What makes a great place to work? It’s more than a job. It’s the benefits, the camaraderie, the appreciation for work done well that makes employees happy to come to the office.
Each year, companies around the state offer a glimpse into their office culture in hopes they’ll be named the best among the best companies to work for in Alabama.
To contend for the honors, companies share information about all facets of work life. Do they allow telecommuting? How do benefits stack up against other companies in the same field? Does the company encourage employees to be active in the community? How does it handle the problems that arise?
Companies compile information and submit it to The Best Companies Group. The Group evaluates the responses from the company, then interviews employees and compares the two sets of information. Participating companies pay a fee for evaluation services to The Best Companies Group.
For the third year in a row, investment firm Edward Jones, which has offices around the state, tops the list of large employers. River Bank & Trust, based in Prattville, is at the top among small and medium employers, moving up from fourth place last year.
These are firms that win praise from their employees.
“We have all the benefits and security of working for a large national company with the friendliness and relationships of a small company, ” says Jason Kozon of Edward Jones.
And they offer good advice.
Total Quality Logistics, for example, offers a standard benefit package company wide, but allows each office to develop a few added perks that work well there — a crawfish boil in South Alabama, for example, and a come to work late/leave early option in Birmingham. “If you want to know what your employees want, ” says Chad McMillan, TQL’s Birmingham satellite office leader, “just ask them and believe what they tell you.”
Providing a workplace that employees value isn’t just good for the employees, participating firms say. It’s good for business.
As Jimmy Stubbs, CEO of top-ranked River Bank & Trust, puts it, “If you take care of the team, the team will take care of business.”
Beyond the honor of ranking high, firms get useful feedback from the process.
The companies honored this year are engaged in banking, investments, insurance, information technology, construction, hospitality and many other fields.
Best Small-to-Medium Size Company: River Bank & Trust
Most members of today’s workforce want to work for a company that has a strong, positive culture, invests in its employees, supports a healthy work-life balance and values performance reviews, according to a recent study on Entrepreneur.com.
That fits River Bank & Trust like a glove. The company is ranked No. 1 among small and medium sized companies in the 2018 Best Companies to Work For in Alabama competition after being ranked No. 4 last year. It was also named one of the Best Banks to Work For in 2017 by American Banker.
So what makes River Bank & Trust one of the best companies to work for in Alabama?
“The bank is a home away from home, ” says Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Stubbs. “We provide the basic essentials such as salary and benefits and wrap these in a blanket of care — care for professional growth and care for one another through joyous and difficult times.”
“If you take care of the team, the team will take care of business.”
Taking care of the team includes employee engagement. Quarterly office meetings with executive management allow employees to express their suggestions and concerns candidly in a relaxed setting.
The River Channel, the bank’s intranet, contains birthdays and anniversary announcements with direct links to the celebrating team member’s inbox. Employees receive dozens of greetings and good wishes throughout the course of their special day.
Hard work and dedication are recognized through the Big Fish Award, which honors an employee for going above and beyond, and Teller Appreciation Week, when every teller enjoys special treats.
Other activities in the blanket of care include social events where dinner and entertainment are provided and annual Thanksgiving luncheons. The bank provides the turkey and ham, and the employees bring their favorite homemade dishes.
Team members are given flexible hours to accommodate school events or to take a family member to the doctor. An employer-sponsored Employee Assistance Program is available to provide confidential counseling.
Five-year team members receive a gold lapel pin, and if you’ve been around for 10 years, that pin includes a diamond.
Along with retirement plans, health insurance and educational reimbursement, the bank offers a generous amount of paid leave for vacation, personal and sick time.
The blanket of care apparently is working quite well. Employee turnover is low at 9 percent compared to an industry average of 14.4 percent.
River Bank & Trust
Jimmy Stubbs, CEO // 2611 Legends Dr., Prattville, AL 36066 // 334-290-1012
Small-to-Medium Size Company Runners-Up
W. Allen Carroll, CPA and managing partner at Wilkins Miller LLC of Mobile, says making his firm a great place to work begins with finding the right employees to begin with and getting them “on the bus.”
