From Buffalo Business First.
Best Places to Work live it everyday
Business First of Buffalo – by Jeff Wright
Back in the day, an old friend recounted how he and his workplace colleagues raced to the bank on payday, hoping against hope that there was enough cash in the account to cover their checks.
Most of the time the paychecks cleared, but once in a while, the last one to the teller’s window found the cupboard bare. It didn’t take long for the owner’s cash-flow problems to become an issue for my friend and those who worked with him.
A great place to work? Not when you’re working for free, or think you might be. As you might guess, it was not long before the 100-year-old business closed its doors for good.
The anecdotes were predictably more upbeat March 25 at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, as 760 people representing 70 Western New York companies showed up for Business First’s annual Best Places to Work awards luncheon. Enthusiasm flowed as 21 companies with 11 to 2,500 employees picked up awards.
Best Places to Work was developed by Quantum Workplace, an Omaha, Neb., company that administers hundreds of thousands of employee engagement surveys for companies around the country. Employees complete electronic surveys that assess workplace satisfaction. Quantum tabulates the responses, compiling scores that are used to rank participating companies.
Quantum’s Corey Farley, one of those involved in the process, sat at a table near the stage, taking in the energy of the convention center crowd. He was surprised by the size of the gathering – most cities don’t have events this big – but not by the comments he was hearing.
Companies that score well in the Quantum system typically do a good job investing in their employees. On this March afternoon, the convention center was filled with people who were excited about the way their companies treat them.
One of the those companies was West Herr Automotive.
Every year since 2005, when Business First and Quantum presented the initial Best Places to Work awards, West Herr has finished on top of the Jumbo companies category. One good-natured executive at a similar-sized company, taking note of West Herr’s string of first-place finishes, dubbed the Jumbo category as the “West-Herr group.”
President Scott Bieler, seated a few tables to Farley’s left, credited West Herr’s high employee satisfaction scores to several factors, none more important than a company culture that encourages excellence.
“It has to be lived every day,” Bieler said later of the company’s philosophy of hiring the right people and then providing them with a place to grow their careers. At West Herr, most upper-level managers started with the company and worked their way through the ranks.
Trust in the CEO, according to Farley, is one of the most influential factors in driving a high score in the Quantum survey. When there is trust in leadership, employees are more confident in their jobs.
Empowering employees is a component of the West Herr corporate culture that, according to Bieler, shows employees their contributions are valued. Employee satisfaction is weighted equally with customer satisfaction, a formula he says produces great results for the Hamburg-based company.
And the bottom line, even in a tough economy, has been impressive.
West Herr’s used-vehicle and service businesses grew in 2009 and new-car sales did better than expected.
For Bieler though, rewards are not always measured by sales. It means a lot to him that four times last year, employees sought him out to tell about the new home they had just purchased, at the same time thanking him for providing a good place to develop their careers.
That resonates with Farley, who said employees feel valued when senior leadership is interested in their lives. A CEO who knows the names of his employees’ children develops a high level of trust across the company.
As my old friend would likely agree, when you trust the guy who issues the paychecks, the job becomes a lot more enjoyable.
Thanks to American City Business Journals Inc. for permission.