10 Best Places to Work

Best Places to Work

 

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Look up from your cube. How much does your office resemble The Office? If you’re afraid of becoming a Dunder Mifflin drone, know that everything from beefed-up 401(K)s to CIA-trained cafeteria chefs to discounted cars could be yours—here. No longer do the best corporate perks come coupled with a cranky commute to the City. Here, is our guide to the top 10 county companies known for keeping their employees happy (and, sometimes, full of free food). Make sure your boss reads this article.

 

By W. Dyer Halpern

Featuring Photography by Philip Jensen-Carter

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Someone at Westchester Magazine must have a good sense of humor,” my friend, James, said when I told him I was writing Westchester Magazine’s first-ever “Best Places to Work” article. “I mean, isn’t it a bit ironic that a guy who spent the better part of the last year unemployed is writing a story on the best places to work?” he (and other so-called friends) asked.  “Quite the contrary,” I replied. “Who better to judge what makes a company a good place than someone who has spent months researching companies that turned out to be bad places to work?” Besides, I had help, I reminded him and all the others. 

 

I had gathered a panel of impressively credentialed experts (see “What We All Really Want” on page 111) and had extracted from them the information we needed to determine what exactly makes a business a great place to spend your 9 to 5—or more likely, nowadays, your 9 to 6 or even 7 or 8. With this knowledge in hand, we went to work, and after three months of calling public relations and human resource offices, faxing and e-mailing surveys, compiling facts and distilling numbers, we had our results. 

So what’d we learn? A good company is—oh no, we don’t want to give it all away. But what we will divulge is that happy employees don’t hesitate to brag about their employer. When they go out, and someone asks them what they do, the first thing they say is, “I work at…(fill in the blank)” and they’re really proud when they say it.

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So, ask yourself: are you proud to tell people where you work, or do you find yourself saying that you “work for a major financial company” or something similar, as if you’re on an evening game show? If telling people the name of your employer doesn’t make you feel good and proud; fear not, we’ve got 10 companies for you to slip your resumé to that will.

 

Morgan Stanley

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE » Top Salary: Not Provided » Domestic Partner Benefits: Yes » Stock Options: Yes » 401(K) Contributions: 100% match on first 6% contributed up to $6,100 » Amount of Health Benefits Covered: Varies by plan » Holidays Recognized: 9 » Personal Days Given: Varies based on division » Sick Days Given: Varies based on division » Vacation Time Given: Up to 6 weeks

 

Morgan Stanley: offices on six continents; more than 57,000 employees worldwide; and $697 billion of client funds under its control. Pretty darn impressive, hey? But what really impresses the crème of the business school crop who work for this industry giant in its Westchester headquarters? “You cannot beat the gym,” says Executive Director Karyn Nordstrom.

The company’s 12,570-square-foot fitness center features 16 treadmills, 19 weight training machines, four upright bikes, three rowers, two Stairmasters, and more than 40 other exercise machines, as well as kickboxing, yoga, and  Pilates classes. There’s also a spin room with 15 bikes. And if all that squatting, lifting, and spinning wears you out (it wore us out just listing the machines), there’s free Gatorade so you can fill up on electrolytes before the opening bell rings on Wall Street. Its modern locker room is stocked with free workout gear, mouthwash, hair gel, and razor blades. And the cost to use the gym? Nadda!

But it’s way more than the gym that landed Morgan Stanley on our “Best Places to Work” list. It’s also the company’s eagerness to provide its employees with opportunities for advancement. “In three years I’ve had three different roles,” Nordstrom says. “Opportunity is offered often.”

And it’s the perks. Morgan Stanley provides access to a free 24-hour nurse hotline staffed with nurses from the Mayo Clinic, and two days a week there’s a chiropractor, masseuse, and podiatrist on-site. The firm also provides free onsite Lamaze classes to pregnant mothers, a sliver baby spoon as a gift when a child is born, and free one-on-one college admissions counseling (Wharton calls!).

 

 

And the company’s vacation and flextime policies. Tenured employees receive up to six weeks of paid time off a year, and those employees who work 20 hours or more per week are eligible for flextime, job-sharing, compressed work-weeks, and telecommuting.

