Great Places to Work: 18 Places Deserving Honorable Mention
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Acquisition Solutions is in the business of helping the federal government, which spends $400 billion a year on goods and services, be a better consumer. The work itself inspires many employees, who say it’s a noble cause to make government more efficient.
To further motivate the staff of 167, managers make a point of regularly thanking and rewarding employees for good work. Among the rewards: Raffles for tickets to Verizon Center concerts and Redskins games.
“While managers expect a great deal of effort, they are generous in rewarding work done well,” says Rehana Thomas, an acquisition specialist. “I often receive notes of acknowledgment from senior leadership, and individual accomplishments are shared with the organization.”
Acquisition Solutions, 1655 N. Fort Myer Dr., Suite 1000, Arlington; 703-253-6300; acqsolinc.com.
American Immigration Lawyers Association
Staffers at the American Immigration Lawyers Association take great satisfaction in their mission, helping member attorneys who practice immigration law.
“AILA works for a good cause—positive immigration reform, helping families reunite, and giving people the chance to make a better life,” says senior systems administrator Matt Pedroso.
The environment is similarly humane: One-quarter of the staff of 52 telecommutes at least one day a week, and few work more than 40 hours a week.
Employees are included in almost every decision; AILA is moving to new offices in February, and a staff committee is deciding everything from office layout to wall colors.
Other perks: $110 a month to defray the cost of parking or public transportation, 100-percent paid healthcare premiums, and employee-appreciation events a few times a year, which might mean anything from free Ben & Jerry’s to omelets.
American Immigration Lawyers Association, 918 F St., NW; 202-216-2400; aila.org.
American Society for Training & Development
The American Society for Training & Development is an association dedicated to workplace learning and performance. ASTD lives its values, providing employees lots of opportunities for continual learning.
Employees meet with managers and career coaches to map out both work and life goals, then figure out how to get there. Sometimes it’s through ASTD University, which offers a combination of on-site and online courses.
“ASTD provides ample opportunity to grow as an individual,” says project manager Marc Povell. “They incorporate day-to-day learning experiences into the employee’s goals and allow employees to pursue chosen career paths by paying for online learning, attendance at conferences and seminars, and other personal and professional growth.”
Employees say the work can be hard, but they’re given recognition and thanks for their work. It can also be fun: A committee plans Halloween-costume contests, potluck breakfasts, and more for the staff of 110. It’s a great environment for self-managers, say some staff, because, unlike at many nonprofit associations, it can be entrepreneurial.
American Society for Training & Development, 1640 King St., Alexandria; 703-683-8100; astd.org.
The Boss Group
Staffing and recruiting firms tend to attract positive, high-energy staffs who need to sell recruiters on job candidates and sell job seekers on companies. The Boss Group is no exception.
Incentives, including an annual Caribbean trip and use of the company president’s Rehoboth Beach house, keep the staff of 25 motivated. As does the work itself—finding clients jobs and helping with careers—and the company’s growth: In 2006, sales were up 40 percent over the prior year.
Benefits are good, too. They include up to $10,000 annually for each employee to attend professional conferences or earn certifications, up to two weeks of paternity leave, and a 100-percent 401(k) match on the employee’s first 4-percent contribution, vested from day one.
The Boss Group even gives its staff an incentive to keep fit: a $45 monthly stipend toward gym membership for anyone who works out at least a dozen times a month.
The Boss Group, 8120 Woodmont Ave., Suite 400, Bethesda; 301-656-7744; thebossgroup.com.
Last year, Bowa Builders hired a consultant to examine its employee benefits. Although the company offered a better package than most in the industry, Bowa decided to increase its 401(k) match and extend ownership to all employees who have been with the company seven years.
“Our employees are our most valuable asset,” says president Josh Baker. “We want to give them a career, not just a paycheck.”
Bowa, a residential-construction firm that specializes in high-end additions, renovations, and custom homes, has grown from a $300,000 to $38-million company in 19 years. The company places an emphasis on customer service—more than 90 percent of projects come from referrals—as well as self-improvement.
“At Bowa, everyone constantly strives to be the best, both individually and collectively,” says team leader Patricia Tetro.
