Best Companies to Work For: 2014
(page 1 of 4)
From the pages of In Business magazine.
There are a variety of ways to evaluate a Best Company, but we prefer to focus on attractive employee benefits packages. Well-run companies approach their benefits offerings with employee recruiting and retention in mind as they develop ways to take care of the people who take care of their customers.
Participating companies that address this in the most affirmative ways are featured in this, our third annual Best Companies presentation. Their generous benefits packages, which contribute mightily to employee-friendly company cultures and comparatively low turnover, advance both company and community alike.
To be certified as a “Best Company,” local employers were asked to share information about their medical benefits, their commitment to wellness and retirement programs, life and disability insurance, the Madison living wage, workforce training, and paid time off.
Each category was assigned a certain number of points to reflect its importance in the overall benefits package, and Best Companies are those that reached 70% of our maximum score. Special congratulations go to top scorers Meriter-UnityPoint Health and CUNA Mutual Group.
We will continue to revise our Best Company survey to reflect best practices and feedback, and we ask organizations interested in the 2015 presentation to wait until Jan. 2, 2015, to fill out the revised survey on IBMadison.com.
Best Companies to Work For
An alphabetical list of the organizations that reached at least 70% of our maximum Best Company score.
■ CUNA Mutual Group
■ Electronic Theatre Controls
■ Exact Sciences Corp.
■ Great Lakes Higher Education Corp. & Affiliates
■ Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin
■ M3 Insurance
■ Madison College
■ Mead & Hunt
■ Meriter-UnityPoint Health
■ National Guardian Life Insurance Co.
■ Perkins Coie LLP
■ QPS Employment Group
■ Research Products Corp. (Aprilaire)
■ Roche NimbleGen
■ Royle Printing
■ Stafford Rosenbaum
■ Strategic Brand Marketing
■ TDS Telecom
■ Terso Solutions
■ Tri-North Builders
■ Turville Bay MRI & Radiation Oncology Center
■ Valicom Corp.
■ WEA Trust
■ Widen Enterprises
Meriter-UnityPoint Health: Mad About Madison
As an employer, Meriter-UnityPoint Health is in an enviable position. When it comes to attracting and retaining employees, its special advantage is Madison’s status as the type of community that medical professionals want to be a part of. Even with the need to take cost out of the care business and the top-line pressure that comes with a low-reimbursement environment, Meriter-UnityPoint has little difficulty attracting and retaining employees with the skills it needs, says Dr. Geoff Priest, Meriter’s interim president and chief medical officer.
Investing in the ongoing development of medical talent like the professionals shown here in Meriter-UnityPoint Health’s Monona Clinic is one of the practices that helped make Meriter this year’s top-scoring “Best Company.”
“I think we’re fortunate because Madison is a great place to work and live,” says Priest. “Other health care systems across the country have reported difficulty with attracting and retaining nurses and other qualified technical staff. We’ve been very fortunate because we’re in Madison, and that helps us attract all the talent we need.”
In building a benefits package, Meriter cannot rely solely on Madison’s status as a “best community” that is highly ranked in multiple quality-of-life measures. That’s because it has to compete with local hospitals to be a best company within the community. Due in part to this competitive pressure, Meriter did not find it particularly challenging to meet the ACA’s employer mandate.
Most of the structural elements, and a good number of the things that insurance companies are now required to offer in their insurance plans, were already in place here. As a result, the organization recorded one of the highest scores on the health insurance, dental insurance, and wellness portions of the Best Company survey.
Priest credits the level of beneficial competition between various local health care systems, which motivates each entity to keep a sharp eye on both clinical and business performance. He concedes that local hospitals still have a ways to go to become more efficient and add more value, but he also thinks Madison is further along than other markets.
“Madison is actually an interesting case study in how health insurance can work and, believe it or not, be more affordable than it is in some other places.”
Actually, a great deal of the credit goes to local institutions of higher learning. The young medical talent produced by UW-Madison, Edgewood College, and Madison College is one of several reasons the health care industry is so strong here, but building a community that people flock to is not just the responsibility of elected officials. It’s something employers must take on as well, and that’s another area where Priest counts his lucky stars, because given the care ethic of medical professionals, it’s easy to get them involved with the philanthropic efforts associated with the Meriter Foundation.
Count Priest among those who believe that corporate altruism, and its influence on fringe benefits such as paid time off for community service, are no longer “nice-to-haves” but “must-haves.” All three of Madison’s hospitals have a strong community mission, and Meriter’s three main philanthropic areas are aligned with its care mission: diabetes, because it’s so far-reaching and has such profound effects; behavioral health, which is part of the mission of Meriter’s child and adolescent facility and its addiction medicine services; and women’s health because Meriter is the largest provider of obstetrical services in the state.
“The people who work in health care generally are highly motivated to be of service to others,” Priest noted, “and I would say that seems to be true across my whole career, from when I went into health care through today. I [recently] oriented a new group of employees, and they’re all cut from the same cloth.”
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, health care organizations are operating in a stressed environment, but Priest isn’t complaining because the law is bringing some overdue changes in the way larger health care systems are structured. Meriter’s 2013 consolidation with the West Des Moines-based UnityPoint Health is a case in point, and Priest believes real cost benefits will materialize over time.
While Meriter is now part of a larger system, Priest is quick to note that it remains a nonprofit, community-based hospital. Nothing was expected to change in terms of Meriter’s governance structure, but with more resources at its disposal as well as similar facilities with which to share best practices and technological capabilities, change is inevitable.
Much of it will be positive. When it comes to replacing retiring baby boomers, health care has the same concerns as other industries, perhaps more so. Not only has Meriter invested in professional development to keep up with the constant churn of new medical knowledge, the organization also is mindful of the need to archive the knowledge that’s about to depart. The hospital has provided reimbursement for professional development and worker training, but programs for both internal talent development and leadership development are another advantage of partnering with a larger entity like UnityPoint.
“There is so much knowledge that’s in the heads of all the people who work here, not just knowledge about [business and clinical] processes and how they work, but technical knowledge about health care,” Priest noted. “Many of the people who work in health care have gone through long periods of training to get here.”