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2018 Top Workplaces: Building a diverse and inclusive workplace is more than just a cliche for these companies

BZ11TPCOVERILLODiversity and inclusion. They’re more than just catchwords repeated in human-resources training sessions.

That’s particularly true now, as sexual harassment scandals rock the corporate, entertainment and government worlds, and the #MeToo movement pushes for all voices to be heard. Diversity and inclusion are critical elements that every employer should be actively incorporating and building upon in their organizational culture, according to workplace experts.

At American Financing in Aurora, 37 percent of the 365 employees are members of minority groups and many
managers are women, CEO Damian Maldonado said. Maldonado and his wife Gabie, who started the company together in 1999, take pride in the diversity of their workforce.

They make sure that all employees are given opportunities for advancement, Maldonado said.

Employees “want to feel they can move up. We hire people as customer service reps,” he said. “They’re not licensed. Within six months to a year we help them get their licenses.”

Terms like diversity and inclusion are broader than commonly perceived, experts say.

Using effective hiring practices, an organization can ensure that a certain number of employees are minorities, older and gay workers, or members of other underrepresented groups. But there is more to building an inclusive workforce than just checking off boxes, said Kimberly Searfoorce, a consultant with the Denver-based nonprofit Employers Council.

Companies that hire a diverse pool of employees must also take steps to eliminate unconscious bias that can stifle inclusivity. A truly inclusive workforce should include those who bring different viewpoints, backgrounds and even personalities, Seafoorce said.

“We tend to pick people we are like. A huge part of diversity and inclusion is challenging our biases,” she said. “People are unwilling to talk about bias because they think it’s bad. They feel guilty, but we all have unconscious bias.”

Participants in this year’s Top Workplaces survey certainly take diversity and inclusion seriously. Many cited the words as core values in describing their corporate cultures. And that’s not just good for employees, it’s good for business.

“Our diversity and teamwork make for an atmosphere where collaboration, contributions and innovative ideas are valued,” T-Mobile said.

AURORA, CO - APRIL 5: Full time massage therapist Shirley Ruybal, left, works on giving a massage to Zaida Ortiz during a break in Ortiz' day at  American Financing on April 5, 2018 in Aurora, Colorado.  Owners Damian and Gabie Maldonado started this financing business in 1999 and have grown the company to over 400 employees.  They believe in the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. They say it is more than just racial and ethnic diversity but diversity of ideas and perspectives that help to create an atmosphere in which different people feel comfortable and empowered. As well they believe in a workplace that people want to be in offering free daily massages to staff, a full kitchen, ping pong tables and other games, comfortable seating areas, coffee and water available all day and other amenities that make it an enjoyable environment in which to work.  (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
Full-time massage therapist Shirley Ruybal, left, works on giving a massage to Zaida Ortiz during a break in Ortiz’ day at American Financing on April 5, 2018 in Aurora, Colorado. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

“We draw strength from diversity,” U.S. Bank said.

Employees also rated diversity and inclusion highly in their comments. “I get to work with smart, dynamic, diverse people every day,” a Slalom employee said.

But diversity isn’t enough by itself, experts said. Companies can create a diverse workforce and lose it if some employees feel undervalued and have little advancement opportunity, Searfoorce said.

Once the employee is on board, it is important they have the same access to professional development and other opportunities as others in the organization.

Rather than considering a range of employees, managers often promote those who are most like themselves.

To avoid that outcome, companies should provide training to help managers recognize their biases and get beyond them, said Andrea Denison, a human resources client advocate with outsourcing firm G&A Partners.

Some larger companies, such as Google, bring in speakers from minority groups to help educate employees about the challenges those groups face in the workplace, Denison said.

Small changes can help those whose backgrounds differ from those of their colleagues feel more comfortable.

Denison suggests giving employees floating holidays so those who want to celebrate a holiday that is outside the American mainstream can take off.