“We try to do all that we can to create an environment, a culture, that is a fun place to be, working with people that we enjoy working with because we all spend as much or more time with the folks we work with as we do our family at home, ” Carroll says.
Carroll says the firm has a number of initiatives aimed at employee satisfaction, but “we think that it really starts with the right people and then creating an environment within our leadership group of making it a good place to be.”
The firm offers flexible work hours, birthday celebrations and holiday parties and occasional outside-the-office celebrations.
“Folks make a choice to join our firm and continue on with our firm and so we want to do everything that we can to make it a great environment and one that gives them opportunities, that is fun but one that challenges them so they can reach their potential.”
Carroll says the firm’s mission “is to help people achieve, both our clients and our employees.”
W. Allen Carroll, Managing Partner // 41 W. I -65, Service Rd. N., Ste. 400, Mobile, AL // 251-410-6700
BYARS | WRIGHT INC.
“Respect” and “opportunities” are bywords at Byars | Wright, an independent insurance agency in Jasper that represents a number of companies.
President and CEO Haig Wright II says the company shows its employees respect in a number of ways.
“The success of any company is defined by the quality of people who work there, ” Wright says. “Byars | Wright aims to find, and keep, the quality talent and those that hold the same core values.”
Wright says the company holds a number of events each year aimed at building relationships within the company, such as the fall festival at the Wright family farm, and an array of other holiday celebrations.
Workers receive a percentage of any new company growth and there is a multi-level bonus structure. Employees may also have flexible work hours and the company closes each Friday at 3 p.m.
Employees also receive health, dental, life and additional insurance coverage.
“Our benefits are very competitive for our industry, ” Wright says. “I think it has helped us to recruit better talent and to retain employees.”
“The agency endeavors to make employees feel supported, heard and acknowledged, ” Wright says, and uses polls and surveys to get employee feedback.
Wright says the employer/employee relationship at Byars | Wright means less employee turnover and enhanced relationships with clients. “Without much turnover, customers get accustomed to dealing with the same employee and develop positive relationships with that person and that establishes much needed trust for this business.”
Byars | Wright Inc.
W. Haig Wright II, President // P.O. Box 1309, Jasper, AL 35502 // 205-221-3621
ALABAMA CREDIT UNION
Steve Swofford, president of the Alabama Credit Union, credits his company’s team approach to decision making and planning for its perennial appearance on the annual list of Best Companies to Work For in Alabama.
With more than two dozen offices and 275 employees, ACU offers its full line of financial services across the state.
“We communicate aggressively to our teams, ” Swofford says. “Anybody, when they do a big project, has a committee of people that work on it. We take it to another level. We have a process of what we call high performance teams that we put in place for almost every major decision. Teams members come from across the company, because we recognize that everyone has a view point.”
Swofford says the teams have a formal charter that includes goals and a time frame, usually about 90 days. “They come back to senior management and they say ‘here were our options, here is what we picked, here is why we picked it and here is what it will cost’ and 90 percent of the time we adopt. And I am going to tell you that it has improved our efficiency. These teams have made us much better. We perform better.”
Swofford says the teams give employees a “vested interest in what is going on and they feel like they are a part of the whole family-type, mutually supportive environment.”
The Alabama Credit Union offers a 5 percent 401(k) match and profit sharing, as well as a few fun perks, such as Jean Day and wellness picnics that promote exercise and healthy eating. Employees get 12 paid holidays, 12 sick days, several employee recognition programs and two annual employee satisfaction surveys.
Alabama Credit Union
Steve Swofford, CEO // 220 Paul W. Bryant Dr., Tuscaloosa, AL 35401 // 888-817-2002
RABREN GENERAL CONTRACTORS INC.
Rabren General Contractors Inc., based in Auburn, was founded in 2000 by Mike and Travis Rabren, who were joined in 2003 by Matt Rabren as an owner.
The company has experience in all sectors of the industry, including commercial, healthcare, retail and mixed-use, hospitality, government, student and multi-family housing.
Employees cite owner concern for employees, a learning environment and a sense of being part of the business as reasons the company is a great place to work.