Bowa Builders, 7900 Westpark Dr., Suite A10, McLean; 703-734-9050; bowa.com.
College Hunks Hauling Junk
Does your kid need a job between school breaks? College Hunks Hauling Junk, started in 2003 by two alumni of Sidwell Friends, is now a million-dollar corporation that has sold its fifth franchise. As the name suggests, it carts away clutter—donating what it can to charities such as Goodwill. Employees can keep any items, and they’ve sold on eBay vintage Playboy magazines ($500 a set), a Gibson guitar ($1,500), and baseballs and bats autographed by Hank Aaron and Willie Mays ($3,000).
Other benefits include a 4-percent 401(k) match, flexible spending account, and health plan.
This is surely the only company on our list that has its holiday party at Hooters.
College Hunks Hauling Junk, 5020 Nicholson Ct., Suite 207, Kensington; 800-586-5872; 1800junkusa.com.
Want to work outside? Many mothers and high-school students work part-time at the greenhouses and farm markets of Cox Farms, a 35-year-old family-owned farm in Virginia.
Parents say kids learn valuable skills—although it’s a seasonal job for many, each employee gets an evaluation. Work may involve manning a cash register, watering plants, or selling Christmas trees. There are frequent bonuses, contests, and outings. Another perk: a 30-percent discount on plants.
Cox Farms, 15621 Braddock Rd., Centreville; 703-830-4121; coxfarms.com. Also a market in Vienna.
With the downturn in real estate, EYA, which builds residential communities, developed an initiative for the year: to build a “Bridge to the Future.” The program encourages every employee to think about ways to cut costs and encourage home sales. Simple ideas—from making double-sided copies to how dumpsters are handled in the field—have saved more than $1 million so far.
Every day, employees gather to talk about What’s Up, a program that encourages open communication, idea sharing, and problem solving. Employees—there are 100—value the company’s entrepreneurial spirit and flexible schedules. Also valued: the year-round 3 pm Friday closing time.
EYA, 4800 Hampden La., Suite 300, Bethesda; 301-634-8600; eya.com.
Founded in 1937 by Warren and Myrtle Hitt, this company has grown to one of the 100 largest general contractors in the country, with offices in five cities and 725 employees nationwide.
Still family-run, Hitt Contracting keeps in touch with its staff through a weekly happy hour and regular outings. As it grows, it also grows employees: An on-site Hitt Institute offers dozens of courses.
Hitt Contracting, 2704 Dorr Ave., Fairfax; 703-846-9000; www.hitt-gc.com.
Infinitive CEO Denis McFarlane set out to build a company culture of growth, balance, and fun. Growth is the first value, and employees say the company lives by it—all staffers get a career coach to provide feedback on performance and to help them reach their goals.
The Infinitive Foundation for Families extends that caring to the community; in its first three full years, it has donated close to $100,000 to charities, particularly the March of Dimes.
There are regular employee outings for the staff of 80, too; a popular one is the Gold Cup, where Infinitivians, as they call themselves, recently won the award for best tent.
Infinitive, 6858 Old Dominion Dr., McLean; 703-554-5500; infinitive.com.
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
At the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the 473 employees serve member co-ops that bring reliable, affordable electricity to areas that are often remote. It’s the mission that most gives the staff a charge.
“NRECA is dedicated to providing energy to those in the country who in many instances can least afford it,” says Neil Chatterjee, a lobbyist with the association. “It is very rewarding.”
So are many of the nonprofit’s programs. Each employee can give at least $150 in awards to other staffers for a job well done. Employee suggestions get full attention; each quarter, those who drop signed suggestions into special mailboxes are taken to lunch by the executive vice president. Lots of team-building and charitable efforts reinforce a family feel.
The culture is so cooperative that many never leave: The average tenure is eight years, and some staffers have been there more than 30.
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, 4301 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-907-5500; touchstoneenergy.com.
Otsuka America Pharmaceutical
Otsuka America, a subsidiary of the Japan-based Otsuka Pharmaceutical Group, is in the business of developing healthcare products and marketing drugs. The 208 employees at the US headquarters in Rockville like that they help improve people’s health.
