Best Employers in Middle Tennessee 2010

Our annual program designed to honor the companies in the Music City that show a dedication to employee growth, development and quality of life [From the July/August issue of Nashville Post magazine]

The Best Companies Group has analyzed detailed information provided by numerous Nashville area companies and has in concert with Nashville Post created its annual Best Employers list for the Middle Tennessee region.

Ranking the Music City area’s best employers begins with an open invitation for any qualifying organization to enter the pool of nominees. (Editor’s note: Selections are not confined only to submitting companies.) Each organization is asked to complete a lengthy questionnaire capturing detailed information regarding the organization’s human resource practices, organization policies and procedures, organization culture and a wide range of demographic information.

The competition is fierce as Nashville-area businesses grow in strength and numbers, but the best of the best have been narrowed down and ranked. The Middle Tennessee list is broken down into separate categories for small and medium-sized companies consisting of 25 to 199 employees, and larger companies employing more than 200 individuals.

The following companies stand out as the best employers in the Nashville region.

BEST LARGE EMPLOYERS (200+ employees)

1. Pinnacle Financial Partners
Terry Turner
President & CEO
www.pnfp.com

Pinnacle’s banking, insurance and investing products are designed for clients ranging from real estate professionals and small to mid-sized businesses to individuals seeking a broader relationship with their financial institution.

COMMUNICATION

Pinnacle’s flat organizational structure makes it rare for there to be more than two levels between members of the leadership team and associates, avoiding communication issues often associated with top-down organizations. Managers are spread out in offices to enhance communication. CEO Turner writes a company blog, posting several times each week about specific Pinnacle issues and broader topics like the global economy. Monthly leadership council meetings are open to all associates, and weekly adviser meetings aim to determine Pinnacle’s future.

RECOGNITION

A company survey revealed that 85% of employees claim to be recognized for good work on a regular basis.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Pinnacle does not accept applications but chooses its new employees from Pinnacle associate recommendations. Nearly 90% of Pinnacle employees surveyed said they had opportunities to learn and grow professionally in the last year through myriad programs.

THE EXTRA YARD

The company evaluates its associates to ensure a healthy balance between work and family life.

2. National Association of State Boards of Accountancy
David A. Costello
CEO
www.nasba.org

NASBA administers the CPA exam and licenses all CPAs nationwide (and in some foreign countries).

COMMUNICATION

Employees attend semi-annual lunches in small groups with CEO Costello where he discusses the status of current NASBA projects and ventures, its vision and direction, and the company’s financials. Employees are encouraged to ask questions and share what they think NASBA is doing right and wrong.

RECOGNITION

Creative examples range from chili cook-offs to ugly sweater contests, lunches with Costello at the Palm Restaurant and free Predator hockey tickets for employees who go above and beyond.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

NASBA invites guest speakers to monthly “lunch and learns.” Guest trainers conduct internal training sessions. Leadership training is provided. Employees attend college leadership classes funded by NASBA’s education reimbursement program. NASBA employees can strengthen communication skills through an internal Toastmasters program “Speak Up NASBA.”

THE EXTRA YARD

NASBA’s “Mojo Healthy Living Team” lost over 400 pounds in its first year. A more recent contest was “No Gain – Maintain” conducted through the holidays. NASBA provides on-site health care with a local doctor making house calls to the office.

3. LifeWay Christian Resources
Thom S. Rainer
President & CEO
www.lifeway.com

Established in 1891, LifeWay is one of the largest providers of Christian products and services globally, owning 154 U.S. stores.

COMMUNICATION

A monthly employee publication, Life Lines, and chapel services, occurring twice monthly, keep employees up to speed. CEO Rainer regularly speaks at chapel services. A Twitter account and internal social network, “The Hub,” are recent additions.

RECOGNITION

Every department budgets $40 per employee annually to establish a pool of money used to show appreciation for everyday achievements. An employee achievement of excellence award—including a day off—is awarded annually.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

LifeWay offers over 500 in-house training events annually, from facilitator-led courses to team development, corporate initiatives training, self-study, online studies, high performer programs and academic studies.