“One of the reasons Rabren is such a great place to work, is that Matt Rabren makes each employee feel like an extended member of the Rabren family, ” says Che Odom, the company’s marketing and business administrator. “We truly know that he thinks about what is best for us when he makes decisions. One example is this year we had a premium increase on our health insurance, and rather than pass that on to us, he chose to have the company cover a larger percentage, resulting in almost no added cost to the employees.”
“It is not only a great environment to work in, but a great environment to learn in. Each person is invested in the learning, growth and success of their coworkers, and this has been a great place to learn, ” says Mercer Clark, a Rabren intern.
“For me, I feel that I don’t just ‘work’ here, but I am truly ‘a part’ of something, ‘a part’ of the business. I have been here for 16 years, and even through the growth of this company, we have been able to retain our values and integrity. It feels good to work for a company where I know that we will always do the right thing, ” says Project Manager Bruce Ward Sr.
Rabren General Contractors Inc.
Matt Rabren, CEO // 306 Persimmon Dr., Auburn, AL 36830 // 334-826-6143
HARTMANN, BLACKMON & KILGORE PC
Tax season means long hours for accounting company employees, but Hartmann Blackmon and Kilgore PC, a Fairhope accounting firm, has found a way to help employees create work-life balance during the “busy season.”
The original goal of Project 40™ was to decrease “busy season” overtime, but the initiative has grown to include tools to help employees create goals, focus during their time at the office and even develop healthier lifestyles.
Employees are the core of what has made Hartmann, Blackmon & Kilgore a successful accounting and business consulting firm in the Gulf Coast area for the last 28 years.
Dennis Sherrin, managing shareholder, says, “Building a dynamic team requires a commitment to developing employees.” To accomplish this, the company promotes a variety of internally developed programs to help every individual grow personally and professionally. Some of these include a mentoring program, continuing education opportunities, assistance with attaining CPA licenses, leadership programs and working within each person’s unique set of abilities.
Within the accounting and financial services industry, hb&k recognizes a developing need for consultation services for business owners. Employees are encouraged to be forward thinking when presenting solutions and services to clients. “When an employee develops a niche interest, we strive to encourage them to develop in that area, so they can truly love what they do at work, ” says Sherrin.
Hartmann, Blackmon & Kilgore PC
Dennis E. Sherrin, Managing Partner // 806 N. Section St., Fairhope, AL 36532 // 251-928-2443
ITAC Solutions, a recruiting firm headquartered in Birmingham, specializes in placing personnel in accounting, information technology, corporate and administrative positions. The firm also has offices in Mobile, Huntsville, Atlanta and Nashville.
ITAC has been a finalist in the Best Companies to Work For in Alabama for small and medium sized firms from 2010-2013 and winner of the category in 2013. It also received the Alfred P. Sloan award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility in 2008 and 2009.
Initially, ITAC focused on IT and accounting professionals, hence the name ITAC. Now the company includes temporary and contract staffing, contract-to-hire and direct hire recruiting for companies throughout the country.
ITAC is led by a management team mostly made up of owners in the business, built on decades of industry and corporate staffing experience, and has branched out to fields like engineering, marketing, human resources and other areas.
“It matters less what I, the founder and managing partner, say what makes it a great place to work, ” says Brian Pitts, “but here is an anonymous quote from a survey that I believe embodies the tone of many folks here.”
“I can’t imagine another company where every owner or manager truly wants the best for everyone — external customers as well as internal employees. We all try to live by our core values… with a helping heart and a strong desire to win while doing right in every situation. We work hard, we have fun and we are there for each other during the good and bad times. ITAC is truly a work-family.”
Brian Pitts, Managing Partner // 700 Montgomery Pkwy., Ste. 148, Birmingham, AL 35216 // 205-326-0004
Family dynamics is a key consideration at White-Spunner Construction Inc., of Mobile, says Adrienne Freeman, the company’s executive director of people and culture. White-Spunner is a general contracting company, which is on the Best Companies list for the second consecutive year.
“Our owner, John White-Spunner, truly values his employees and his relationships with clients and customers more than he values the dollar. We try to give our employees a family work environment and include them in any decision that is made regarding our employees. We try to consider their family dynamics and we treat our employees like family, ” Freeman says.
