In a year when the workplace has been upended, the prioritizing of company culture and staff matters to a greater extent than ever before. The results of our third annual review spotlight the best small, midsize and large agencies, along with life sciences support firms, as rated by those who know them best: the employees themselves.
In addition to Best Places to Work, this year MM+M is presenting Places to Be, a unique way for companies – who continue to fight to retain and attract top talent – to showcase their multiple dimensions.
Small Agency Winners
From encouraging conference and trade show attendance (pre-COVID) to providing a comprehensive offering of seminars and lunch and learns, most recently in the form of LinkedIn Learning, Elevate has made it clear to staff that even in the most challenging and unpredictable of times, employee advancement is still a top priority.
Consistent communication, health and safety and a strong team mentality were just a few of the other qualities our judges cited, with one judge noting “a real sense of mission among Elevate employees, a sense that what they do represents more than a job to them. Their work is clearly informed, and defined, by enthusiasm, passion and empathy.” Employees shared that Elevate’s leadership team “goes out of its way to show it cares about employee morale both in and out of the office,” and appreciate the consistent feedback requests, transparency when it comes to plans for a phased approach, and the effort to deliver a multitude of virtual engagements to maintain camaraderie. Almost every staffer referenced the company’s “thoughtful gesture” of hosting a Virtual Summer outing, where employees were sent a family-style BBQ dinner as well as cupcake ingredients and were then invited to join a Zoom call where a professional chef led a hands-on baking experience. As one team member shared, “I never felt more like a family with my coworkers than I did that day.”
Elevate Healthcare was one of only three companies where employees unanimously answered “No impact, everything has remained the same” in response to “In terms of salary and benefits, how would you best describe your organization’s response to the economic impact of COVID-19?”
Never before has Schaefer’s mission to “Make Life Better” been more important to its employees than right now. From vital healthcare assistance (the company waived testing and hospital fees related to COVID-19), to an emergency cash fund for bill pay in the case of a spouse or family member being laid off, staffers say they have felt “seen” and “supported” from the very start of the pandemic.
In an effort to increase communication and boost morale, the company instituted virtual work anniversary celebrations on Zoom with heartfelt tributes from colleagues, and a daily “silver lining” email thread where one team member shares a positive experience from their quarantine and then chooses which colleague goes next.
While almost all Schaefer staffers shared their immense appreciation for how “fully transparent” their company president has been, through his efforts to send daily update emails and to reassure the team no furloughs or layoffs would take place, it was his turn as ice cream man that really garnered accolades.
Despite the fact that many employees live between 40 and 150 miles from Schaefer’s offices in Fort Worth, Texas, the company’s owner personally delivered pints of ice cream from a local artisanal creamery to every employee to thank them for their hard work during these difficult times. A gesture welcomed by all as “an incredibly unexpected and much appreciated surprise.”
Schaefer Advertising had 31 responses — the most in its category — and was one of the highest scoring agencies for the answer to “Responded quickly and decisively to ensure employee productivity was unaffected as much as possible.”
Priding themselves on being small enough to “allow everyone’s voices to be heard,” and “pushing the boundaries of what a typical small agency can do in challenging times,” Vue Health is proof that size doesn’t always matter. Through tailored professional growth opportunities to significant strides in collaboration and engagement, the company’s commitment to its employees shines through in many ways, such as maintaining full salaries and bonuses during the pandemic, sending surprise care packages to all employees, ensuring a seamless transition to permanent remote working and fostering the personal and professional growth and development of their staff.
Judges were impressed by the fact that Vue was the only organization whose staffers unanimously responded “yes” when asked if diversity and inclusion are well represented at the senior level, which made the corroboration in both quantitative and qualitative feedback that much more noteworthy.
Employees offered an abundance of praise for the company’s CEO and leadership team, whom they said “continued to show that employees’ best interest was top of mind,” evidenced by the fact that they will not be returning to the office “until there is a vaccine.” Judges agreed, stating “it’s evident the company has great leadership as all of the responses were positive and unified.” Noting a myriad of offerings — everything from forced breaks at 12 p.m. twice a week, outdoor meetings and town halls, personal check-in calls from the CEO, weekly fitness challenges and Zoom happy hours — leadership will be glad to know that staffers feel like they’ve “won the jackpot,” working at Vue and “don’t have any intention of leaving anytime soon.”
Vue Health’s employees gave the highest average rating for “How would you rate your agency’s or department’s employee development and/or advancement tools?” (Tied with one other agency out of 40 total across all four categories.) Vue Health also had the highest rating across all four categories on average for its 401(k) option.
Midsize Agency Winners
Despite being part of a larger agency network and holding company, FCBCure has been able to maintain its own identity, attributed by many employees to the fact that the leadership team “makes a point to connect with everyone,” and “brings a personalized approach to the company’s structure,” whether through weekly one-on-one meetings or the impressive array of online resources offered for learning and development.