Seating arrangements can force personnel to mix with those they don’t closely work with. “It’s hard to dislike someone or a group once you get to know them,” she said.

What employers are saying

In describing their workplace culture, many of the employers participating in The Denver Post’s  2018 Top Workplaces described their commitment to diversity and inclusion:

Accenture — “We have an underlying belief in inclusion and diversity. The diversity of our people is part of what makes Accenture exceptional.”

Alliance Data — “It’s all rooted in our culture one that embraces inclusion and diversity.”

American Financing — “Minority-owned, family-owned, extremely diverse.”

City of Arvada — “We value our diversity.”

LPR Construction — “A diverse workforce consisting of employees who have been with LPR from the beginning to new folks.”

Mental Health Center of Denver — “We value strengths, diversity and new ideas. ”

OppenheimerFunds — “Values the talented and diverse workforce we have cultivated over the years.”

Progressive Insurance — “Our culture encourages diversity of thought and inclusion through employee referral programs.”

Team Select Home Care — “To always maintain a friendly, fair, fun and creative work environment, which respects diversity, new ideas and hard work!”

Xactly — “The importance of strong employee engagement, diversity, equality and culture.”

What employees are saying

Asked what they love about their jobs, dozens of employees mentioned the culture of diversity and inclusion:

2U — “The camaraderie — the diversity — the varying personalities.”

Accenture — “The culture of respect and inclusiveness is real and makes all the difference.”

Alliance Data — “Diversity, training, caring — they give you the opportunity to excel.”

BG Buildingworks — “No. 1 is the people — diverse personalities, experiences/backgrounds, skills, goals, motivations.”

HomeAdvisor — “I have never been working for a company that has provided such a diverse comfortable culture.”

Hunter Douglas — “The environment and diversity.”

Lohmiller and Co. — “There are many different diverse people that work here — experience, age, etc.”

MGA Home Healthcare — “The environment is free-spirited and inclusive.”

Mortenson Construction — “We’re diverse and resilient.”

OppenheimerFunds — “Developing … strategies … to become more diverse and inclusive as a firm and to understand how that directly impacts our clients.”

Progressive Insurance — “The people I work with are amazing and diverse. Everyone is different, and those differences are celebrated.”

RingCentral — “The inclusive environment and forward-thinking leadership.”

Rose Medical Center — “Promotes a culture of respect, inclusion and warm interactions.”

T-Mobile — “Pay is great, treated like a real person; flexible and diverse.”

UCHealth — “Working with different individuals with positive work ethic, diversity, and who respect the code of conduct make every day worthwhile.”

U.S. Bank — “I am appreciated. The company is diverse.”

Velocity Global — “Our company culture is very inclusive and many of my co-workers are my best friends.”

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Gabie and Damian Maldonado pose for ...
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
Gabie and Damian Maldonado pose for a portrait in the offices of their company American Financing on April 5, 2018 in Aurora, Colorado. The couple started their financing business in 1999 and have grown the company to over 400 employees. They believe in the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

Top Large Workplace 2018: Breckenridge Grand Vacations offers much more than great views

Breckenridge Grand Vacations employees work in visually stunning surroundings but face sky-high housing costs.

So it may be a bit surprising that the Summit County-based company took first place among large companies in The Denver Post’s Top Workplaces 2018 survey.

“Its hard to have a happy work force when there are so many challenges to living up here,” said Ginny Vietti, BGV’s vice president of marketing.

Vietti credits a robust training program for managers, a corporate culture that provides a high degree of autonomy and benefits that include three paid days off each year that workers can use to do volunteer work for charity organizations.

Top Workplaces 2018 – View the full list

The company, which develops, sells and manages fractional ownership resorts in Breckenridge, has 540 employees spread over eight resorts in the ski town.

“I am making a difference in the community and at work,” one GBV employee who participated in the Top Workplaces survey commented. “I am given the flexibility and support to do my job without being micro-managed. I am supported in the decisions that I make. If I need help, there is always an abundance of people offering to assist.”

