As the human resources manager for Spring Engineering and Manufacturing Corp. in Canton, Michigan, Kim Radeback had to find inexpensive ways to reward employees and bolster morale during a sales-flattening economic downturn. Her inspirations--such as "Twisted Thursdays," where staffers walked around giving out hot pretzels--did more than keep employees happy; they helped the company become one of the Detroit area's "101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For" in the city's 2001 list.
Many local magazines and business associations are launching "best of" lists that emulate the highly publicized lists sponsored by national magazines. Though winning is the main appeal, there are other benefits to applying. Just filling out the application may reveal where your company is doing well and where it's falling short. Learning about the winners can help you size up your competition for the best local workers.
"The whole purpose is to share best practices in the regional marketplace," says Jennifer Kluge, executive vice president of the Michigan Business and Professional Association, sponsor of the "101 Best" list that included Spring Engineering and Manufacturing.
Case in Point
Your local business school might be able to make your company stronger--if you're willing to spend some time and effort as the subject of a case study or class research project. Ask Gretchen Fox. Fox was a big proponent of flat corporate organizational structures. When it was obvious her company, Fox Relocation Management Corp. of Boston, was growing too fast for her to directly manage every employee and project, she still clung to her "circle of equals" philosophy. It took a group of graduate students at Boston's Simmons College School of Management to change her mind.
Fox agreed in late 1999 to be the subject of a case study in professor Cynthia Ingols' class on organization structure. "It helps to look at your own organization through somebody else's eyes," says Fox. "I saw the positive results of our organization structure, and I saw the disadvantages." Fox took the students' advice and hired project managers.
"In any major metropolitan area, faculty members are looking to do case studies," says Ingols. Particularly popular are marketing, management and business growth studies. Be prepared to spend several three-hour sessions introducing students to your company/industry and giving them a behind-the-scenes tour of your financials and operations.
of private fast-growth companies plan to re-examine their ethics policies and codes of conduct as a result of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
Joanne Cleaver has written for a variety of publications, including the Chicago Tribune and Executive Female.