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Great Places to Work: Where to Feel at Home
These six organizations have such interesting work, generous benefits, and comfortable and friendly cultures that people are happy to stay a long time. By Sherri Dalphonse, Mary Clare Glover
Years of service are recognized at Datatel. When employees such as Tom Rodgers hit their 20th, they’re typically picked up for work in a limo by the tuxedo-clad CEO, taken to a party in their honor, and given $5,000 plus five extra days of vacation. Photo
Comments () | Published November 1, 2007

There is no association between this article and the San Francisco consulting firm that uses the trademark GREAT PLACES TO WORK ®

At these six workplaces, employee tenure is long and turnover is low. Why don’t people leave? Not only can these employers be good places to start a career—staffers have opportunities to learn and advance—but they’re also comfortable fits for those in midcareer. The work is interesting, the organizations stable, and bosses don’t micromanage. Generous retirement plans don’t hurt.
Other winning companies where employees stay a long time: B.F. Saul; Cocke, Szpanka & Taylor; Marriott; and our winning government agencies.

American Physical Therapy Association
Industry: Nonprofit
Total staff: 180
Vacation/personal days to start/max: 13/23
Average tenure: 8 years
Interesting perks: Four hours paid each month for volunteering; three-day weekends every other week in summer; free on-site yoga; Old Town office has Potomac River views; yearly retirement-plan match of up to 18% of salary.

Physical therapists are said to be a caring lot. The staff at APTA, which represents physical therapists, behaves the same way.
“I’ve never worked anywhere where I felt cared for and appreciated like I do here,” says Suzanne Kitts, production manager for APTA’s PT Magazine.
If someone needs extra sick leave, colleagues donate theirs. Everyone—75 percent of the staff are women—is given four paid hours a month to volunteer. Most work 35 hours, and everyone gets every other Friday off in summer.
“Perhaps the best thing about APTA,” says Web editor Jason Bellamy,“is that it trusts employees to get the job done while also allowing flexibility. That trust inspires loyalty.”
American Physical Therapy Association, 1111 N. Fairfax St., Alexandria; 703-684-2782; apta.org.

Datatel
Industry: Technology for colleges and universities
Total staff local/world: 400/571
Vacation/personal days to start/max: 15/25
Average tenure: 7 years
Interesting perks: $130 a year for sneakers, lift tickets, or other fitness activity; $75 a year for a night on the town; Discovery Week offers 75 classes; two-week paternity leave extends to domestic partners; tickets to sporting events and concerts; free seated massages; 401(k) match of first 5%.

When CEO Russ Griffith died last summer, Datatel’s staff came together to grieve. Among the tributes, they collected letters, photos, and stories for a condolence book for his family—it ran hundreds of pages.
“Seeing Datatel mourn, and then heal, proved to me that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” says Amy Gebreselassie, who works in corporate training.
Employees describe the culture as caring, respectful, and ethical. Datatel—which provides technology that helps universities manage everything from financial aid to enrollment—isn’t shy about showing employees appreciation. Rewards range from free seated massages to generous anniversary gifts—on a milestone such as 15 years, an employee gets five extra vacation days that year plus a bonus ranging from $1,000 for 10 years to $10,000 for 30.
This caring extends to the community: An annual community-service month—this year’s kickoff celebration included a carnival complete with a chance to throw a pie at a manager—raises money for the Datatel Scholars Foundation, which has awarded $4.5 million in scholarships.
Employees have chances to learn, too. “I’ve had more opportunities in one year to participate in training and courses than I’ve had in 20 years at other companies,” says product manager Susan Hallenbeck.
Datatel, 4375 Fair Lakes Ct., Fairfax; 703-968-9000; datatel.com.

Home Builders Institute
Industry: Nonprofit
Total staff local/world: 40/260
Vacation/personal days to start/max: 10/20
Average tenure: 13 years
Interesting perks: $500 subsidy for fitness program of choice; free DC parking; 8% retirement-plan match.