The company allows those who work directly with customers to make important decisions. For example, “They come to the manager and say ‘I intend to give (someone) a room upgrade and this is why, and this is how much it will cost,’ ” said Vietti.

Among popular benefits is an annual wellness fair during which employees and their families can receive a blood draw that screens for high cholesterol and other problems. Employees who get blood drawn receive $50.

The company received special recognition for appreciation, based on this question: What makes you feel appreciated at this company? “My managers are always quick to point out when I’ve done a good job at something or taken initiative, even when it’s something small. They constantly encourage us to feel empowered and make decisions that will create GRAND vacations,” one employee responded.

BRECKENRIDGE, CO - FEBRUARY 06: Skiers and riders head down the slopes next to the Rocky Mountain SuperChair adjacent to The Grand Colorado on Peak Eight resort managed by Breckenridge Grand Vacations February 06, 2018. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)
Andy Cross, The Denver Post
Skiers and riders head down the slopes next to the Rocky Mountain SuperChair adjacent to The Grand Colorado on Peak Eight resort managed by Breckenridge Grand Vacations February 06, 2018. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Completing the top five workplaces with 500 or more employees:

2. Edward Jones

At Edward Jones’ branch offices, administrators, financial advisers and home office associates eventually can opt into the limited partnership and hold an ownership stake that grants them a share in firm revenue.

The St. Louis-based financial advisory firm has a Colorado employee headcount of 761 spread across 338 locations.

Financial advisors are pleased with the autonomy the Fortune 500 company grants and praise a supportive environment, training opportunities and oversight needed to reach their goals.

“I am in charge of my destiny here, I have lots of flexibility to run my branch as long as it’s ethical and legal,” one said.

Edward Jones devotes 24 percent of net profits annually $171 million in 2016 to profit sharing for associates employed six months or more who work at least 20 hours weekly.

“As a limited partner, I take great pride in coming to work every day,” one commented.

Benefits include paid parental leave, bonus potential and generous financial benefits.

Branch associates enjoy flexible schedules that include compressed workweek options, telecommuting, job sharing, voluntary unpaid leave and sick leave to care for ill family members.

Some of those surveyed commented on a culture that features high ethical standards. “There is no company I’ve ever been associated with who truly has as much integrity from the top of the organization down,” one said.

3. USAA

USAA which offers integrated financial services — retirement, insurance, investments and banking — to armed service members, veterans and their families, is on the Top Workplaces list for the fourth time this year.

The San Antonio, Texas-based company employs 1,889 of its 32,000-member national work force at its campus in Colorado Springs.

Employees give the company high marks for good pay, top-shelf benefits and for laser-like focus on its military customers.

USAA’s Zero Day PT provides employees with a 3-hour experience that simulates taking part in the military’s first day of basic training.

The experience bolsters the company’s slogan, “we know what it means to serve.”

“I love that there is a sharply defined mission and USAA is very focused on why we exist,” one commented.

“Great work, smart people, rock solid company that I don’t have to worry about financially,” said another.

4. Pinnacol Assurance

This is the second year that Pinnacol, which was formed in 1915 and provides workers’ compensation coverage for Colorado companies, has made the Top Workplaces list.

A quasi-public authority, Pinnacol serves 56,000 Colorado businesses.

Pinnacol employees surveyed praise a positive work environment, flexible scheduling and work-at-home options as well as a suite of benefits that include on-site wellness and fitness classes. The company also provides up to $5,250 per year for graduate and undergraduate classes.

“I am provided with the proper tools and education needed to perform my duties efficiently and accurately, which makes me feel successful,” one wrote. “I am so grateful for the flexibility to work from home and keep a healthy work/life balance.”

“I have opportunities to learn while working with a wide variety of talented, professional coworkers who care deeply about what we do,” said another.

5. Progressive Insurance

Progressive employs 1,837 of its 33,000-member workforce in Colorado.

