Systems, Inc. Manufacturing

OPEN-DOOR policies are part of almost anybody's corporate jargon. But how about an open board? We're talking about a simple whiteboard hanging on a wall at Setpoint's Ogden facility, on which projects and status--completion date, financials and the ratios of overall gross profit to operating expenses--are listed. This hangs for all 25 employees to see-and to manipulate through production efficiency. At Setpoint, employees control their own destinies.

Setpoint specializes in manufacturing industrial automation systems, including assembly and test inspection systems for Utah's largest manufacturer, Autoliv, the Swedish maker of automobile safety products--airbags, for example. "And, we dabble in roller coasters," says Clark Carlile, executive vice president of sales and marketing.

Carlile, who has been with Setpoint for two years, explains how the whiteboard contributes to the company's environment and success. "It determines the way we run our business. Everyone can track financials start to finish; even customers can look at these boards," he says. "It's there for each individual to understand what they can do to contribute, and this results in an open, fun workplace." Carlile knows how attractive Setpoint can be; he was a customer himself, as an Autoliv employee for more than five years. "There is an overwhelming culture here-you've almost got to come and see it." Setpoint's culture begins with a team-oriented working environment and a flexible, low-key casual-dress workplace. This attitude originates with the company's CEO and senior managers, Joe Knight, Joe Cornwall and Joe VanDenBergh (simply called "the Joes"). They insist that each potential employee be a good fit with the company and share their fun-loving attitude.

Celebrating 10 years, Setpoint has made the list of Utah's Top 100 fastest-growing private companies the past four years, and will barely miss it this year due to a post-9/11 slowdown in the company's roller coaster business due to slumps in amusement park attendance.

USANA Health Sciences Nutritional Products

AFTER 9/11, many Americans reflected on their lives and focused on renewed health and wellness. USANA Health Sciences, a developer of products that provide cell-level nutrition, fiber and antioxidant protection, decided it could better fulfill this much-needed role in its employees' health and sense of well-being.

"Our focus is wellness," says Human Resources Generalist Michelle Georgeson. "It's part of our culture, and since 9/11 we've expanded all of our programs." These include stress management, yoga and quarterly campaigns such as Project H20, under which all employees received a water bottle and were encouraged to drink eight glasses of water per day There are fitness benefits, including a physical trainer who is on-site three days per week to assist employees in their fitness efforts, free of charge, or the 10K-a-Day walking program.

USANA also offers USANA Bucks, bonus vouchers all employees receive once a month ($85 value to full-time employees, $50 to part-time) that can be used to purchase any USANA product for themselves or a family member.

"We've decided that our wellness programs don't cost that much compared to the rewards to the bottom line--people are hitting their insurance less," says Georgeson.

Georgeson notes the company's open and friendly environment and high morale. "I conduct a lot of exit interviews with people who must leave for one reason or another, and they all say 'I don't want to leave, because the people here are so nice."'

Claire Burns and Ann Martin are Salt Lake City-bared freelance writers.
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Author:Burns, Claire; Martin, Ann
Publication:Utah Business
Article Type:Cover Story
Geographic Code:1U8UT
Date:Nov 1, 2002
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