Fortunate: Memphis is represented by two on the Fortune magazine list of 100 Best Companies to Work For
Richard J. Alley
In Memphis, everyone knows someone who works in the healthcare industry. Likewise, everyone knows a lawyer. In March, Fortune magazine named two of the largest Memphis employers of medical staff and attorneys to its list of The 100 Best Companies To Work For. Those two companies sit side-by-side on page 152 of the magazine — St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz.
Fortune partnered with Great Places to Work to come up with the best workplaces in the country. Scores were based on the results of the Trust Index Employee Survey, sent to a random sampling of employees from St. Jude and Baker Donelson. “This survey asks questions related to employees’ attitudes about management’s credibility, overall job satisfaction, and camaraderie.” Another part of the score is from responses to the Culture Audit, and its focus on pay and benefit programs, and a series of open-ended questions about hiring practices, methods of internal communication, recognition programs, and diversity efforts.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Though it took St. Jude a couple of tries to find its place on the notable list, this marks the sixth year the hospital has made it. “What we did was we listened to our employees and what they valued and what they were looking for, and over time we were able to make changes,” says Dana Bottenfield, vice president of human resources for St. Jude. “At the end of the day, the reward and the recognition of that is getting on the list. It’s recognizing the efforts the organization has made to truly make it a great place to work and listen to our employees and understand what they value.”
Specifically, the hospital has recognized the high-stress environment many of its employees work in and created ways to relax and celebrate their accomplishments through programs such as employee appreciation days throughout the year.
Another item of importance was a way to increase communication between employees and administration. “We’re constantly trying to come up with new ways for our leaders to get information to our employees,” Bottenfield says, “but one of the things we’re focusing on right now is having more vehicles for our employees to speak to our leadership.” Topics of concern are gathered and voted on with the most prevalent and important being presented at a town hall event with the CEO and supporting groups on hand to field questions.
St. Jude is below the national average when it comes to employee turnover, especially where the healthcare industry is concerned. “Healthcare runs somewhere between 15 and 20 percent, and since right before the economic downturn in 2008, we’ve remained under 10 percent,” Bottenfield says. “The last couple of years we’ve hovered around 7 or 8 percent turnover, which is very low.”
The Fortune list remains a strong recruitment tool as St. Jude searches globally to boost its roster that now stands at 4,300 strong, with plans to grow by 1,000 over the next six years. “Knowing you have an atmosphere that is full of pride, of camaraderie, of communication, and fairness, those are things that appeal to every person, and so us getting on that list is definitely one of the main things we try to leverage in recruitment.”
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz
The law firm of Memphis-based Baker Donelson includes a massive workforce of more than 1,300 spread out across 20 cities, yet the culture of the firm remains consistent from office to office. And it’s this culture that has seen Baker Donelson on the Fortune list for seven years. “In a nutshell, we’re committed to the development and the morale of our people, which empowers them and motivates them to serve our clients, our communities, and each other,” says CEO and chairman Ben Adams.
A lot goes into that. At the top of Adams’ list is strong communication to help everyone understand their role in the mission of the firm so they know that they matter. “We have a number of ways where people can communicate directly,” Adams says. “Every day we have what we call our ‘Daily Docket,’ where groups of folks throughout the firm spend 10 minutes talking about different things going on in the firm, talking about various client service standards that we’d like to highlight, different things going on with our clients. That’s an ideal vehicle where people are together and you get a lot of feedback from that.”
The firm hosts gumbo and chili cook-offs, and a birthday beer car. But there are also programs and initiatives such as eight hours of paid time off to spend in community service, and the firm’s ongoing commitment to pro bono work. These are programs, Adams says, “that let nice people be nice.”
When traveling from office to office, Adams speaks with lawyers and staff about what’s going on in the firm and to learn what questions they may have. This is done at all levels throughout the company. “One of the things I think we’ve done a really good job of is bridging the stratification that occurs in most law firms between lawyers and non-lawyers, between partners and everybody else,” he says. “That is something that is a typical problem in a law firm, sort of a caste system, and I think we’ve done a really good job of blurring those lines and making every person feel like they have a role to play.”
Knowing the importance of that role, and holding its place on the Fortune list, goes a long way to retaining its great people. Being on the list, Adams says, “is an objective outside measurement that we have a great culture.”
View the full list at fortune.com/best-companies.
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