Armed Forces Insurance
Companies well past 100 years old often have more than the competition working against them; a kind of institutional sclerosis can set in. You hear it when someone says “Because we’ve always done it this way.” Armed Forces Insurance, at the age of 124, has moved assertively to make sure it’s not doing the same old thing. In recent years, AFI has undertaken a top-to-bottom review of its compensation and benefits structures, resulting in incentive opportunities and salary upgrades that better reflect market conditions. It has embraced a consumer-driven health plan, adopted health savings accounts, improved programs for paid time off and added flexible work schedules, including telecommuting. Perhaps as important, notes HR director Scott Neilan, the company went to work on its culture, as well. The executive leadership asked their nearly 200 employees to live out the company’s logo, “Our Mission Is You,” by focusing on service to both the military members they serve and the Leavenworth community. That has given AFI employees, Neilan said, “a common sense of mission.” Those external efforts include Rehabbing with Troops to bolster the recovery of soldiers wounded in combat, its recognition of the Military Spouse of the Year, and establishment of a Family and Community Committee to coordinate fund-raising activities. “The service ethic focused on others naturally enhances our daily interaction with each other,” Neilan said, “creating what we believe to be a highly engaged and transformative workplace.”
Barkley prides itself in hiring the best people, giving them the tools to do their best work—and getting out of their way. A time-honored management practice, yes, but here’s the real measure of risk-taking by the leadership: Once the managers are out of the way, those empowered employees have access to vintage arcade games. It’s part of the zen you find at many an advertising agency, where button-down is never the fashion of the day. Barkley, though, seems intent on pushing that envelope. As it is 100 percent employee-owned, “we all have a stake in the success of the company, and that’s the way we like it,” says Kay Moore, vice president for human resources. The offbeat workplace regimen includes one day a year with the entire staff of 225 “kidnapped” for outings at amusement parks or the Legends Outlets (with spending money!), paid birthdays off (again, with cash), casual attire that includes shorts in the summer and summer hours with noon clock-out for those who’ve met their work goals—even reimbursement for running shoes and exercise equipment at home. Disneyland? Hardly. Like other agencies, Barkley has weathered its share of challenges in recent years, but the staff has rallied, secured such new accounts as Krispy Kreme and On the Border, attracted talent from top-flight agencies on either coast, and positioned the company for growth.
Hyatt Regency Crown Center
How does a hotel get a combined 450 employees to provide top-flight customer service for guests in 733 rooms and eight food and beverage outlets? Training, training, training. At the Hyatt Regency Crown Center, training is the cornerstone for consistency of service, encompassing corporate training programs, on-site programs, online training and tuition reimbursement. In a high-turnover sector, the Hyatt boasts and impressive 50 employees with more than 20 years of service—and seven who were on the staff when the doors opened on July 1, 1980. Strong support from a large corporate parent, says assistant HR director Dianna Sporcic, allows the hotel to meet the demands of a demanding industry. With a goal of treating employees the way management wants its employees to treat guests, all managers are required to attend Hyatt University in Chicago to hone leadership skills. Hyatt !mpact provides training for hourly associates to further drive the service message. Service to the community, as well, is emphasized with team support that assisted more than 20 organizations, raised $10,000 and yielded 500 hours of volunteer work in 2010. The hotel supplements all of that with discounts on an extensive range of products, from cell-phone plans, tickets, clothing, tools, rental cars and more, and tops it off with complementary rooms and 50 percent off food and beverage during hotel stays for associates—one of the most popular benefits, Sporcic says.