To back up that goal, the staff of more than 200 participates in walks to raise money for causes such as the American Heart Association, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation. So far this year, Otsuka America has donated or raised $250,000 for Washington-area charities, including $150,000 for the Larry King Cardiac Foundation.
From the start of their employment, staffers get a generous 24 days in a time-off bank that combines vacation and sick leave. Top performers get the chance to go on a company trip to Japan each year.
Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, 2440 Research Blvd., Rockville; 301-990-0030; otsuka.com.
Shapiro, Lifschitz and Schram
When it rains, Shapiro, Lifschitz and Schram always brings in lunch for employees. “Who wants to go out in the rain?” says Susan Mattingly, who orders lunch for the law firm’s staff of 25.
It also treats employees to massages and facials on an annual summer retreat, and partner Steven Schram says the firm has helped employees with house down payments and medical expenses. Last year, the firm donated more than $75,000 to charity.
Shapiro, Lifschitz and Schram, 1742 N St., NW; 202-689-1900; slslaw.com.
Like to nap in the middle of the day? At Spider Strategies, a software developer, the dozen employees all work from home. Even monthly team meetings are optional—a staffer can teleconference in.
Everyone sets his or her hours—one partner is known to work midnight to 8 am. To add to flexibility, everyone gets 30 vacation days.
Spider Strategies, 1700 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Suite 400; 202-370-6121; spiderstrategies.com.
Vision Council of America
The 22 employees at the Vision Council of America represent manufacturers and distributors of eyeglasses and other optical products—they lobby on Capitol Hill, run public-health awareness campaigns, and organize trade shows.
While vision care is serious, the offices of VCA are not. Employees describe the culture as fun; among the staff activities have been grilled-cheese parties and ghost tours in Annapolis. All staffers get their birthdays off, and summer hours allow them to work nine ten-hour days, then get the tenth day off.
Employees also prize the flexibility—an official policy allows them to telecommute up to two days a week.
And naturally, the association pays 100 percent of the cost of vision insurance.
Vision Council of America, 1700 Diagonal Rd., Suite 500, Alexandria; 703-548-4560; visionsite.org.
Vista Technology Services
Vista helps the federal government manage some of its real-estate assets—since 1988 it has worked with the Army on managing its base realignment and closures; it says it has saved the Army more than $1 billion.
Not bad for a 50-person company whose president, David B. Baxa, meets with each employee for at least an hour during the anniversary month of his or her employment. Those meetings are informal chats; often he’ll fly to other locations—a handful of the staff works outside Washington—to meet the employee for the annual visit. That kind of attention is what makes Vista feel like family to many employees.
Vista Technology Services, 13454 Sunrise Valley Dr., Suite 110, Herndon; 703-561-4100; vistatsi.com.
The Weinberg Group
The manufacturer of a prescription drug is under attack: TV stations and newspapers are reporting that the drug may have caused patient deaths. The Food and Drug Administration may take the drug off the market.
A situation like this is tailor-made for the Weinberg Group.
The scientists and consultants at this 35-person firm help drug, chemical, and other companies get products through regulatory hurdles and defend products in the courts or media.
Different scientists can read the same data differently, and Weinberg’s toxicologists, chemists, and other scientists analyze data on a client’s behalf—although the results don’t always make the client happy.
The staff also scrutinizes its own practices: Each quarter, everyone meets to review benefits, which include, among other things, 12 weeks of paid maternity leave and two weeks of paid paternity leave. The staff also votes on which holidays it wants off. The formula works: The 24-year-old firm has a low turnover rate and an average tenure of eight years.
The Weinberg Group, 1220 19th St., NW, Suite 300; 202-833-8077; weinberggroup.com.
There’s a family feel at WR Systems, a Fairfax firm that provides engineering and technology services, mostly to the government. In fact, many are family: Out of 67 full-time employees, 28 are part of a family pair, including siblings, spouses, and parents working with adult children.
During the holidays, there are door-decorating contests, potluck lunches, and gift exchanges. They don’t care only for their own: Last year, 30 employees walked across the street to a nursing home to sing Christmas carols.
WR Systems, 10680 Main St., Suite 300, Fairfax; 703-934-0200; wrsystems.com.