By: Houston Chronicle
, L.M. Sixel
Welcome to the Houston Chronicle's Top Workplaces edition for 2016.
It's been a difficult year for a metropolitan area in
the throes of an oil recession. Defaults, bankruptcies and layoffs have
made regular headlines, and it hasn't been easy for even healthy
companies to continue offering lavish workplace benefits, such as new
cars, vacations and big bonuses.
"There is an air of uncertainty," said Charis Pollard, chief human resources officer of Associated Credit Union of Texas,
one of the winners in the annual Top Workplaces survey conducted for
the Chronicle by WorkplaceDynamics of Philadelphia. "Everyone can sense
Everyone also knows that some
places to work are better than others, and the top places to work in the
Houston area are determined by the people who most often know the
companies best: employees.
This year, the survey's seventh, WorkplaceDynamics
invited nearly 1,500 companies to participate; 281 chose to participate,
surveying a combined 77,000 workers on the potential for advancement,
working environment and attractiveness of pay and benefits.
The survey found that while there isn't as much
frivolity in offering perks as in years past, companies have tried to
keep old standbys such as backup child care, shorter and more flexible
workweeks, and free flu shots. When there is a hint of fun - like
company-sponsored parties - it's meant to have a purpose, such as
employee recognition or team building. What's particularly important to
employees - and what make a top workplace - are opportunities to improve
skills, advance knowledge and get ahead.
At Associated Credit Union, for example, employees
said they appreciated tuition reimbursement benefits that provide up to
$1,200 a semester for undergraduate courses and $1,700 for graduate
classes. Between 10 and 15 employees take advantage of the program each
semester, and many end up using new knowledge or degrees to move up in
Encompass Home Health, a provider of in-home care
including hospice care, has one of the lowest annual turnover rates in
the industry, about 16 percent compared with 23 percent in the health
care industry as a whole.
Why do employees stay at Encompass? They have a great chance to get promoted.
Nearly three out of four employees have gained
promotions, in large part because Encompass gives them first crack at
supervisory openings, said Wade Berry,
employee relations specialist. The low turnover and experience among
the staff give the health care provider an advantage over competitors at
a time when the federal government is squeezing reimbursements for
Medicare, the health care program for the elderly, Berry said.
Promotions are not the only way companies recognize employees. Last year, Apache
Corp. livened up its annual shareholders meeting by honoring three
employees - much to the surprise of the unsuspecting recipients of the