Great Places to Work: Large Companies
Permanent three-day weekends. Temporary assignments in Hawaii. A company trip to the Tour de France. Where do you find a job with perks like that? Right here in the ’Burgh, where happy campers nominated their companies for our first-ever Great Places to Work survey.
Pittsburgh magazine's “Great Places to Work” rankings were compiled by Next Generation Consulting from an anonymous 40-question survey that had to be completed by at least half of a company’s employees.
The survey didn’t differentiate by types of businesses, just size: those with more than 100 employees and those with fewer. Participants had to choose their levels of trust, management, professional development, connections, rewards and life-work balance. To validate the results, the survey also asked if respondents would recommend their company to other job seekers.
Next Generation experts consider a score of more than 80 percent to be exceptional; the lowest score that any of our winners received was a remarkable 87.9 percent.
Here are the five large companies that made the cut. Or, check out the main feature with the small-company winners, honorable mentions and methods to selecting our first "Great Places to Work" honorees.
(left to right) Manu Brahman, director of management information systems; Jen Rogers, consultant; and Matt Putila, manager of architecture and design for E-Systems, attend a development feedback session.
Development Dimensions International
Employees: 600 employees in Canonsburg and Bridgeville with others in 26 countries.
What it is: An international talent-development company.
Primo perk: Summer schedules that give workers their choice of six Friday afternoons off.
Best benefits: College-tuition reimbursement, along with an on-site gym and personal trainer (with membership fees currently waived for employees).
When she was a single mother, senior production associate Tammy Pordash had to juggle the demands of three growing children, expanding work responsibilities and a 50-minute one-way commute to DDI’s headquarters. When this employee, who has now worked for the company for 25 years, asked for help, DDI manned the safety net. “They were so flexible about rearranging my schedule,” she recalls. “At one point, when I didn’t have a babysitter, I worked evenings.”
Now, Pordash works from her Brownsville home two days a week. When she’s in the office, among the perks she appreciates are the summer cookouts, which are organized to benefit the United Way; these events are held on the company patio, which overlooks the rolling hills of Washington County.
Executive assistant Joann Tissue and her colleagues attend a weekly sales meeting.
What it is: A family-owned, financial-planning company with its headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh.
Primo perk: Handwritten thank-you notes from management, along with birthday and new-baby gifts.
Best benefit: Profit-sharing bonus for all, in addition to an annual year-end bonus for all high-achievers that’s awarded at the company’s holiday breakfast.
In this operation, founded in 1948 by Willard Tillotson, two words make the difference: “thank” and “you.”
“I’ve worked for 36 years at some great companies and fascinating places, and I can honestly say that I’ve never been treated as kindly and with such respect as I am here,” says Joann Tissue, an executive assistant who’s worked at Hefren-Tillotson since 2009. “In my first year here, I got 20 handwritten cards of thanks, congratulations and birthday greetings from [company president Kim Tillotson Fleming].”
That’s in addition to gift cards and other surprises. “When employees go on vacation, they might get a gift basket sent to a hotel or a present that says, ‘Have a great time.’ If there’s a death in the family, the office sends flowers and a gift of food to the staffer’s home.” And chairman Tillotson still invites all employees to a summer picnic at his Butler home. “It’s a real old-fashioned occasion,” says Tissue.
Crystal Smith, newsletter coordinator, holds her Pomeranian, Reese.
Employees: 169 total, 117 in the Strip District.
What it is: An e-retailer of cutting-edge women’s apparel, founded by Carnegie Mellon University graduates Eric Koger and Susan Gregg Koger.
Primo perk: Massive employee discounts on ModCloth’s lines from independent and emerging designers.
Best benefit: Stock options in this fast-growing start-up.
“It’s young, it’s friendly, and you can take fashion risks when you come in—it’s awesome,” says 22-year-old Mandy Fierens, an advertising assistant who pinch-hits as a plus-size model for fashion shoots. She loves the casual office space, the feminine vibe and ModCloth’s open-dog policy: Staffers are welcome to bring their canine companions to work. And the company celebrates “Winston Day,” the birthday of the frequent visitor and company pug, with a paid holiday.
“They praise you for what you’ve done. There’s a positive energy that makes you want to work harder,” says Fierens. Combine that energy with outreach to good causes (the holiday party benefited the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh) and opportunities to work from home or to receive continuing-education support, and ModCloth ends up looking both fashion-forward and employee-focused.
Inside Midland’s Wee Care Child Care Center, Annie Hudson, instructional supervisor and virtual teacher, lifts her 8-month old son while her 2-year-old daughter plays nearby.
Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School
What it is: The state’s first K-12 public cyber charter school, with headquarters in Midland, Pa., has an online enrollment of 10,000 students for the 2010-11 school year.
Primo perk: Just like its students, most of the teachers work from home. Some even work from other continents: Italian conversation teacher Tony Mauro teaches virtual classes from his home in Italy.
Best benefit: Opportunities for rapid advancement in a youthful, fast-growing organization.
Talk about a young family: Pennsylvania Cyber Charter’s employees have celebrated the birth of at least 90 babies in the past two years, so many staffers take advantage of its discounted daycare rates. Craig Jeffers, 33, assistant director of the elementary department, says the school makes health a priority: An on-site gym membership is just $20 a month, and the school recently brought in Filipe and Sione Fa, the Tonganese contestants of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” for a wellness-motivation program.
Jeffers has just received his third promotion since joining the school in 2006 and was accepted into its leadership cohort, a two-year professional-development program. With a shared employee mission to promote charter-school choice, “There’s a real feeling of togetherness here,” says Jeffers.
PJ Dick employees enjoy having close-knit relationships with one another.
PJ Dick/Trumbull/Lindy Paving
What it is: A general and highway construction company ranked one of the top general contractors in the United States by Engineering News Record.
Primo perk: A we-are-family vibe that attracts second- and third-generation employees.
Best benefit: Free parking and a full-service fitness center at the company’s new North Shore headquarters.
“Everybody’s raising kids. We all know how that is,” says Joe Catena, vice president of operations for the company. Having worked for PJ Dick/Trumbull/Lindy Paving for 23 years, he loves the close relationships that the privately owned company has fostered.
The father of three says his two sons, both college engineering majors, have had summer jobs with the company. That’s not unusual. “A lot of us are second- and third-generation [employees],” he says.
The company even invites the union foremen they work with to its annual Kennywood picnic, swelling the crowd to nearly 1,500. “We’re a union contractor, and the union guys feel like they work for us. That’s a relationship we like to have,” says Catena.
The Cranberry resident gained a little more family time this year: The company’s recent move from West Mifflin to downtown shaves 15 minutes off of his commute time.
Christine H. O’Toole last wrote about hot college majors for the magazine’s August issue. She considers her home office to be a great place to work.