THE EXTRA YARD

Upon hiring, LifeWay offers up to 80 sick days with full pay and an additional 40 at a reduced salary, protecting employee families from accident or abrupt illness. LifeWay’s sick child care program covers three-quarters of the cost to leave a child in a nearby nurse facility. LifeWay gives time off for church trips and LifeWay-sponsored mission trips, for which the company covers half of the expense.

4. Sarah Cannon Research Institute
Dee Anna Smith
CEO
www.sarahcannonresearch.com

SCRI is one of the largest clinical research programs nationally—number three in oncology patient accrual—through affiliations with a network of approximately 450 physicians in 24 states.

COMMUNICATION

SCRI Weekly is distributed digitally each Friday. A quarterly newsletter features current studies, new physicians, staff and departments. Monthly webcasts by CEO Smith include objectives and accomplishments, financial reports, employee recognition and scientific updates. Quarterly staff meetings feature a “state of the company” message.

RECOGNITION

“Star Bucks” provide on the spot appreciation, offering candy, movie tickets or gift cards. The “Hats off to YOU!” program provides $50 gift card rewards. The Frist Humanitarian Award, awarded annually to employees who inspire with their compassion, dedication and spirit, includes a framed certificate, $100 gift card and plaque engraving in the corporate office.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

A Leadership Academy consists of 11 courses including: Essentials of Leadership, Setting Performance Expectations, Valuing Others and Feedback Fundamentals. Educational needs surveys are conducted for all staff.

THE EXTRA YARD

Financial advice classes are offered free of charge. Degree-based courses are reimbursed up to $3,000 per year. Employees' children may apply for two annual scholarships.

5. First Tennessee, a subsidiary of First Horizon National Corp.
Doyle Rippee
First Tennessee’s Middle Tennessee market president
www.firsthorizon.com

First Tennessee boasts the largest combined market share in the 17 Tennessee counties in which it operates.

COMMUNICATION

A 2009 company-wide survey revealed that 95% of employees feel executive management does an effective job of explaining the company direction to employees.

RECOGNITION

In an anonymous company survey, 90% of employees claimed they were frequently recognized for quality work. “FirstPower Awards” honor exemplary performance with quarterly and annual winners receiving up to $3,000 for individuals and $10,000 for teams.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

“myPLAN” is an online career development system. A tuition reimbursement program offers up to $3,000 annually for external educational and training courses. The online career center notifies existing employees of any job openings within the bank. A women’s initiative task force offers female employees a chance to network and hone leadership skills.

THE EXTRA YARD

A wellness committee offers incentives of up to $500 a year for increased physical activity. Over 40% of employees are enrolled in the program. The “Precious Cargo” program informs expectant mothers of exercise techniques during pregnancy. Children of employees are eligible for college scholarships.

BEST SMALL/MEDIUM EMPLOYERS (25-199 employees)

1. InfoWorks Inc.
James H. Clayton III
Chairman
www.infoworks-tn.com

InfoWorks combines business consulting and custom technology solutions to help clients meet their business goals.

COMMUNICATION

At eight meetings a year, the company reviews the state of the business, including corporate financial statements and balance sheets.

RECOGNITION

Substantial time is spent communicating how each employee’s or team’s contributions impact financials. Such transparency has helped InfoWorks survive economic downturns with no employee layoffs.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Each employee has an annual evaluation to develop a detailed skills plan, including specific classes, seminars, industry conventions, or mentoring and coaching experiences. InfoWorks sends employees to classes offered by the American Management Association and seminars offered by several graduate schools on topics such as improving negotiating skills, effectively communicating in the workplace, how to best have difficult conversations, how to handle difficult people, navigating the differences in how technical and business people communicate, and how to provide and receive effective feedback.

THE EXTRA YARD

InfoWorks does not track days worked or hours worked per day, instead focusing on exceeding client expectations. Consultants can work from the office or remotely. For administrative staff, the company offers (typically) the option to work from home a few days per week.

2. Avenue Bank
Ron Samuels
Chairman, President & CEO
www.avenuenashville.com

Avenue Bank serves the creative spirit of Nashville in private banking, commercial real estate lending, residential construction lending, entertainment and music industry, mortgage origination, treasury management and retail banking.

