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Bright and early start to EXPO with Best Places to Work breakfast

Awards programs have long been an integral part of the Comcast Mississippi Business & Technology EXPO. The Top 40 Under 40 and Business Woman of the Year luncheons play to packed rooms each year. The programs make the EXPO much more than just a tradeshow.

Again this year, the Best Places to Work Breakfast in Mississippi will kick off the EXPO. It is the EXPO’s newest awards program, first held in 2006. But it has quickly become a popular and much sought-after honor.

The program will be held during the Kickoff Breakfast January 16. The event will begin at 7:30 a.m. in the west bay of the Mississippi Trademart Building. The exhibit floor will open to attendees immediately following the breakfast.

Best Places to Work in Mississippi is a program of the Mississippi Business Journal, offered in partnership with the Southern Research Group (SRG) and the Mississippi Society of Human Resource Management (MSHRM). This year’s sponsors are the Mississippi Development Authority, Trustmark Bank and GranthamPoole, CPAs. Entertainment will be provided by Raphael Semmes Strolling Combeaux.

The keynote speaker will be Mike Wagner, chief commercial officer with SeverCorr, the next-generation steel mill located in Lowndes County. Wagner will present a “virtual” tour of the plant — a nine-minute video that will give attendees a chance to see the inner workings of the steel mill without leaving their seats, according to Wagner.

“I am looking forward to speaking at the Best Places to Work breakfast,” he says. “We chose to locate SeverCorr in Mississippi because we feel the whole state is a great place to work. That’s what I will talk about.”

J. Thomas Grantham Jr., CPA, CFP, ABV, of GranthamPoole says, “Sponsoring this Best Places to Work award, which recognizes other outstanding companies, is an easy choice for GranthamPoole. Our core values are all about taking care of each other within our firm, and taking great care of our clients.”

Trustmark has been as sponsor of the Comcast Mississippi Business & Technology EXPO since the show’s inception.

“When the opportunity was presented to further brand an event within the Business EXPO, Trustmark recognized the Best Places to Work event would be a great opportunity to show our support for Mississippi businesses and their employees,” says Melanie Morgan, Trustmark first vice president of corporate communications.

Melissa Medley, CME, director of marketing and communications the Mississippi Development Authority, says, “MDA proudly sponsors the Mississippi Business Journal Best Places to Work Breakfast as a means of recognizing outstanding Mississippi companies that go beyond simply providing employment — those that create an environment that is engaging, challenging and rewarding for their employees.”

More than recognition

Best Places to Work fits in well with EXPO’s other awards programs, while at the same time offering a departure of sorts. Instead of recognizing an individual, Best Places to Work honors outstanding businesses and organizations. And, rather than based on judges’ opinions, Best Places’ rankings come from grades given on the participating companies by their own employees via a secured Web site that assures anonymity.

Thus, participating entities earn more than an attractive award to take home and a feature in the subsequent Best Places to Work special publication that will come out in the spring. It offers the chance for employers to see themselves through the eyes of their workers, giving them a yardstick to measure where they are excelling as well as areas that perhaps need improvement.

How it works

In addition to the value of the “self-evaluation,” employers and employees alike find the simplicity of the process appealing. Bestplacestoworkinms.com offers everything – an overview, eligibility, selection process, frequently asked questions as well as company registration and employee survey.

(To be eligible, organizations must: be a for-profit or not-for-profit business; be a publicly or privately held business; have a facility in Mississippi; have at least 25 full-time employees in Mississippi; and, be in good standing with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office.)

The process begins with online registration by an authorized company representative. (For those participants lacking Internet access, SRG will supply paper surveys.) After submitting basic information such as name of company, address, phone, etc., this representative is required to write a brief essay on why he or she feels the organization is one of the best places to work in the state. (The essay is used for editorial purposes only and is not part of the selection process.) In total, registration takes only a few minutes to complete. The registration fee is $250, which must be received by SRG prior to the end of the survey period.

That information is submitted electronically to SRG, which responds with a company-specific code that employees can use to take the 10-minute, online multiple-choice survey. This code is received by company-designated primary and alternate contact persons, who will encourage participation and direct employees to the online survey. The contacts also receive a unique and anonymous code for each participating employee to prohibit duplicate entries and unauthorized access.

The employee survey is as fast and simple as registration. The survey asks a range of questions that covers the gamut of workplace experience. It consists of 60 rating-scale questions, two open-ended questions and seven optional demographic questions. These questions are grouped in seven categories – Common Purpose; Culture and Values; Communication and Cooperation; My Department/Team; My Job; Learning and Development; and, Performance and Recognition.

At the end of the survey period, SRG reviews data from all companies that participated and met the criteria to determine the rankings. Winners are then revealed to the program administrators at the MBJ.

Winners are chosen in four size categories: mega-large (500 or more employees); large (200-499 employees); medium (50-199 employees); and, small 25-49 employees). It is these winners, three from each size category, which will be recognized during the January 17 breakfast and spotlighted in the special publication in the spring.

While not all participants will be selected as “winners,” Best Places to Work offers reports on the data received from each company. Two report options are available. One compares all of the participating company’s responses to those of averages for companies in their size category, while the second is more detailed, giving the participating company additional data analysis. The reports cost $325 and $1,325, respectively. (These fees are in addition to the cost of registration.)

It is obviously quite an honor to be named one of the best of the best. Last year’s Best Places breakfast was a sell out, an even more impressive fact when considering that Hurricane Katrina came ashore just as the first Best Places

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at wally.northway@msbusiness.com.launched.

About Wally Northway

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