Employees consistently stated throughout their entries that there is a “family feel” and “mutual respect among staffers” at FCBCure, that many noted has “only gotten stronger throughout the pandemic,” due in part to the company’s massive effort to put job security first. FCB employees retained the same salary structure as well as opportunities for raises and promotions, and 401(k) benefits are still being supported. Other notable efforts during quarantine included implementing a “no meeting Fridays” mandate, giving employees extra PTO and mental health days and surprising staffers with a socially-distanced, drive-in movie showing of Back to the Future, an experience several team members shared they “will never forget.”
FCBCure was the only company to have employees give a unanimous 5 out of 5 (best possible answer) to these four factors: “Is providing the necessary support so all employees feel their safety, health and well-being is being taken care of and is a top priority”; “Responded quickly and decisively to ensure employee productivity was unaffected as much as possible”; “Took/taking the necessary steps to ensure employee morale was/is maintained”; and “Has communicated clearly and consistently throughout to ensure the entire team is always informed.”
Although plenty of companies claim to be invested in cultivating diversity and inclusion within their organization, MicroMass is walking the walk. Since the pandemic, the company has instituted a cultural competence book club, where participants read and discuss books on overcoming bias to encourage understanding and empathy. The company has also implemented a “core values awards” program, and have initiated virtual connect meetings where employees are encouraged to get to know people in other departments that they don’t work with directly and may not have had the chance to meet.
Judges shared their admiration for the commitment and devotion the company has shown to their staff throughout these turbulent times, noting “staff support is clearly visible,” through ensuring salaries and jobs remain stable, increasing 401(k) matching, allowing flexible work hours, providing consistent company updates through an internal website and sending out themed care packages.
Many staffers made reference to the fact that the company has recently incorporated “an adaptable path for advancement,” in that employees are given the choice to pursue either creative leadership or management. Mentorship and shadow programs are also in place to help employees hone existing skills or even explore other opportunities outside their current departments, allowing the company’s core phrase, “No one is here by mistake,” to ring true.
MicroMass’ employees gave the highest marks in its category for “How would you describe the camaraderie among employees at your organization” and “How would you rate your organization in terms of the ability of women to advance to senior-level roles?”
Despite the many obstacles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Spectrum Science has gone to great lengths to ensure that its team was kept whole. From offering employees a generous stipend to set up their home office, to free COVID testing and medical coverage, employees made various references to the “One Spectrum” mentality cultivated by the company’s leadership, noting that it was helping with camaraderie and contributing to the feeling that they were “all in this together.”
While the company’s recently added perks, including a free membership to Headspace, and weekly all-agency happy hours, drew praise from our judges, it was Spectrum’s Center for Excellence, a comprehensive training program based on a teaching hospital model and led by chief learning officer Pamela Lippincott that made the biggest impression. One judge noted the program had “exceeded its mission by nurturing all employees toward (career, mental, physical and spiritual) excellence,” and another stated that “the learning and development opportunities it provided were the best of all midsize agency submissions.”
Large Agency Winners
Despite nearly doubling in size over the past two years, CMI/Compas employees said the company still “feels like a family,” thanks to a conscious effort from leadership to cultivate a “culture of kindness” and encourage staffers to “bring their best selves to work.” Factor in an overwhelmingly positive rating for diversity and inclusion, and it becomes clear why the company earned one of our top spots.
Employees were unanimous in their recognition of how much the company has done to support them this past year, noting that “communication from leadership has been constant,” they were given additional PTO for “mental health days” and have been sent care packages with washable masks and gifts for their children throughout the pandemic. One employee shared, “I have never felt so in tune with an organization. I’m emotionally attached to CMI because I know [it] will always be there for me.”
Judges said the care and compassion employees have for one another was also clearly evident, with many staffers noting that camaraderie has “increased” since working remotely thanks in part to using more video with people they “had only emailed with before,” virtual team-building lunches, monthly “bell ringer” meetings where team members are encouraged to share personal and professional successes and “wins,” and an employee of the month is honored. A virtual “fun committee” was also created to organize activities such as virtual game nights, yoga classes and happy hours in an effort to unite staffers and boost morale during these tough times.
CMI/Compas is a first-time Best Place to Work.
FCB Health New York
Despite a bruisingly tough year, FCB Health New York has maintained excellent career management, exceptional stability and high morale, earning the agency a top spot on our list for the third consecutive year.
Employees were unanimous in their praise of the company’s CEO, with many noting what an inspirational, dynamic, caring and hands-on leader she is, and others attributing her deep connection to employees as the main driver promoting a culture of kindness and collaboration. “She can walk down the hall and greet everyone by name,” one staffer noted. “She is genuinely interested in her people and their lives.” Another shared that, “she has the same level of care and empathy for her employees as she does her clients.”