Founded in 1981, the company in the early years focused primarily on commercial construction projects along the Gulf Coast. As the firm expanded, the emphasis shifted toward larger and more diverse projects spanning from the Carolinas to Texas.
Today, White-Spunner Construction has completed thousands of projects in more than 20 states.
“We have an average tenure here of about 12 and a half years, ” says Freeman. “White-Spunner has instilled in each of us that we do our business ethically and we treat our people better than we treat the dollar. We make sure to make all of our decisions to the benefit of not only our employees but also our clients.”
In addition to reimbursement for continuing education, White-Spunner offers employees betterment through in-house training and individual career-path plans. White-Spunner’s benefits package includes a matching 401(k), a variety of bonus opportunities and incentives, continuing education and tuition reimbursement, on-site wellness facilities and fully paid insurance options.
John White-Spunner, President & CEO // 2012 W. I-65 Service Rd. S., Mobile, AL 36693 // 800-471-5189
Best Large Company: Edward Jones
For the third year in a row, financial services giant Edward Jones has ranked first among large companies on the list of Best Companies to Work For in Alabama.
The firm is structured to give its employees, called associates, a combination of independence and support in its 13, 000 offices nationwide.
The typical neighborhood office features a financial officer and a branch administrator, who focus on the long-term investment needs of local clients. “But our regional offices have regular meetings, trainings and other events. We all work together to help each other, ” says Jason Kozon, a Foley-based financial adviser who serves as Edward Jones’ regional leader for South Alabama and South Mississippi.
One of the biggest draws to associates is the opportunity to become a partner in the company, Kozon says. The company is a partnership presently owned by approximately 18, 500 partners and 443 principals, with all its net profits paid out to employees in trimester bonuses, annual profit sharing and partnership earnings. “We provide associates with plenty of support from veteran associates in other regional offices, ” Kozon says. “You don’t see the internal competition you do in some financial services firms. When one of us succeeds, we all succeed.”
New Edward Jones financial advisors are given a salary during their early years, so they don’t have to worry about their income and can focus on doing right by their clients, Kozon says. The top-notch benefit package includes medical, dental and long-term care insurance and paid parental leave for births or adoptions. “We have all the benefits and security of working for a large national company with the friendliness and relationships of a small company, ” Kozon says.
In addition to periodic training, regional teams get together for “quality circles” on a monthly basis to share and discuss what’s working and what isn’t in their offices. Four times a year, regional offices will participate in a social and/or charitable event, such as an area Walk to End Alzheimer’s. “Edward Jones supports the Alzheimer’s Association nationwide so we participate in their events, ” Kozon says. “Each associate also receives one paid Day of Caring annually to use to support the charity of their choice.”
The company is concerned about its associates’ health and offers a gamut of programs to encourage it. Employees are presented with a Fitting in Fitness stretch and strengthening guide with free exercise bands. Edward Jones’ wellness program features biometric screenings, premium discounts, and telephone and online health coaching.
“The company cares about each associate and it shows, ” Kozon says.
Jason Kozon, Financial Adviser/Regional Leader // 22394 Miﬂin Rd., No. 202, Foley, AL 36535 // 251-943-3399
AMERICA’S FIRST FEDERAL CREDIT UNION
Bill Connor, chief executive officer of Birmingham-based America’s First Federal Credit Union, says one of the strongest areas of employee satisfaction is the credit union’s mission. “Our primary purpose for existing is to better our members’ lives versus working for the stock holders of a for-profit company, ” he says.
While some financial institutions are reducing the number of their branches, America’s First is adding, Connor points out. That’s not because the credit union isn’t using technology, like remote banking and other electronic services, but because management knows that many customers want to be able to talk in person for at least some of their transactions. “We are both high tech and high touch, ” he says. “Our employees find great job satisfaction in being able to create relationships with our members.”
The credit union offers a competitive benefit package, including matching employees’ 401(k) contributions up to 5 percent and employees immediately being vested. Annual bonuses for meeting goals are typically awarded around the holidays. Career development and training opportunities abound. In addition, full-time employees are offered eight hours of paid volunteer time. “We post volunteer opportunities each month, ” Connor says. “Those who do volunteer say they really enjoy and appreciate the benefit.”