COMMUNICATION

Avenue convenes an all-employee meeting once a week referred to as “Our Family Gathering.” An open-door environment extends to all members of the executive leadership team. CEO Samuels holds impromptu luncheons with employees where they are invited to share what’s on their minds and ask questions or discuss obstacles.

RECOGNITION

Every employee is an owner in the company, either by stock ownership, stock options or restricted stock grants. Options and grants are given at management’s discretion.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The bank offers a variety of training opportunities determined by interest and need taught by members of its management team on Wednesday mornings before work.

THE EXTRA YARD

Every employee benefit package includes the option of joining a local health club paid for entirely by the bank. When the Art and Business Council of Middle Tennessee initiated a corporate band challenge, Avenue Bank, including Samuels and CFO Barb Zipperian, formed a band (the Hummingbirds), entered and won second place.

3. Edward Jones
Garland Honeycutt
Regional Leader & Financial Adviser (Tullahoma office)
www.edwardjones.com

With over 10,000 U.S. locations, Edward Jones is one of the nation’s largest financial services firms.

COMMUNICATION

Managing Partner Jim Weddle holds quarterly video updates, weekly online Q&A forums and writes quarterly letters to each limited partner. Regional meetings occur a few times a year. A suggestion system between home office leaders and associates guarantees the firm hears what associates have to say.

RECOGNITION

The firm offers ownership of the organization to its employees in the form of limited partnerships. In profitable trimesters, financial advisers are eligible to receive cash bonuses. As a reward for diversifying client portfolios, financial advisers receive “diversification trips”—vacations on the company dime.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The average Edward Jones associate received 103 hours of training in a recent year. Basic training is offered through e-learning courses and virtual classrooms. The organization selects from within the firm for over 70% of all promotions. Company turnover has dropped from 11% to 7% in recent years.

THE EXTRA YARD

Employees receiving commission-based salaries are assured 75% of their previous six months salary for six weeks after a child is born or adopted into the family.

4. North Highland
Dan Reardon
CEO
www.northhighland.com

North Highland’s 17 North American offices and global network of partners deliver business solutions that include strategy, operations, IT, finance and accounting, customer interactions, human capital and execution.

COMMUNICATION

CEO Reardon distributes biweekly newsletters highlighting organizational victories, challenges and other important news. Company executives distribute periodic video communications providing more information about financial results and major initiatives. The company holds two annual “all hands” organizational meetings. It has also partnered with Silent Whistle to report ethics and policy violations or allow employees to anonymously make suggestions or comments.

RECOGNITION

North Highland believes every employee should have a stake in its business—the primary reason it is employee-owned.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Employees choose whether a consulting assignment is right for them. They can speed up or slow down their career or take a different path depending on what they decide is right for them. And they can change their minds later. All of this can be done without affecting their reputation or perceived value to the firm.

THE EXTRA YARD

The company’s local-only policy means North Highlanders only work with clients within an hour’s drive. (Employees can volunteer for travel and be rewarded for doing so.)

5. Duke Realty Corp.
Jeff Palmquist
Senior VP, Nashville Operations
www.dukerealty.com

Duke boasts 135 million square feet of industrial and office properties in 18 cities.

COMMUNICATION

“Vision,” Duke’s Intranet, provides access to company data, training and market information. Quarterly conference calls provide updates about new initiatives, business operations and strategy.

RECOGNITION

A quarterly “Duke Gets it Done” award goes to associates who go above and beyond his or her realm of responsibility to complete tasks, as well as provide exceptional customer service.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The Duke Realty Mentoring Program helps associates build the career they want. Duke covers the costs of professional certifications, outside training seminars and participation in job-related professional associations. An online Leadership Library contains nearly 3,000 journals and magazines.

THE EXTRA YARD

The company awards eight $4,000 college scholarships to children of Duke associates annually. Since 2001, Duke has helped over 100 employees purchase their first home through a $3,000 forgivable loan. In 2009, 50 associates donated over 2,000 hours of accrued sick time to seven associates facing personal crisis. Duke offers free consultations with Edward Jones financial advisers and free financial seminars. All full-time associates receive two-paid days off each year to volunteer for charity.

6. Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC
Ben Adams
Chairman & CEO
www.bakerdonelson.com

The country’s 73rd largest law firm, Baker Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz has more than 550 attorneys and public policy advisers covering over 30 practice areas. The firm has been active for 121 years in Tennessee, where seven of its 16 offices are located.