In addition, the Wall Street colossus tries to be a good neighbor—something its employees are proud of. “I love this company for the community service work it does,” declares Mandell Crawley, executive director of Fixed Income Sales, who was on hand when the firm donated $12 million to the Harlem Children’s Zone, a non-profit organization that helps improve the quality of life for poor children and families in New York City. The firm will match up to $2,000 of any of its
1,800 Westchester employee’s charitable donations.

Lest you think a global-financial leader like Morgan Stanley doesn’t have a sense of humor, consider that Westchester employees “put their CEO John Mack in a dunk tank last year,” Nordstrom says smiling. Well, in all fairness, what else are employees supposed to do when the company has a traveling carnival—fried dough, roller coaster, Ferris wheel and all—stop by?

 

» From Tragedy

To Opportunity

 

 

As the largest inhabitant of the Twin Towers, Morgan Stanley was faced with some daunting problems after the tragedies of September 11th.  Needing to relocate and rebuild, the world’s second largest securities firm purchased the 750,000-square-foot Skidmore, Owings & Merrill-designed former Texaco headquarters in Harrison. “The firm really wanted to create a campus atmosphere,” says Mandell Crawley, executive director of Fixed Income Sales.

And what a campus it picked. The new World headquarters of the firm’s Global Wealth Management Group features an on-site tennis court, an on-site basketball court, and a 1.25-mile walking trail. Inside, there is a 500-seat cafeteria (with an additional 185 seats on an outside patio) where the company invites a sushi chef to cook twice a week.

And as a good green neighbor, Morgan Stanley launched a thermal ice-storage energy initiative, creating massive chunks of ice at night that are used to regulate temperature in the building. The benefit of doing this is equivalent to removing 271 cars from county roads per year. It also built a television studio and transformed one of the building’s three atriums into a 1,000-person trading floor.  The company also renovated the building’s 300-seat auditorium, and added a public art display featuring paintings on loan from the Neuberger art collection.  Add this to the private executive elevators and 1,400-car indoor garage (plus 1,100 outdoor spaces), and you’ve got a building that itself has become a recruitment tool.

 

 

Stew Leonard’s

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE » Top Salary: $90,000 » Domestic Partner Benefits: Not as of yet » Stock Options: Not applicable » 401(K) Contributions: 50% match on first 6% contributed » Amount of Health Benefits Covered: 95%, for hourly full-time employees » Holidays Recognized: See Vacation Time  » Personal Days Given: See Vacation Time » Sick Days Given: See Vacation Time » Vacation Time Given: Up to 37 days which can be used as holidays, personal days, or sick days

 

You don’t just work at Stew Leonard’s—you join the Leonard “family.” And like most good, caring families, the Leonard clan—678 members strong in its Yonkers location alone—takes good care of one another. 

 

The family is headed by 52-year-old President and CEO Stew Leonard, Jr, who is so admired that employees, known as “team members,” hug him (honest!) whenever he enters the 120,000-square-foot store. (For those who’ve never been to Stew Leonard’s—and, seriously, what’s wrong with you?—it’s a huge grocery store filled with fresh and prepared foods, animatronic cows that sing, and costumed animals that make taking your kids shopping tolerable, if not actually enjoyable.  And if you can’t get to Yonkers, fear not, the mini-chain has three other locations: Danbury and Norwalk, Connecticut; and a newly opened store in Newington, Connecticut) “Stew is not like the average boss,” says Lynne O’Brien, a “team leader” in the meat department. “You can go and talk to him about anything. People are actually happy to see him.” 

 

Happy—and, apparently, pretty healthy. At least the company tries to make it easier for its employees to maintain good health. Last winter, the company rewarded its butchers, bakers, grocers, sushi makers (and so on) with $50 in “benefits bucks” for participating in the company’s wellness program (which is run multiple times each year). Employees can put the money towards their medical-insurance deductibles and co-pays. Employees also were rewarded for partaking in cholesterol screenings, undergoing blood-pressure monitoring, and attending nutrition seminars.  To date, more than 1,142 staffers have participated in wellness events (some multiple times). Stew Leonard’s also partners with its insurance company to provide employees discounts to fitness centers and weight-loss clinics.

