Large employers work to share the mission
Ryan Craig, a load coach with Fed-Ex, sorts boxes at the Neville Isalnd facility.
Harry "Good News" Gosnell, a salesman with Cochran Subaru in Monroeville, talks with customer David Goldblum of Connellsville.
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About 1.2 million people in the Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area hold down jobs, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry.
Just 6,537 of them are lucky enough to work at the top five large employers in the region, based on the latest Top Workplaces survey.
There is no magic formula for making employees want to stay, but one thing the large companies on the list do have in common is that they foster a sense that their employees are part of a whole working toward a greater mission.
FedEx Ground Package System, #1 Cochran and North Allegheny School District are three distinctly different businesses with very different missions, yet all three are newcomers in the top five ranking of large companies. FedEx pushed past the others to land the No. 1 spot, after ranking sixth last year. Mine Safety Appliances came in third this year and Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, last year's No. 1, is ranked fourth.
In the case of FedEx, it is not by accident that the company's people are happy. FedEx Ground has built recognition into the corporate culture with weekly "Bravo Zulu" awards which derive the name from the naval term for well done.
It's an attaboy from anyone in the company who feels the recipient has done something noteworthy. It's not the only award given - there are some with money and trips attached - but it is a way of being gracious about work that is, in a term, well done.
And it is no accident that the company's people are named first in their overriding philosophy of "people, service, profit" because, as Kelly Gray, the vice president of human resources, said, if you treat your people right, they will give great service, which will generate more business and higher profits that you can reinvest into your people.
The focus on FedEx's people includes training employees for leadership roles and promoting from within. There is also the opportunity for lateral movement so people can expand their skills sets instead of remaining in the same job for their entire careers.
"When people see that FedEx sign or see one of those airplanes, they feel a little bit like 'I'm part of the FedEx family, I'm here making a difference,' " Ms. Gray said.
Just to be clear, the FedEx employees covered by the survey are those in the multi-tiered office building at the top of the hill in Moon and all of the sorters in outside satellite sorting facilities. FedEx delivery drivers and even big rig truckers either are or work for outside contractors.
One FedEx employee, when commenting on why the company is a great place to work, said, "I have freedom to perform and I am allowed to suggest, communicate and implement change. Of the people I work with day to day, there is opportunity for ongoing education, development and career growth."
Another wrote, "I work for a company that attracts the best people. In turn, this makes my job easier because there are competent people to work with in getting tasks [and] goals accomplished. The job is always challenging because FedEx Ground and its people will always strive to be better (continuous improvement). I've worked for several major transportation companies, and FedEx Ground is the best by far."
At #1 Cochran - another newcomer to the top five at No. 2, up from seventh last year - the automotive dealership's top performers, in both sales and service, are treated to a weekend away at a resort with their partners. The Monroeville-based company runs Kennywood days and there is a family day at Lernerville Speedway. (It is a car company, after all.)
Aaron Herbick, director of human resources, said, "The culture behind our business is important: getting behind our people and letting them know that we value what they do."
There is an annual holiday luncheon which includes many rounds of recognition for good work. Employees also come together the day before Thanksgiving every year to help serve dinner to the needy at the Homewood YMCA.
One employee said, when filling out the Top Workplaces survey, "I feel that I am needed and that I am shown that I have value."
In the case of North Allegheny School District, the mission of the 1,082 employees is to educate the children of Bradford Woods, Franklin Park, Marshall and McCandless. The district came in fifth on the Top Workplaces list of large employers this year.
The district's mission is carried forth by every member of the faculty and staff, said Brian R. Miller, the assistant superintendent. "The bus drivers bring the kids ready to learn," he said, and the custodians keep the facilities in shape so they are places that are conducive to learning. "It's nice to take pride in our buildings."
North Allegheny Superintendent Raymond D. Gualtieri said the employees are pieces of a puzzle that all have to come together. Their efforts, those of teachers and paraprofessionals, are aided by the entire community that takes pride in the schools.
"There's a tremendous amount of pride for all of our staff when they say they work for North Allegheny," Mr. Miller said.
Mr. Gualtieri is serving his first year with the district after moving from the East Hampton district on Long Island in New York. He said one of the special aspects of the North Allegheny district, which is the second-largest district in Allegheny County after Pittsburgh Public Schools, is that none of the municipalities served has a real main street where people gather. The schools have become more of the focal point of the communities.
As one teacher put it when commenting on the survey, "I make a positive impact on children every day."
First Published October 25, 2012 12:00 am