When William Murtha was starting out in the business world in New York City more than 30 years ago, he had a job he enjoyed, but was lured by a bigger paycheck to another firm.
Murtha soon realized, however, that the salary would not be enough to keep him happy on the job.
"Within a couple of days I knew I had made a major mistake," says Murtha, president and CEO of Roberts Communications Inc.
So he asked his former boss for his job back. Murtha says he knew he could not take the negative culture at his current company, even with a higher salary.
"It made that much of a difference," he recalls.
Like Murtha, other local employers and experts agree pay must be competitive, but once that need is met, salary often becomes secondary when it comes to an employee's job satisfaction. A best place to work with satisfied, productive employees also takes commitment on the management end.
Murtha draws from his early career experience when focusing on employee satisfaction at the 65-person Roberts Communications. Last year, the business was named to Advertising Age's list of Best Places to Work.
At Roberts Communications, employees continually say they are attracted to the firm's culture, which is focused on professional growth and a feeling of family, Murtha says.
"They say our culture is one that provides opportunity and gives people a feeling of belonging," he says.
Providing that culture is a conscious decision, Murtha says. To help create a close-knit group, the company holds regular employee get-togethers, including cookouts and an annual holiday party.
Also important to employees is the transparency Roberts Communications provides on the financial state of the firm, Murtha says. Quarterly updates help the staff know how the business is doing.
"We give them the good and bad, just like you would do as a family," he says.
In addition, Roberts Communications focuses on empowering employees to motivate themselves. A recent day-long innovation program focused on getting employees to come up with, and present, their own ideas on how to drive the business. The culture is what helps retain, attract and bring back workers, Murtha says.
The firm has a number of what he calls "boomerangers"-employees who leave and come back after becoming dissatisfied with working at another company. There is even a "tripleanger" on staff: an employee who has left and returned twice.
Having happy employees who are productive on the job is key to Roberts Communications' success, Murtha says.
"We don't really make anything; we succeed by having good ideas," he says. "That comes from our people."
The Great Place to Work Institute says a key factor in being a best place to work is trust. From an employee's perspective, a great place to work is where staff trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do and enjoy the people they work with, the national institute says.
The Great Place to Work Institute partners with Fortune magazine to produce an annual Best Companies to Work For list.
The list is compiled using data from an employee survey that asks questions related to attitudes about management's credibility, job satisfaction and camaraderie. Also factored in are responses to the institute's culture audit, which includes detailed questions about pay and benefit programs and a series of open-ended questions about hiring practices, methods of internal communication, training, recognition programs and diversity efforts.
A regular on the list-this year landing at No.5-is Wegmans Food Markets Inc. Fortune notes the grocery chain's treatment of its employees and promotion of healthier lifestyle programs helps make it a great place to work.
CEO Danny Wegman told Fortune the company's success comes from sticking to its principle of "doing the right thing," encouraging employees and managers to lead with their hearts rather than calculations.
Edward Deci, professor of psychology and Gowen Professor in the Social Sciences at the University of Rochester, says employees need to feel competent, connected to others and able to exercise autonomy on the job.
"If employers allow their employees to feel competent, related and autonomous, they will have a set of employees who are highly motivated," Deci says. "Those on the outside will see that and think that is a great place to work."
To help an employee feel confident, he suggests employers offer praise and affirmation for a job well done. It also helps to assign jobs with realistic goals where employees are not set up to fail.
"The idea is to create circumstances where people feel confident and effective," Deci says.
Creating a sense of community on the job also is important.
"People need to interact with their peers," Deci says.
Finally, employees need to have a sense of autonomy on the job, which can create a feeling of empowerment, rather than one of being pushed around.
"Being respectful and providing positive feedback is encouraging," Deci says.
Once equitable compensation is set, he says, money should not be an issue on the job. Using it to motivate employees is not the answer.
"It isn't motivating; it's controlling, and people don't like to be controlled," he says.
Carolyn Nussbaum, managing partner of Nixon Peabody LLP's Rochester office, says she often tells employees there will always be another firm that will offer a prospective employee more money.
"I tell them, 'Don't change jobs only for the money and don't let it be the reason you stay here,'" she says. "Being proud of the place (where) you work is as important, if not more important, than whether or not you make the most (money)."
The roughly 300 Rochester employees at Nixon Peabody are a mix of attorneys, support staff and those who perform duties including information technology and marketing. Regular surveys taken by the law firm indicate its employees most appreciate the company's values and commitment to quality.
The firm's workplace setting has been recognized. It has been on Fortune's Best Companies to Work For list and the Human Rights Campaign's Best Places to Work (LGBT) Equality list.
Nixon Peabody places a strong emphasis on community involvement as well, Nussbaum says. Not only do the law firm's employees volunteer on local boards, Nixon Peabody is a donor to several community causes and organizations.
"It's part of being a good corporate citizen, and our employees are part of that heritage," Nussbaum says.
The firm also believes in promoting within its ranks whenever possible, Nussbaum says. Nixon Peabody has had administrative assistants who went to law school and became attorneys, and some managers started in the mail room.
Like Roberts Communications, Nixon Peabody also devotes extra effort to make its employees feel like family through social interactions, such as happy hours, picnics and holiday parties. Face-to-face communication is also vital, Nussbaum says.
"We have people who work really hard and we like to offer a balance to the more stressful times," she says. "We want to be a place where people are proud to say they work."
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