What makes a great place to work? Is it the people? The place? The purpose? Or a combination of all three?
In fact, the Gallup organization surveyed more than 80,000 employees to try to understand what makes employees engaged and happy in their work. From that research they created 12 statements, the Gallup Q12. They found that the happiest, most engaged and productive employees scored high on these 12 traits. Here are the 12 statements that best predict employee and work group performance.
• I know what is expected of me at work.
• I have the materials and equipment I need to do my job right.
• At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
• In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
• My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
• There is someone at work who encourages my development.
• At work, my opinions seem to count.
• The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
• My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
• I have a best friend at work.
• In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
• This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.
While there’s a certain degree of variance from employee to employee, some organizational cultures are designed and constantly tweaked to create and maintain happier, more engaged and productive employees. Throughout Acadiana, there are numerous organizations and businesses that generally get it right.
Elise Bouchner, an attorney and managing partner at Excelerant, works with organizations and leaders to increase productivity and improve work force development issues. She believes that great places to work almost always start with a single common thread: “Great leaders,” she says. “There are great examples within the Acadiana community. Almost all of the things on Gallup’s list can be directly linked to great leaders. Creating that culture of leadership is the hard part, but it’s worthwhile work. It takes good leadership at the very top to divert time and resources to work on leadership to create that engagement.”
And, if you happen to be in the market for a new job, Bouchner advises that you give serious consideration to the new organization’s leadership.
“Leaders affect the culture,” she says. She also cautions not to confuse leadership with management. “It’s not necessarily strategic leadership. It’s not necessarily the management of people. … When you look at a culture, you want to look at a cultural fit. Just because one person thinks a company is great doesn’t mean everyone will.”
Bouchner says that the most successful employee-employer relationships occur when employees value what the organization’s culture is about. The bottom line: The foundation of a great place to work is an organization that respects and values its people.
“Every company is a work in progress,” she says. “At the core of the organization, the leadership – at the executive level – makes decisions that demonstrate they value people. They are not just thinking about the external operations of the business. Though some do a better job of executing that than others, the good news is there are lots of companies out there who have that at their heart.”
Acadian Ambulance employees consistently make reference to being a part of “the Acadian family.” They’re a tight-knit group of folks, with relationships constantly reinforced and tested by crisis situations.
Acadian employs nearly 1,000 people in the Acadiana region, including locations throughout Lafayette, Vermilion, St. Landry, St. Martin and Iberia parishes. Founded in 1971 by Richard Zuschlag, Acadian Ambulance has changed emergency medical response. Because of its success at its initial mission, the company has branched out into six subsidiaries including the National EMS Academy, Safety Management Systems, Air Med, a monitoring services division and an aircraft charter service.
Paul Hamilton’s career path at Acadian demonstrates the growth and career opportunities within the organization. Hamilton, who started as a paramedic in the field 17 years ago, moved to the dispatch center and then moved to sales with Safety Management Systems, demonstrates the flexible career paths so many Acadian employees live. While some people stay in the same positions and departments for decades, the company’s tentacles reach far beyond providing routine ambulance services and offer opportunities for growth to its employees. Hamilton’s transition into sales work for Safety Management Systems, one of the largest providers of health, safety, environmental, medical and training services in the Southern region of the United States, is an example of unexpected career options within the organization.
“I appreciate being surrounded by kind, compassionate, caring people,” Hamilton says. “I appreciate the job security and the great chance to grow professionally.”
Hamilton also appreciates the employee share option plan, or ESOP, Acadian offers. “If the company does well, the employee does well, too,” he says. “It was a great thing that Mr. Richard did. Not only did he want to be successful, but he wanted to make sure his employees were well taken care of, too.”
Every year, the company hosts a giant ESOP meeting to discuss the state of the business and its direction for the future. The company’s growth over the past decade has been a positive thing for its employees. “It’s nice too that so many of us are still paramedics and maintain our certification,” he says. “In a time of need, BP or Katrina, everyone steps up to the plate and does what needs to be done.”
At Acadian, Hamilton says having the best equipment to use makes a difference and has helped push the organization to the top of its field nationally. “If you say Acadian Ambulance to another emergency medical service provider across the country, they definitely know who we are.”
Even though Aggreko employs about 200 people in its New Iberia location, there’s a strong chance you’ve never heard of them – and if you have, there’s an even stronger chance that you don’t know what they do.