 

 

When it comes to food, Stew Leonard’s makes grabbing a bite anytime of the day a snap. Employees have their own “Calf-eteria,” where the refrigerators are stocked with milk and fruit drinks; fresh bagels and snacks are available for free; and the coffee is brewing whenever the lights are on.  Managers are treated to a free lunch every day from the store’s hot and cold buffet. But the Calf-eteria is not only for dining; there’s also a TV, video games, and four computers so that anyone can quickly shoot a friend an e-mail or schedule vacation time online.

 

And come Thanksgiving—it’s a free fresh turkey for everyone. During the holidays, the company holds a formal dinner and dance party—and not only for current employees and their spouses but also for retirees and their spouses. In fact, the company seems to embrace its employees’ families. Every year, it sponsors a “Take Your Child to Work Day” and a “Take Your Dog to Work Day” (with a dog parade). The company also throws an annual picnic complete with steak and lobster. It also subsidizes tuition costs—up to $3,000 a year. 

 

Stew Leonard’s supervisors and managers are encouraged to show appreciation, to say nice things about a job well done. This show of appreciation can be a “moo note” (a yellow slip of paper describing in detail an employee’s good work and with it a coupon for a free lunch), to Cashier Mary Marjieh for taking the time to interact with the children in the store. Or it can be a note to Richard Cervellone, a junior accounting clerk, for manning a cash register when things got crowded. (Stew Leonard’s doesn’t do long lines.) The company also publishes a newspaper—every day—that publicizes staffers’ accomplishments. Other accomplishments are noted in regularly scheduled 10-minute “department huddles” (yes, everyone puts their arms around each other, while each takes turns cheering what everyone’s been doing right). And just in case. . .the company conducts an internal survey every 18 to 24 months to learn from its employees what it can do better. “Good systems back up good attitude,” says Leonard, Jr.

No wonder Stew Leonard’s turnover rate is low: 7 percent in an industry where the standard rate is more than three times that, 25 percent. (FYI: we are not the only magazine to name Stew Leonard’s a top place to work. Fortune Magazine has named the company one of the country’s “best places to work” for the past six years.) “I come into work and get a kiss hello,” says Kathy Amdur, who works in the meat department. “Everyone makes you feel warm from the top down every day.”  Add that to the animatronic cows, and you’ve got one moooo-cho nice place to spend your working hours.

 

» How We Came Up with Our List of Companies

 

 

 

To create the survey that produced the results in this article, we enlisted the help of three business scholars (see “What We All Really Want,” page 111).  With their input, we came up with a 25-question survey that asked companies about four areas of business life: employee compensation, employee life, community involvement, and corporate structure.  We faxed or e-mailed the survey to more than 300 local businesses whose names we compiled from our own “Westchester Business Directory” or added as notable omissions from that list. We did everything we could to get the surveys to the right people within each organization. (If we somehow omitted your company, let us know, and we’ll contact you next time we take on this task.) Once we received the surveys back, we compared them and chose 10 that stood out—with great perks, wonderful benefits, terrific work environments, and just all-around marvelous places to work. We followed up with interviews, and the rest is history.

 

 

MasterCard Worldwide

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE » Top Salary: $900,000 » Domestic Partner Benefits: Yes » Stock Options: Yes » 401(K) Contributions: 100% match on first 6% contributed » Amount of Health Benefits Covered: Approximately 75% » Holidays Recognized: 8 » Personal Days Given: 5 » Sick Days Given: Exempt employees may take them as needed. Non-exempt employees receive 10, five can be used for family » Vacation Time Given: 2-4 weeks

 

Imagine a workplace where you can lift weights, do some crunches, or practice your Downward Facing Dog. A workplace where you can wash up, get freshly laundered towels, blow-dry your hair, and leave your sweaty gym clothes for someone else to launder. A workplace where you can cash a check, drop off your prescriptions at a “pharmacy concierge,” lunch on fresh sushi, and buy cards and gifts at the company’s convenience store.

 

If you are one of the more than 1,000 employees who work at MasterCard’s worldwide headquarters in Purchase, you don’t have to imagine; you’re already there.

Indeed, if it weren’t for the work thing—you know, analyzing, researching, computing, strategizing, planning, and thinking—MasterCard might seem like a resort (employees can, after all, enjoy massages, manicures, and haircuts at the company salon). Or, perhaps, it’s more like a little village, the heart of which is a breathtakingly gorgeous I.M. Pei-designed building with three-story-tall, sky-lit atriums and streams of running water. Linda Kirkpatrick, vice president of Investor Relations, sees MasterCard’s building as a “picturesque campus rather than a corporate office.”