COMMUNICATION

CEO Adams maintains an internal blog. An HR blog is updated weekly while a monthly HR newsletter features employees and employee assistance program sessions. Bakernet and weekly firm updates keep employees abreast of firm-wide affairs.

RECOGNITION

“ACE” awards are awarded to employees who exemplify excellence in client service.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Baker Donelson University brings associates together for skill and camaraderie-building activities. A mentor program allows new associates to learn from seasoned attorneys. Baker Train University offers training in areas such as computer skills. A twice-monthly “Brown Bag Lunch Series” offers curriculum determined by employees.

THE EXTRA YARD

Family activities include family days at the zoo and baseball games. “Bring Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day” features a mock trial for the children’s enjoyment. Programs to aid employee health include yoga at work, massage day and a Weight Watchers team.

7. Education Networks of America
David Pierce
Chairman, CEO & President
www.ena.com

ENA provides managed network and communication services to customers in the education, library and government sectors.

COMMUNICATION

ENA holds quarterly company-wide meetings where CEO Pierce provides updates on company goals and highlights new or revised business strategies. All managers, including Pierce, have an open-door policy. CEO roundtables bring together different employee groups to talk with Pierce about the company’s future, priorities or concerns.

RECOGNITION

ENA provides managers with a recognition budget to encourage spontaneous rewards or planned celebrations when a work team successfully completes a difficult or extensive project on time.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

All open ENA positions are posted internally first. Since 2006, ENA has filled 28 internal promotions. The company recently implemented a career development program called “ENA’s Roadmap to Success.” ENA creates annual personal development plans for each employee. Training can include classroom or online training, course work for technical certifications, seminars and professional association meetings, mentoring opportunities, job shadowing or assignment to a work team or project team.

THE EXTRA YARD

ENA employees say they enjoy a family-oriented culture and employees have fun whether they are working to solve customer problems or participating in employee events.

8. Stites & Harbison PLLC
Stuart Campbell
Office executive member, Nashville & Franklin offices
www.stites.com

Tracing its origins to 1832, Stites & Harbison’s offices are located in four Southeastern states, employ more than 260 attorneys and a support staff of almost 300 people.

COMMUNICATION

Management keeps all stakeholders up to date on business developments via the Daily Bulletin.

RECOGNITION

The firm hosts an annual luncheon to recognize employees who have been with the firm a decade or longer. One-third of Stites’ employees fit that category.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Ongoing training is provided for all staff who wish to improve their proficiency in existing programs or master new ones. Additional attorney training is provided through in-house and external Continuing Legal Education programs. The firm reimburses staff 50% of tuition costs for job-related educational programs. (A “B” grade must be maintained for reimbursement.)

THE EXTRA YARD

Annual fundraising for United Way and Habitat for Humanity and extensive pro bono service by attorneys (who are encouraged to devote 50 hours per year to pro bono work) are just some ways that Stites employees provide community service. MultiCultural Law magazine named Stites a Top 100 Law Firm for Diversity in 2008.

9. Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs LLP
William H. Hollander
Managing Partner
www.wyattfirm.com

Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs LLP, founded in 1812, is a full-service law firm.

COMMUNICATION

Wyatt Wire, a bi-weekly publication, provides firm-wide news, employee updates and the latest technology, library, marketing and financial news. A confidential electronic suggestion box is available to everyone in the firm through the Intranet. Suggestions are sent weekly to the firm’s managing partner who in turn sends them to the appropriate person for review and possible implementation.

RECOGNITION

Employee longevity is recognized each year. Other employee recognition events include a Thanksgiving luncheon, a “no ants” summer picnic in the office and ice cream socials.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Each new associate is teamed with a senior attorney or partner who will be a source of firm-related information and guidance over a multi-year period. New secretaries are also assigned a long-tenured secretary within their office for six months to a year.

THE EXTRA YARD

Each October, the firm makes a contribution to each employee’s 401(k) plan equal to 10% of the employee’s annualized gross compensation, including bonuses and overtime, regardless of whether the employee contributes his or her own money to their plan.

10. cj Advertising
Arnie Malham
President
www.cjadvertising.com

See profile here.