“In general, we’re somewhat of a secret,” says Gordon Broussard, Aggreko North America’s vice president of national sales and marketing. “Aggreko’s goal is to be unnoticed in our customers’ eyes. What we’re providing is behind the scenes. If what we’re doing is going well, no one’s going to notice.”
Broussard, a Lafayette native, started working for Aggreko in 1991 fresh out of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s business management program. “Aggreko was my first job out of college,” Broussard says. “I knew a little about it. I had no idea I would get to experience what I have. Before I started, I had been on two airplanes – and one was a crop duster. And over the last 20 years, I’ve gotten to see the world.”
Broussard helped launch Aggreko’s event services division in 1994 and managed Aggreko’s on-the-ground presence at the Atlanta 1996 Summer Olympic Games, the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games and the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Founded in the Netherlands in 1962, Aggreko is the global leader in providing temporary power generation, temperature control and oil-free compressed air systems. Aggreko serves companies across a wide range of industries, including oil and gas, utilities, petrochemical and refining, events, industrial and construction, and food and beverage. “Our local office does do a lot of work in the oil field,” Broussard says. “Aggreko also houses a lot of global functions in New Iberia. The IT group, accounting/finance and legal functions of North America are based here in Acadiana. It’s not just a local oil and gas.”
Broussard says, personally, the most rewarding work experience he has had with Aggreko was the Salt Lake City Olympics. “I’ve worked four Olympic games, but the Salt Lake games came right after 9/11,” he says. “Security was a major issue. The event pulled a lot of people together. It was a marquee event and pulled our company together, too. It made us feel good about our work.”
Broussard says he believes one of the reasons Aggreko is a great place to work is that, overall, the people feel appreciated. “We’ve created a very fun place to work,” he says. “We’ve made it very exciting in the fun projects we do. People tend to be very proud. It’s nice to work for the leader of the industry.”
Home Bank employs 130 people in Acadiana, with locations in Lafayette, Scott, Carencro, Crowley and Broussard. “Banking isn’t typically known as a fun industry,” says Susan Allardyce, marketing coordinator for Home Bank. “But, from my perspective, working at Home Bank includes a lot of fun.”
Allardyce says she’s never worked for a company that felt so strongly about giving back to the community and encouraging its employees to volunteer their time to community organizations. “Home Bank really wants their people to be involved,” she says. “You can throw dollars at causes, but if your people aren’t out there, it doesn’t have the same impact.”
For example, Home Bank goes all out to support United Way of Acadiana’s Day of Action. “But we’re not just doing it that day,” Allardyce says. “We work to create year-round opportunities to do different things to help the community.”
Beyond standard benefits and plenty of continuing education opportunities, Allardyce believes Home Bank also helps employees manage work-life balance issues. “One of the biggest challenges in my professional career happened while working at Home Bank – I had a baby,” she says. “My Home Bank family has been a wonderful support in becoming a working mom. My boss and coworkers cheered me on as I figured out how to juggle both of my new roles, and they have been understanding on days when my family has to come first.”
One quick conversation with someone who works for the Schumacher Group is usually all it takes to realize that something different is going on in the organization. A stop by its Lafayette headquarters confirms it. There are noon yoga classes. An organic farmer brings produce to the offices every week for employees to purchase. There are fanatical walking groups in the mornings and afternoons. They have an on-site Wellness Boot Camp. Weight Watchers has weekly meetings on site. There are regular fitness screenings and quarterly speakers to teach about and inspire wellness. “We try to provide our employees a great jump start for fitness,” says Gayle George, Schumacher’s corporate director of human resources. “Wellness has been a big focus for us. We work really hard and have a lot of fun, too."
Schumacher Group provides emergency management services to hospitals and emergency rooms in 23 states. William “Kip” Schumacher, a board-certified emergency medicine physician, founded the Schumacher Group in 1994. He remains active in the business as a practitioner, principal owner of the company and CEO. The philosophy behind Schumacher Group’s founding was based on his belief that there was a better way to deliver and manage emergency medical services in the hospital environment. That “better way” is embodied in the company’s mission statement.
In fact, every employee learns the company’s mission statement and makes the connection between his or her job responsibilities and the organization’s overall goals. Each employee even has a small strategic initiatives pocket guide to document that mission and connection.
