Beyond Salary: What Makes a Company a Great Place to Work For?

I began working at the early age of 8.  I delivered Thursday’s newspaper beginning at 4 A.M. with the assistance of my dad (who I now appreciate even more).  I brought in a sizable $30 a month – significant at that age.  From that point on, I usually held some form of work: mowing lawns, scout camp counselor, grocery store stocker (the kind that puts the food on the shelves, not follows people around), restaurants, life guard, custodial work, call centers, acting (I was a Jew in a feature film called Yankles – $3.99 on Google Play), voice work, valet parking, and currently a plans representative at an Insurance company (not to be confused as a salesman).  Needless to say, I’ve held quite a few positions and have worked for a number of companies.

As I’ve gotten older, I have taken notice at what makes a great company to work at.  A decent salary is always appreciated, but how about insurance, fitness facilities, appreciation, and just a good fit within the company?  Although you may be demanding a higher salary, do you feel appreciated and fulfilled within your role?  This has been my limited experience as an employee and how I plan to incorporate this knowledge as a future employer.

I currently work at SelectHealth, a not-for-profit insurance company (how does that work??).  My position is a Personal Plans Representative – no that is not a fancy phrase for insurance salesman.  I help people who have questions about insurance plans and help them navigate through the ACA (Affordable Care Act (for those who view it favorably, Obamacare for those who do not)) as it pertains to them.  I took the job for a number of reasons:

  • I needed a job
  • I needed to pay off student loans before I accumulated more loans
  • Furnish my lavish lifestyle – eating large quantities of Costco churros is expensive
  • Commuting to work signified I was actually an adult and not a useless millennial

The main reason was that the position would educate me on the provisions of the Affordable Care Act as it is critical to my future as a healthcare administrator.

During orientation, I learned that SelectHealth was voted as one of the best places to work in Utah, and had received that honor for the past 8 years.  “What is so great about working at an insurance company?” I thought to myself.  During the past 3 months I have been employed, I have come to realize that no matter the industry, a company can make its employees feel valued and special.

Before I continue, I’d like to talk briefly about a former company I worked for.  I won’t use their name, but will only say that they are known for their aggressive sales tactics and were given an F by the Better Business Bureau.  During their orientation, they boasted a company culture similar to Google: free lunches, gyms (critical at this company), parties, volleyball courts, and free swag giveaways.  In theory, this sounded great and should have been a great place to work for me; out of all those things, I love free lunch the most.  So why was it that in the three months I worked there, my anxiety and dread towards going to work prevented me from enjoying my food and just made me sick to my stomach?

This company’s culture works for many of its employees.  Perhaps I am just an anomaly (along with my two friends who joined me when we all quit together).  We took calls on the phone from both customers and representatives.  Many calls were from angry customers.  These calls would often relate to unfulfilled promises, damaged homes, and the occasional disbelief that a rep was attempting to sell to someone’s parent who has Alzheimer’s.  Anything for the sale, right guys?

What was frustrating was that there was such a lack of communication between departments which created so much confusion and inefficiency.  Even more upsetting was that we were unable to tell off these representatives for their blatant errors and dishonesty because they are “the lifeblood of the company.”  I never felt valued or appreciated for the work I was doing and quit as soon as I had another job lined up.

At SelectHealth, I work with agents and brokers (representatives) who are less concerned with how swoll they can look and more concerned with the wellbeing of those they help (nevermind the fact that most are middle-aged family men).  We still deal with the occasional angry member, but more often than not it is due to uncontrollable circumstances (having to get insurance and the price of premiums, #ThanksObama).  We are trained to be completely open with people and if our plans aren’t a good fit for them, we will refer them to other carriers.  It is common to be thanked sincerely at the end of a call, which offers a sense of satisfaction not found from the previous job.

Aside from job responsibilities, SelectHealth goes to great lengths to ensure its employees are satisfied and happy coming to work.  A full gym is provided to employees at a cost of $2.50 per paycheck, however, they provide additional benefits for staying fit such as $50 per quarter.  Even more convenient is that the gym is nearly empty now since most people have given up on their resolutions to be fit (please see Realistic New Year’s Resolutions).

What has impressed me the most is the executive team at SelectHealth.  They realize that each employee makes a difference and contributes to the success of the company.  During my orientation, an executive member came down to speak with us new hires and joined us for lunch.  From her busy schedule, she took 2 hours to come have an enjoyable conversation with new employees.

A few weeks after I began, I received a letter in the mail.  It was directly from the CEO and President of SelectHealth welcoming me to the team. Yes, it was a printed letter that is likely a template for everyone.  But it was addressed to me and personally hand-signed at the bottom.

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A few weeks later around Christmas time, I received another letter in the mail.  This time it was a Christmas letter signed by all the executives of SelectHealth.  As you can see, it isn’t a very personal letter, but I won’t hold it against them since they did this for over 1,400 employees!  How much simpler would it have been to forward a “best wishes” email out to every employee instead?  This attention to detail makes me appreciate the time (and likely cramps) that went in to these letters and appreciation for every employee.

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At the end of the year, everyone received an email explaining that due to the excellent performance of Intermountain Healthcare/SelectHealth throughout the year, each employee would be receiving an end-of-year bonus dependent upon the number of hours worked.  In a world full of executives receiving millions of dollars in bonuses and inflated salaries, how many companies can boast that their CEO receives the same bonus they do?

All of these small examples signify to me how much the company values its employees and the lengths it will go to in order to prove so.  Obviously, each person will determine a great workplace based off of different variables.  Maybe salary is the only factor or perhaps it is job security.  For me, a great workplace comes from receiving praise and appreciation for the work you are doing and knowing that the company appreciates each and every employee; not just those at the top.

PS – I am writing this post during a redeye flight on Southwest Airlines.  I had never flown with them before, but heard how enjoyable and different the experience was from other airlines.  Some things worth mentioning:

  • I tried trading in my pretzels for one more bag of peanuts, what I got was the stewardess dumping a handful of peanut bags on my tray and enthusiastically say “Have four more!”
  • Their safety announcements:
    • “In the case of an emergency and the oxygen masks drop down, please place the “I can’t believe it’s not butter” cup over your mouth first and then any children with you. If you have multiple children, choose your favorite child.
  • Due to unassigned seats, being able to go clear to the back and stretching out on the empty seats beside me

It takes a great company culture to be able to pass the positivity on to its employees.

 

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