Pets in the office, recess at work and stock options among benefits of working at Baton Rouge’s Best Places to Work

    Executives with three of the 50 Baton Rouge area firms honored at this morning’s Best Places to Work Awards Breakfast participated in a panel discussion to share their advice on keeping employees engaged, fostering a sense of pride and ownership in the workplace, and giving back to the community.

    Calvin Fabre, president of Envoc—which was named the No. 1 place to work among small- and mid-sized firms—discussed the company’s bring your pet to work day events and the steak dinners he hosts at his home every few months for employees.

    “It’s really about team building and team appreciation. … You’d be surprised—a lot of some great processes will come from that,” Fabre said. “It doesn’t really affect the bottom line, but it’s kind of a reflection of a healthy bottom line.”

    Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz was named as the No. 2 best place to work in the large companies category. Phyllis Cancienne, managing shareholder of Baker Donelson’s Baton Rouge office, said the law firm’s brief daily meetings with all employees help create a team environment and ensure everyone is on the same page. The firm also hosts a “recess at work” event once a month, during which all employees get together for an hour to partake in a healthy group activity such as a scavenger hunt, picnic or walk.

    But ultimately, Cancienne said, fostering an environment in which employees are motivated and productive comes down to one thing.

    “And that’s listening to our employees and taking action on the feedback they give us,” she said, adding the firm routinely conducts an employee survey and develops an action plan based on the results. “So we really listen, and we listen carefully.”  

    Now in its second year, the Best Places to Work Awards program was divided into two categories this year: one for large companies with 250 or more employees, and another for small and mid-sized companies with between 15 and 249 employees. All of this year’s 50 award winners were honored at this morning’s breakfast, with the top three award winners in each category receiving special recognition.

    The breakfast drew more than 700 leading business professionals to the Crowne Plaza and kicked off the Louisiana Business Symposium, presented by Business Report. The symposium continues this afternoon with the Top 100 Luncheon, during which economists Jim Richardson and Loren Scott will unveil the 2016-17 Economic Outlook.

    The top three large companies are YP Marketing Solutions; Baker Donelson; and GeoEngineers. The top three companies in the small- and mid-sized business category are Envoc; Sigma Consulting Group; and Providence.

    GeoEngineers Chairman David Sauls, who also participated in this morning’s panel discussion, said his company conducts a peer review every five years. In the most recent review, he said, the company decided to turn the focus inward more than it had in the past.

    “We spent a lot of time focusing on ourselves, our training programs and culture,” Sauls said, “and that has really paid dividends for us as we have grown.”

    Another way GeoEngineers fosters a sense of ownership in the firm among its employees is a stock purchasing plan that its founder established 35 years ago. Of the company’s 340 employees, Sauls said, 202 own stock in the company, with none allowed to own more than a 6% stake.

    “The end result is it creates a profound sense of ownership,” he said.

    The Best Places to Work Awards are presented by Business Report, the Greater Baton Rouge Society for Human Resource Management and Best Companies Group. Firms selected for the awards must participate in a questionnaire and survey of its employees by Best Companies Group. The results are analyzed and ranked based on eight core focus areas: leadership and planning; corporate culture and communications; role satisfaction; work environment; relationships with supervisors; training, development and resources; pay and benefits; and overall engagement.

    Read Daily Report AM on Thursday for complete coverage on the Best Places to Work rankings, as featured in the new issue of Business Report. And read Daily Report PM today for full coverage of the Top 100 Luncheon. Get info on The Best Places to Work Awards program for 2016.

    —Steve Sanoski

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