Judges made reference to FCB’s learning and development program as a clear path for success, noting the plethora of programs offered to ensure employees are on a developmental path within the organization right from the start, including proactive career management, Moxie and Residency programs, tuition reimbursement, mentorships and more. One employee stated,
“I would not be the leader, manager and mentor that I am if it were not for the offerings of our learning and development department.”
Since going remote earlier this year, the company has kept its programs current by adding in new virtual workshops, a bimonthly town hall where staffers can share both business and personal news, telehealth services, free memberships to Talkspace and Headspace, and additional days off for mental health and reflection, all of which were, as one team member shared, “a way to let us know that leadership was standing with us and that we do not have to carry this burden alone.”
FCB Health New York has been a Best Place to Work for all three years of MM+M’s survey.
While many companies have heeded the call to make prioritizing health and safety paramount, few have taken ownership of that task the way Klick Health has. From donating and delivering N95 masks to hospitals, to creating an open source COVID-19 information site to keep people informed and even having their lab groups work to create an intubation box, Klick has escalated its mantra of “people first” to a whole new level, prompting one staffer to state, “we don’t work in healthcare, we live it.”
Many employees made reference to the company’s response to the pandemic saying they couldn’t imagine a better reaction to a dire situation, noting that “leadership was ahead of the curve,” there was “no ambiguity, just full transparency” and that they were given “clear direction on our plan before any type of state or national emergency was declared.” In addition to a weekly COVID update by the company’s CEO to help ease concerns, Klick has hired an infectious disease expert to keep staffers safe if/when they return to offices. The company offers a $500 stipend to its “Klick store” where employees can purchase anything they need for a home office, including Dyson fans, standing desks, noise canceling headphones and more.
Employee development remains a steadfast track at Klick. The company’s robust internal education platform, Klick University, draws praise from employees and our judges alike, who noted the agency’s “nearly unrivaled prioritization on career progression.” Featuring an abundance of educational tools, a deep pharma marketing curriculum and a variety of classes on different disease states and therapeutic areas, the platform is described by employees as “other level,” “absolutely amazing” and “another reason working at Klick is second to none.”
Life Sciences Firm Winners
While for many companies the work-life balance has become a thing of the past, now that homes and offices are one and the same, Verywell has made a valiant effort to carve it into the company’s culture, with one staffer sharing “it’s the first place I’ve ever worked where work-life balance is truly made a priority.” In an effort to double down on its mission to prevent employee burnout, the company offers weekly yoga and meditation classes, a daily, “no-meetings from 11-1 mandate” that can be used for catching up on work, taking a walk, helping kids with schoolwork, etc. and additional PTO days around the Fourth of July, which many noted, was a “very welcome surprise.” Our judges were equally impressed, with one stating, “the company preaches wellness and self-care in its content and takes pains to ensure that its people are afforded ample opportunity to bolster their physical and mental health.”
Consistent access to senior-level execs through the “Work we love” program, incentives to take continued learning classes and team building workshops throughout the year, weekly scheduled check-ins to discuss career paths and performance, as well as tuition reimbursement, have allowed the company to showcase to its staffers that employee development is still paramount.
Employees made several mentions of the “incredible transparency” the company has offered throughout these last several months, citing that they have been assured they will receive “at least two months’ notice,” before any plans to return to the office are made, and that leadership has gone “above and beyond” to maintain camaraderie, by offering safe options for groups to get together if preferred, and covering the cost of food and transportation for socially distanced meet-ups with colleagues.
Verywell’s staffers rated the company the highest in its category for the factor “treats employees well.”
Already a fully remote company pre-pandemic, Wego Health has relied on its strongly cemented virtual platform as well as cutting-edge tools and technology to help keep day-to-day tasks and employee engagement consistently seamless even in the throes of the COVID-19 crisis.
Despite the physical distance between team members, staffers were quick to point out that there is “tremendous camaraderie” at the company, and that they are a “very tight-knit team” who care for one another deeply and celebrate each others’ successes regularly” — a cultural sentiment one of our judges noted “needs to be duplicated or bottled.”
In an effort to encourage its employees to take care of their physical and mental health, the company began offering virtual fitness classes several times a week, and instituted “half-day Fridays” to encourage staffers to log off their computers and spend time with family and friends. Employees also made references to how much it meant when their CEO made a large personal donation to Black Lives Matters organizations, and not only encouraged employees to do the same, but matched any donations they made personally.
Wego team members shared that they feel they have “endless opportunities for growth,” and “the freedom to create,” thanks to consistent encouragement from leadership, as well as a “clear path to grow in your career.” Several of our judges noted that Wego Health’s development process seemed to “rival larger organizations with access to greater resources,” and that the company’s paid trainings and certifications as well as formalized internal trainings across departments were “a streamlined set of steps to success within the company.”
Wego Health’s employees unanimously rated the agency 5 out of 5 (best possible answer) for a whopping 15 factors in our survey — the most across all four categories.