 

 

But, of course, it is a workplace. So above the airy, light-filled atriums, men and women compute, research, analyze, etc., for which they earn anywhere from $29,000 to $900,000 a year. But it’s not the salary that has so wowed us (though earning close to a million a year ain’t bad). It’s the perks, like (show this list to your boss):

 

î®        a health center staffed by two full-time nurses;

î®        a 5,300-square-foot fitness center with four Quinton treadmills, two Precor cross trainers, two Stairclimbers, one LifeFitness Cable Crossover, and 15 LeMond Revmaster spin bikes;

î®        a nearly 12,000-square-foot cafeteria serving hot and cold breakfasts and lunches;

î®        a company store that provides shoe shine and repair service, dry cleaning and alternations, and photo development;

î®        and a full-service ATM as well as a real live bank teller on duty four hours a day.

 

And that’s not all (make sure your boss keeps reading)­. As many working parents know, finding good—let alone convenient—childcare can be awfully difficult. MasterCard has partnered with two major childcare providers that offer childcare near the office or employees’ homes.

 

Want to go back to school? MasterCard reimburses up to $7,500 a year of pre-approved graduate and undergraduate courses that are job- or business-related. Want to join the company but live far away? No problem. MasterCard pays relocation expenses, includes a relocation allowance, and offers home-finding help. And if you happen to be breastfeeding and need a private place, MasterCard has taken care of that too, with a—that’s right—lactation room.

 

Then there are the discounts on: books (an extra 5 percent) and shipping (free on orders over $25) from Barnesandnoble.com; Brooks Brothers clothes (15 percent off); mortgage (.25 percent of your loan contributed towards buying down the rate or $500 towards closing costs); Dell computers (up to 10 percent off), plus Apple products; and Somers Pointe Golf Club (50-percent discount on standard initiation fees and reduced fees for annual membership). Oh yes, if you’d like, you can always join a MasterCard corporate sports team—perhaps play volleyball or maybe soccer. (Is your boss weeping yet? Are you?)

 

But even when employees are not enjoying the lifestyle of the well-off and the comfortable and actually get down to work, for many at MasterCard, there’s yet more reason to be happy. “Everyone who worked here on the day we went public got a ‘Founder’s Grant’ and now owns stock in the company,” says Meg Drago, group executive for Global Human Resources.

 

             

» What I.M. Pei Can Do for a Business

 

 

The mastercard connection  with Westchester began a little over a decade ago when the global credit-card giant moved to its sprawling campus just north of White Plains.  And, says Meg Drago, group executive for Global Human Resources, “the company didn’t want to lose employees when it moved.”  So instead of choosing a blasé office building to house its worldwide headquarters, it purchased the 450,000-square-foot I.M. Pei landmark formerly owned by Nestlé and IBM.  The building spans 48 acres and is “based on a geometry of interlocking circles, triangles, and squares.”  The front of the building features a three-story atrium and inside the complex almost every wall is made of glass.

Drago reports that the space is a huge asset to the company when it’s recruiting.  Recruits are simply awed. And because the building is full of light, it helps keep morale high. The big atriums are also a boon to the company.  It can throw spectacular parties on-site—and it does, celebrating holidays and company accomplishments. Plus, you can’t beat the location. The complex borders the Hutch, I-287, and I-684.  It’s also close to various Metro-North stations and the Westchester Airport.  As Drago says, “We get to show the world Westchester”­—in a most impressive way.

 

 

New York Life Insurance Company

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE » Top Salary: Not provided » Domestic Partner Benefits: Yes » Stock Options: Not Applicable » 401(K) Contributions: 100% match on first 3% contributed (after 1 year of service) » Amount of Health Benefits Covered: 80% » Holidays Recognized: 10 » Personal Days Given: 2 » Sick Days given: 7 » Vacation Time Given: 2-5 weeks

 

 

Which of the following would you most like to have available at your job: 

(a) basketball and tennis courts

(b) an on-site daycare center

(c) a café featuring a Starbucks menu 

(d) a moat filled with koi. 

 

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