Brian Reid lives two blocks from the Home Builders Institute, but no one questions when he, like a quarter of the staff, telecommutes one day a week for his job in human resources.
HBI is a nonprofit that promotes construction as a career. Instructors across the country offer training in trades such as plumbing and carpentry—often to at-risk youth and adults looking for a fresh start.
“I see the youth as they enter into Job Corps, and when they leave, they have their GED and their hearts are full of excitement,” says Tasya Arrington-Brown, an administrative assistant.
It’s a diverse staff—with employees from such places as India, Eritrea, and the Philippines—and quarterly potlucks allow colleagues to share their heritage. By now, they probably know one another’s recipes: Of the 40 employees in the home office, 21 have been there 10 years or more.
Home Builders Institute, 1201 15th St., NW, Sixth Floor; 202-266-8941; hbi.org.

James G. Davis Construction Corporation
Industry: General contracting
Total staff: 514
Vacation/personal days to start/max: 10/20
Average tenure: 10 years
Interesting perks: Tuition reimbursement of up to $2,500 per semester; 100% paid healthcare premiums; formal mentoring program; on-site fitness room.

When James G. Davis Construction Corporation was founded in 1966, it was run out of a single-family home in Rockville. As the company grew, Davis added trailers behind the house; employees worked there until 2000, when they moved into a new office nearby.
“It’s become a badge of honor to say you worked in the trailers,” says Jim McMurry, who works in human resources. At Davis, where the average tenure is ten years, many employees can make that claim.
People stay at this general-contracting firm because of the generous benefits—including profit sharing and employee stock ownership—plus challenging work and a lack of micromanagement.
An on-site classroom offers seminars in everything from Spanish to safety. “This is the most employee-oriented company I have ever worked for,” says Jonathan Dougherty, manager of Davis’s Corporate Knowledge Center. “There is a genuine interest in employees and their development.”
Davis Construction Corporation, 12530 Parklawn Dr., Rockville; 301-881-2990; davisconstruction.com.

LMI
Industry: Nonprofit strategic consulting
Total staff local/world: 650/750
Vacation/personal days to start/max: 15/25
Average tenure: 7 years
Interesting perks: Puts $500 into employee’s flexible-spending account; backup child/elder care; on-site gym or $150 if employee works off-site; frequent-diner card for cafeteria; retirement-plan contribution of 9% to 12% of salary.

Employees at LMI take pride in helping the federal government tackle complex issues, from climate change to healthcare to defense. While government contracting can be driven by profit, LMI is not for profit: Employees can give unvarnished advice to such federal agencies as the Department of Defense. The atmosphere is cooperative, not competitive—more academic than businesslike.
The culture is one of respect, where employees are given the freedom to work from home when necessary. “I tease that it’s such a wonderful environment,” says contracts manager LeNaye Willis-Lloyd, “the gossip is not even that good.”
LMI, 2000 Corporate Ridge, McLean; 703-917-9800; lmi.org.

Mitre Corporation
Industry: Nonprofit systems engineering and technical advice
Total staff local/world: 3,235/6,500
Vacation/personal days to start/max: 23/28 (includes sick leave)
Average tenure: 10 years
Interesting perks: 40 hours’ paid time a year for volunteering; outdoor basketball; shuttle to Metro; grocery deliveries on-site; tuition reimbursement of up to 18 credits a year; on-site classes; retirement-plan contribution of up to 11% of salary.

Many join Mitre after working at a for-profit consulting firm. It can be a big change.
“I didn’t want to work 60-plus-hour weeks anymore,” says Tamara Ambrosio-Hemphill, who worked as a consultant elsewhere before joining Mitre. “At Mitre I can work on exciting projects plus have a personal life. I was able to start a few hobbies and work out at the gym more.”
As at LMI, the nonprofit Mitre offers unbiased systems engineering and technical advice in support of the government—mainly the Defense Department but also the Federal Aviation Administration and Internal Revenue Service.
While some benefits—such as vacation time and the retirement-plan match—are generous, as a nonprofit Mitre can give few frills. Employees don’t mind.
“Often companies use perks to compensate for punishing hours or poor management,” says lead software systems engineer Bill Weiland. “There are few ‘freebies’ here; rather they show that they value us by listening and by affording us significant autonomy.”
Mitre Corporation, 7515 Colshire Dr., McLean; 703-983-6000; mitre.org.

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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 11/01/2007 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Articles