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Best Places to Work in Mississippi a valuable tool

What makes some companies good places to work and others not so good? Pay? Benefits? Freedom? Recognition? Employer attitude? All these things play a role. How does management know what their employees think about them and the company? And, finally, why should anyone care?

Trying to define what makes a good place to work is difficult, if not impossible. Adopting employee-friendly policies on paper is a good start. But, if managers treat employees with disdain and begrudgingly allow them to benefit from company policies, all is for naught.

Alternatively, many fine places to work have few written policies and make personnel decisions on the fly. Employees can sense the mood of management and know whether they are appreciated or not.

Last year, we inaugurated a new program called Best Places to Work in Mississippi. It met with such enthusiasm in the business community that we’re doing it again this year. In fact, we’ve made it a permanent arrow in our quiver of recognition programs and the floor is now open for nominations.

How do you find out if your place is a good place to work? Hey, no need for rocket science here. You just ask the employees. And, you ask the employees in a confidential way that assures them there will be no retribution for their honest answers.

For our program, Southern Research Group handles the polling, compiles the research and ranks the contestants. Our other key partner is the Society of Human Resource Management. Its members assist during the registration phase of the program.

Looking inward

Just to check out the program first hand, we participated last year. We learned how to better manage our company by paying attention to what our employees said about working here. To be quite candid, some of the results surprised us.

For instance, we scored above average on being a successful company and our employees say they’re proud to work here. Well, that’s off to a good start. Then it got a little murky. We scored below average on having a clear vision for where we’re going, but our staff strongly believed in what we’re trying to accomplish. Even if they don’t understand our vision, they feel that we’re moving toward it. Huh? Maybe we should put copies of our strategic plan in the break room.

We got dinged for having lousy communication and interdepartmental cooperation. In our defense, I’ve never known a newspaper with strong cooperation between the various departments. Unlike most companies, newspapers have two customers, readers and advertisers. At times, the needs of these two customer groups are at odds. Conflict is inevitable. As for lousy communication, well, that’s an area we’re working to improve.

We really rated high on offering our employees the freedom and flexibility to do their jobs effectively. I’m proud of that finding. Of all the many things I have been accused of over the past three decades, micromanaging has not been a criticism. After all, how can you micromanage when you’re gone deer hunting all the time?

Find out for yourself

Want to know what your employees really think about working for you? Here’s your chance to find out. Participate in the program and, if you’re really a great place to work, get the recognition you deserve. Participants can get a detailed report from Southern Research that will provide tons of useful information on areas of strength and weakness. The cost of obtaining the report is less than a consultant would charge for meeting you for breakfast.

Winners from last year are: Adams and Reese, LLP; BankPlus; Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada; Coast Electric Power Association; Community Bank; Eagle Ridge Conference and Training Center; Enterprise Rent A Car; GranthamPoole; Gulf Coast Community and Federal Credit Union; NetworkStreaming; Nucor Steel Jackson Inc.; and Viking Range Corp.

Now they know what their employees think about them and they’re better prepared to capitalize on their strengths and improve on their weaknesses. They have also gained prestige from the recognition of providing excellent corporate climates.

Details for participating are on page two in this week’s Mississippi Business Journal, or you can go to the Web site at http://bestplacestoworkinms.com. It’s time to get going if you want to participate in the Best Places to Work program this year.

Thought for the Moment

Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.
— writer H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Joe D. Jones, CPA (retired), is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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