America’s First Federal Credit Union
Bill Connor, CEO // 1200 4th Ave. N., Birmingham, AL 35203 // 205-320-4000
TOTAL QUALITY LOGISTICS
Total Quality Logistics (TQL) may be a national business-to-business freight movement company operating 59 offices, including the Birmingham and Mobile-area satellites, in 26 states, but many of its employee perks are tailored to local preferences, says Group Sales Manager Mackenzie Collins, who is based in the Spanish Fort office. Her office, for example, hosts an annual crawfish boil as one of many employee treats. “The major benefits like insurance and 401(k) are the same across the country of course, but then each office — which is its own micro-culture — has the ability to choose a set of additional benefits, primarily morale boosters, for its employees, ” Collins says.
TQL employees are regularly surveyed and also informally asked about the perks they would prefer and office managers respond accordingly, Collins says. Perks are changed periodically to keep employee enthusiasm about them fresh. In Birmingham, for example, employees currently are enjoying a “snooze or cruise” benefit of choosing either to come in an hour later or leave an hour earlier, says Chad McMillen, Birmingham satellite office leader. “The benefit, which they specifically asked for, has been extremely popular, ” McMillen says. “If you want to know what your employees want, just ask them and believe what they tell you.”
Total Quality Logistics
Mackenzie Collins, Group Sales Manager // 26000 Bass Pro Dr., Bldg. E200, Ste. 214, Spanish Fort, AL 36527 // 800-580-3101
JACK HENRY & ASSOCIATES INC.
It makes sense that Jack Henry & Associates Inc., which primarily provides technology solutions and payment processing services for financial services organizations nationwide, would be able to allow employees to work from home several days per week. The remote workforce is the company’s largest office location, says Tiffany Haynes, general manager of human resources. “Flexible work arrangements continue to be our No. 1 total rewards offering at JHA, ” she says. “We started telecommuting and remote work years ago — before it was cool.”
During the past few years, management and human resources has placed greater emphasis on finding out what employees want and giving it to them, Haynes says. The company’s benefit package is competitive and dress code casual.
“What I hear most is how we care for our employees and their families through our actions, ” she says. “We’re a large company, but it has this family feel to it, and I think that’s a beautiful thing. I always tell people when you come to work at JHA, you get to be part of something bigger than yourself. Employees see how we are here to create meaningful experiences for them and then they go tell their friends to come to work here, too.”
Jack Henry & Associates Inc.
Rick Keith, Regional Sales // 7400 Cahaba Valley Rd., Birmingham, AL 35242-6306 // 205-981-1980
MAX CREDIT UNION
Montgomery-based MAX Credit Union wants to make sure it’s offering a highly competitive pay and benefit package for its market, says President and Chief Executive Officer H. Greg McClellan. “That’s why we hire an outside third party every year to evaluate how we are doing, and then we make adjustments as necessary, depending on an employee’s job level and experience, ” he says.
McClellan and other credit union managers often meet to talk casually with employees and keep them engaged and involved during morning coffee and doughnuts “breaking grounds” events at headquarters and various branches. Front-line employees and managers are on a first-name basis. “Our focus at the credit union is taking care of our members, but we want to take care of our employees just as well, ” McClellan says.
Benefits include a double dollar match for each dollar employees put in their 401(k) up to five percent, with full vesting in five years. Employees are able to earn bonus days off and have the opportunity to advance themselves along a career path with various training options.
“We want our employees to stay with us for the long haul, ” says McClellan, who has himself been with the credit union for 33 years.
MAX Credit Union
H. Greg McClellan, President/CEO // 400 Eastdale Cir., Montgomery, AL 36117 // 800-776-6776
Although it’s based in Montgomery, Caddell Construction has projects in 34 countries. Because of the highly competitive nature of the construction industry and the current shortage of skilled workers, the company is determined to attract and retain the best workers, says Director of Human Resources Matt Abele. “What really differentiates one construction company from another is your employees, so you have to make sure to keep your people happy, ” he says.