“Our leaders are driving this from the top down,” says Andrea LeBouef, corporate communications director. “They are so focused on the patients we serve, but we can’t do it if we work ourselves to sick.” Although she says it may sound clichéd to say so, according to George, Schumacher’s leaders “walk the talk.”
The company has served 35 million patients and keeps growing. “We are moving into other continuums of care – wellness, the billing process, admittance, so we can optimize the whole process,” LeBouef says. Excellent character is at the core of the company’s guiding principles.
The Therapy Center, which provides therapy for clinics, hospitals, schools, home health and a number of skilled nursing facilities, is a young company founded by five Louisiana therapists in 2002. The company now employs 145 people and is growing fast.
Based in Jennings, the Therapy Center services most of South Louisiana, including the Therapy Center clinic in Jennings and Lemoine Therapy Services in Marksville. It provides therapy to nursing homes and hospitals in Lafayette, Opelousas, Mamou and Kinder and home health care across the region. Additionally, it provides an athletic training program to several Acadiana high schools.
Carly Person, marketing coordinator, has worked for the Therapy Center for five years. During that time, she’s had two children and, for a while, thought she might not be able to juggle the work-life balance. Rather than quitting, her manager suggested that she work from home two days a week to see if that would help.
For Person, it does.
"It has been a blessing for me,” she says. “When I started, I didn’t have children. When I did, I wanted to stay home. This is the best of both worlds.” Person says the Therapy Center’s leadership is proactive: “Instead of following what others are doing, we try to do innovative things. We’re a very cohesive group and try to keep everyone involved in what’s going on. Education is a big part of our company. That’s what helps us stay on the forefront of the industry.”
The Therapy Center’s leaders attempt to address education for the “whole person,” and in an effort to do so, they offer all employees the opportunity to attend the first stage of Education for Living, or EFL, self-improvement and communication workshops. “The size of our company takes a lot of communication to be able to run it effectively,” says Shannon Lemoine, physical therapist, owner and founder of the company. “To me, there’s no better way to improve communication than EFL. To get everyone on the same page and speaking the same language is invaluable to me.”
Approximately 45 percent of Therapy Center’s professional employees, including therapists, have completed the first stage of EFL training, and many of those employees have gone on to complete the training through the four stages. “That percentage of employees working on themselves and knowing how to take feedback – both good and bad – plus having more insight into how they ‘show up’ to other people makes a huge positive difference in our company’s culture,” Lemoine says.
Person agrees. “The more people understand themselves and how they relate to others, the better everyone works together,” she says. Beyond standard company benefits, the Therapy Center provides free memberships to health clubs for its employees. “We believe fitness and staying healthy is a big part of what we do,” Person says.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette employs nearly 2,100 employees in a spectrum of positions from manual labor to academic research. Like its longtime leader, Dr. Ray Authement, who retired in 2008 after 34 years as university president, ULL’s employees tend to stick around awhile.
“Every Christmas we have a big campus-wide Christmas luncheon to honor employees who are celebrating work anniversaries,” says Christine Payton, ULL’s assistant director for print media. “There are always a lot of people honored for having worked there for 20 and 30 years.”
Professors such as Dr. Lise Anne Slatten have figured out why people tend to stay at ULL for a while. “I am in the ‘second-half’ of my working life, to use a sports analogy, and never imagined that work and life could be so fulfilling when making the choice to completely change careers at 48 years of age,” Slatten wrote in an email. “I am in a pleasant environment that promotes and encourages lifelong learning, which affords me an opportunity to give back some of what I have learned to my students. ULL is a well-respected high-level research university but also a thriving and vibrant small-town-like community with many opportunities to participate in and attend interesting lectures, cultural events, sporting activities and engage in community service.”
Beyond standard benefits, ULL employees are eligible for significantly discounted tuition for college classes and credits, not only for themselves but also for their spouses and children. Plus, they get discounted tickets for all sporting events and use of Bourgeois Hall’s world-class exercise and swimming facilities. Of course, having every Friday afternoon off doesn’t hurt campus morale either. In 2006, in an effort to save money on utilities, ULL went to a four-and-a-half-day workweek. Plus, employees get two weeks off at Christmastime. According to Payton, who came to ULL from the field of journalism and was accustomed to working on Christmas Eve, “Having two weeks off for the holiday – that’s the biggest perk ever.”