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RBJ 75: Companies focus on culture, employee engagement

The workplace culture of any business is crucial to its success, but large firms are tasked with a steep expectation: accommodating the needs of hundreds of vastly different employees.

ESL Federal Credit Union has a total of 740 employees—all local except for one staffer. The company conducts two employee surveys annually to check in with the crew about their workplace needs.

As a result of the surveys, changes have included dress code adjustments, enhancements to vacation time, added benefits during the summer for the use of outdoor spaces, a volunteer program, and health and wellness classes and events have been expanded.

Culture is something that is constantly reassessed at ESL, said Maureen Wolfe, senior vice president and director of human resources and community relations.

“We work hard on an ongoing basis to be a great place to work,” she said. “We invest quite a bit in management/supervisory training and development because we know how important it is to have a capable manager or supervisor positively leading a team/group. We also invest heavily in ongoing learning and development opportunities for all employees.”

With 20 branches it can be difficult for all employees to participate in activities at any given time. The team at ESL has solved this problem, Wolfe said, by allocating branch budgets for wellness to the individual teams so that each one can develop and execute their own ideas.

ESL strives to be a place where every employee enjoys working, Wolfe said. That continues to be the focus.

“We continue to aspire to be a nationally ranked Great Place to Work,” she said. “We can never predict the results, but we hope to be among the Top 100 Medium workplaces in America as we have been for six of the last seven years. No matter what, we learn from our results, and always aspire to improve, and keep the employee experience a great one.”

Harris Corp. — one of the largest defense contractors in the country—works to save lives in a variety of ways by supporting first responders, the U.S. military and the militaries of U.S. allies.

Culture is taken just as seriously as the firm’s long-term business goals, said Adam Histed, vice president of human resources, communication systems for Harris Corp.

“The culture of Harris Corporation is primarily defined by dedication to the various end-customer missions, including the saving of lives every day,” he said. “Our culture is customer-centric with a strong engineering and technology focus.”

Around 2014, Harris launched Harris Business Excellence, or HBX, to ensure continuous improvement in business performance.

A company can draw strength from its acquisitions, Histed said. Integration of a new company forces culture to be reshaped.

“Following the integration of Exelis into the broader Harris organization, we are leveraging common processes and programs across the enterprise, supported by central shared services,” he said. “This shift has resulted in positive change and a greater sense of unity.”

The company continues to adapt, such as the 2017 decision to allow Harris Corp.’s Rochester employees to dress casually.

“Harris’ Rochester locations moved to a more casual dress code in 2017,” Histed said. “Employees are welcome to wear jeans or similar casual attire to the office every day or as appropriate. Our employees work hard and should do so in as much comfort as possible.”

At General Motors’ Rochester Operations relationships are a major focus. The company connects with employees at all levels of the organization to build engagement and accountability, according to Karen Shed, HR manager at the firm.

The “automotive industry is challenging, dynamic, exciting,” she said. “Culture is very ‘team-centric’ but employee-focused with a strong focus and attention to safety in the workplace.”

GM employs some 1,050 people locally and over 250,000 companywide.

Victor-based Constellation Brands is the third-largest beer company in the country.

With 8,000 employees—including 750 locally—culture is a constantly evolving aspect of business.

“Our people are driven to succeed and bring an entrepreneurial mindset to work every day in our offices, breweries, distilleries and vineyards,” said Tom Kane, executive vice president and chief human resources officer for Constellation Brands. “They have passion for our products and business and take pride in serving our customers and partners to find new ways to produce and promote products consumers love. We work hard, but we like to have fun together.”

Today Constellation has over 100 brands in its portfolio and has 40 facilities in five countries.

Some recent changes for the benefit of workers include an expanded parental leave policy for all eligible U.S. employees, and the firm’s women in leadership initiative—a program aimed at better awareness about the benefits associated with increasing gender diversity at the senior leadership level, according to the company.

“We believe that Constellation Brands is a place where every employee should have the opportunity to elevate themselves and others to new heights to achieve great things,” Kane said. “And we know that for each employee, ‘career success’ has its own personal definition. To that end, we consistently evaluate job roles and responsibilities, work-life balance programs and our benefits offering by  researching best practices, benchmarking our organization against others and surveying the needs and wants of our employees.”

Constellation Brands holds its local employees in high regard, Kane said.

“We want each of our employees to feel like they can make their mark at Constellation Brands,” he added.

Across multiple large employers in the area, a focus on empowering employees proves crucial to supporting each company’s future.

“As an employer, we strive to attract and retain stellar talent and build an inclusive environment here in Rochester and in all our facilities around the world,” Kane said. “Our leadership is committed to the community here in Rochester and to affording residents the opportunity to be part of our dynamic team and supportive culture.”

(c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-363-7269 or email madams@bridgetowermedia.com.

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