The company offers attractive benefits and morale boosters, including a glamorous Christmas Party. Service opportunities are offered to employees with paid time off for volunteering. Employees and family members covered by their insurance are eligible for the company’s 100 percent free private clinic. “It’s great to work for a company that cares so much about its employees, ” Abele says. “If I have the choice, I hope this will be the company I retire from.”
One of the company’s most popular employee benefits is use of its two beachfront condominiums in Destin, Florida.
Eddie Stewart, President/CEO // 2700 Lagoon Park Dr., Montgomery, AL 36109 // 334-272-7723
CGI TECHNOLOGIES AND SOLUTIONS INC.
CGI Technologies and Solutions Inc., based in Birmingham, serves the IT and business consulting services needs of 10 major industries in companies spread over 17 countries. The firm surveys employees regularly to see how they’re doing and funds technology proposals submitted by staff members.
“We strive to create an environment where our professionals, whom we call ‘members, ’ enjoy working together and feel empowered and engaged as owners to build their company and grow their careers. This is what sets us apart — our members make up our DNA and define our unique company culture, ” says CGI Vice President Larry Lilley.
Along with offering a strong traditional benefit package, flexible schedules and comp time, CGI also provides innovative benefits such as pet insurance, access to family autism support services, unlimited sick time and a share purchase plan with no holding period for shares purchased. “The CGI share purchase program is often cited as our most popular benefit, ” Lilley says. “CGI provides a 100 percent match to the member’s contribution, up to a maximum allowable (three percent) cap.”
CGI Technologies and Solutions Inc.
Larry Lilley, CGI Vice President // 300 Riverchase Pkwy. E., Birmingham, AL 35244-1813 // 205-259-2300
HARGROVE ENGINEERS + CONSTRUCTORS
With headquarters in Mobile and offices spread across the country, Hargrove Engineers + Constructors provides full-service engineering, procurement and construction management nationwide. Chief Executive Officer Ralph Hargrove says his people are driven because they are encouraged to innovate, treated like family and have the opportunity to become owners of the company through its Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).
“Every teammate is encouraged to bring ideas to the table and be a leader in their day-to-day operations, ” Hargrove says. “The team can then take pride in the wins and everyone is motivated to overcome challenges.”
Keeping employees happy, engaged, safe and well are all top priorities for the company, which has a high retention rate, Hargrove says. Employees, for example, can earn points for health-conscious behaviors. “Hargrove teammates are competitive by nature and this spirit carries through everything we do — from projects to workplace wellness, we all respond well to good-natured competition and encouragement, ” Hargrove says.
Benefits are competitive as well, he points out, not among employees but between Hargrove and its competitors. Benefits include both the ESOP and a 401(k) match. The company hosts an array of family events and provides charitable opportunities through its Hargrove Foundation and harGIVES volunteer organization. “Our team operates like a family, ” Hargrove says.
Hargrove Engineers + Constructors
Ralph Hargrove, CEO // 20 S. Royal St., Mobile, AL 36602 // 251-476-0605
SH ENTERPRISES INC.
Gulf Coast-based SH Enterprises Inc. serves as the umbrella company for Meyer Vacation Rentals, CENTURY 21 Meyer Real Estate and Starr Textile Services. Within the areas of hospitality, real estate and commercial laundry, company President Michelle Hodges says “our teams each play a role in creating magical memories for families to cherish … and that’s something to be proud of.”
Employees and customers are helping Meyer celebrate its 50th anniversary on social media by sharing their individual experiences #MeyerInspired, she says. “That level of homegrown passion for our mission is truly inspiring and the entire process is a celebration among our team for fostering the experiences and relationships that make our organization a special place to spend your work week, ” Hodges says.
Benefits, which have been chosen in keeping with feedback from employee forums, include a LiveWell Program, with access to the licensed nutritionist on staff for diet and exercise coaching. Numerous employee appreciation events, such as Spring and Fall Employee Luncheons, Employee of the Quarter, Saturday Lunches throughout the summer, Family Fun Day at the Track and Holiday Luncheon, help keep everyone engaged. “Our successes are directly tied to that of our team — we simply do not exist without them!” Hodges says.
SH Enterprises Inc.
Sheila Hodges, Chairman of the Board // 1585 Gulf Shores Pkwy., Gulf Shores, AL 36542 // 800-775-8945