The Mayfield Village, Ohio-based company provides employees with onsite health clinics, farmers markets, fitness centers and fitness programming/special events for those on larger campuses like the one in Colorado Springs.

Survey respondents gave the company credit for offering opportunities to grow, a collegial staff, flexible scheduling and effective web-based and in-classroom training.

“I am encouraged to be the best version of myself and rewarded for it,” said one. “When Progressive has a new way and more efficient way to do things that creates a better customer experience and helps Progressive towards the goal of becoming the number one insurance company, they spend time and testing to find what works best and then Progressive trains the associates.”

The company encourages diversity of thought and inclusion through employee referral programs. “I get to see first hand how much Progressive values finding great people to work here — the commitment to the employees is real and strong,” one employee wrote.

BRECKENRIDGE, CO - FEBRUARY 06: Grand Vacations CEO, owner and developer, Mike Dudick behind the bar at The Grand Colorado on Peak Eight resort managed by Breckenridge Grand Vacations February 06, 2018. Mike serves up cocktails once a week at the owner's happy hour at the resort. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)
Andy Cross, The Denver Post
Grand Vacations CEO, owner and developer, Mike Dudick behind the bar at The Grand Colorado on Peak Eight resort managed by Breckenridge Grand Vacations February 06, 2018. Mike serves up cocktails once a week at the owner’s happy hour at the resort. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

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Seventh annual survey gives employees a chance to rate their workplaces

On the road to success, organizations need to know where they are. That’s the motivation behind the annual Top Workplaces survey, which gives employees the chance to rate their workplaces.

“Becoming a Top Workplace isn’t something organizations can buy,” said Doug Claffey, CEO of Energage. “It’s an achievement organizations have to work for.”

For the seventh year, The Denver Post has partnered with Philadelphia-based Energage, formerly WorkplaceDynamics, the employee research and consulting firm, to determine Colorado’s Top Workplaces based solely on employee survey feedback.

Starting in September, The Post welcomed anyone to nominate companies as Top Workplaces. In all, 1,644 employers in the region were invited to take the employee survey. Any employer was eligible, as long as it had at least 50 employees in Colorado. Employers could be public, private, nonprofit or governmental. There is no cost to enter the Top Workplaces program.

Top Workplaces 2018 – View the full list

In all, 226 organizations agreed to take the survey. Combined, they employ 87,988 people in Colorado. Of those employees who received questionnaires, 54,880 responded, either on paper or online. For 2018, 150 Colorado employers scored well enough to earn recognition on the Top Workplaces list.

The employee survey gathers responses on 24 factors covering seven areas, including organizational health factors that measure how well employees are working together toward a common cause:

  • Alignment – where the company is headed, its values, cooperation
  • Effectiveness – doing things well, sharing different viewpoints, encouraging new ideas
  • Connection – employees feel appreciated, their work is meaningful
  • My Manager – cares about concerns, helps learn and grow

In addition, the survey asks employees about other factors:

  • Employee Engagement – motivation, retention and referral
  • Leader – confidence in company leadership
  • The Basics – pay, benefits, flexibility, training, expectations

Statements relating to “Connection” and “Alignment” are consistently judged most important to employees, while statements about pay and benefits rate least important for workplace satisfaction.

Smaller employers tend to score higher than midsize employers, and midsize employers tend to score higher than large employers. Employers are ranked among groups of similar size to most accurately compare results. Within those size groupings, companies are ranked, and those that score high enough are recognized as Top Workplaces. Energage also determines special award winners based on standout scores on specific areas of the survey.

Why aren’t some companies on the list? Perhaps they chose not to participate or did not score high enough based on the survey results. To ensure organizations are accurately administering the survey, Energage runs statistical tests to look for questionable results. Sometimes, it disqualifies employers based on those tests.

To participate in the 2019 program, just go to www.denverpost.com/nominate.

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