A look at what makes these Minnesota company workplaces so great
Minnesota is known for being a great place to live and work, with top-notch companies in many industries headquartered here. In our annual survey, we asked Minnesotans what’s important to them when it comes to their work life, and what makes their company a great place to be. The “100 Best” were selected by an independent research firm employing various research techniques — including an anonymous online questionnaire filled out by the employees of each company — to determine which companies in Minnesota excel in the areas of work environment, employee benefits and overall employee happiness.
Note: Given our magazine’s focus on small and mid-sized companies, for this project we’ve defined a small company as one that has up to 35 employees, a medium one as 36 to 99 employees, and a large company as 100 or more employees.
BEST IN CLASS: LARGE (100-PLUS EMPLOYEES)
Description: For a company that runs a number of fitness clubs, it only makes sense that employees would have access to a full-service gym where they can exercise on their lunch breaks. Anytime Fitness also gives Fitbit devices to its employees to help track their daily steps, along with a free gym membership.
“It’s become a very fun competition and has definitely helped me increase my daily activity,” one employee says.
In fact, employees are encouraged to get a workout during the day, or go outside for some fresh air.
But it’s more than the free gym access that keep Anytime Fitness employees excited to come to work each day. They continually applaud company leadership for their accessibility and openness to feedback. In fact, often employees feel comfortable stopping by the offices of company executives and talking candidly with them.
“The leaders are consistently engaged and challenging the team to do their best,” employees say.
Employees also appreciate the family-oriented culture that Anytime Fitness has cultivated and maintained as the company has grown over the years, often describing the office environment as a fun and welcoming place to work each day.
Description: Not every company can say it has its own employee band. However, marketing technology consultancy Magnet 360 can. Also known as The Magnetics — an affectionate term for employees — the band plays for company meetings and events, plus they raise money for local charities through volunteer performances at Magnet 360-sponsored events called Rock the Cause.
Despite its steady growth since it was established in 2008, Magnet 360 continues to stay true to its company culture: work hard, play hard and rock always.
While they certainly find time to play, the employees and leadership at Magnet 360 do their fair share of hard work. Employees say they view leadership as “true visionaries leading a fast-paced, high growth company”: Matt Meents, CEO and co-founder; Scott Litman and Dan Mallin, co-founders and managing partners.
Employees also appreciate the attention to work/life balance, which allows them the flexibility to work from home to accommodate families and personal obligations. Other perks include an open office environment that encourages collaboration, Beer:30 on Fridays and Rockstar nominations, in which employees nominate each other for a job well done on a weekly, monthly and annual basis.
Description: At planning and design consulting firm Kimley-Horn, collaboration has been key to the company’s success and employee happiness. The company’s “flat” structure encourages creativity and knocks down walls of bureaucracy, helping employees feel like valuable contributors.
The company also encourages younger employees to get to know their more established colleagues. For the first five years of working at Kimley-Horn, each employee gets six coupons they can use to take a senior employee out to lunch.
The company “excels at rewarding employees for their hard work throughout the year,” employees say. Kimley-Horn does this through things like generous 401K contributions, end-of-year bonuses and profit sharing. Team wins are also celebrated.
On top of all that, Kimley-Horn makes sure employees are having fun while they’re putting in long hours. In fact, the office has multiple vice presidents of fun who organize office-wide events like mini golf competitions, chili cook-offs, birthday celebrations, ping pong tournaments and more.
BEST IN CLASS: MIDSIZE (36 TO 99 EMPLOYEES)
Employees consistently say that Stoneridge Software’s small town location and charming office space make it one of the most unique and enjoyable places to work. Founded in 2012, the company’s headquarters is in a renovated historic opera house in Barnesville (population 2,500), about a half hour southeast of Fargo-Moorhead.
“The renovation to the building represents a commitment to the town and to the Stoneridge employees that we are here for the long run,” one employee says. Stoneridge Software also has offices in Minneapolis and Kansas City.
More than anything, workers laud Stoneridge Software for being an employee-focused company where they feel valued. In less than three years, the company has grown from four to 45 people, and throughout the transition, has been able to continually attract and retain workers who feel incorporated into the company’s plans.
“The company truly values all of its employees and empowers them to be creative, speak their opinions and create new things,” one employee says.
One way the company shows this is through its generous benefits package, which rivals those of large corporations. It includes perks like 401Ks, which become available on an employee’s second month of service; health and dental premiums for both the employee and their family is covered at 100%.
What if your company offered each employee a three-month sabbatical after every seven years of service? On top of that, what if it was paid? Well, employees at software developer training and consulting firm Intertech don’t have to wonder. The Eagan-based company has been offering its sabbatical program for more than 15 years, showing its commitment to work/life balance. Some employees have spent their three months traveling across Europe, hiking in New Zealand and Australia and even getting married in the Philippines.
The company’s ACE recognition program is also popular across the company, as employees nominate their colleagues for embodying the company’s core values — attitude, commitment and excellence.
Essential to the company is a strong core of leaders who use an open management style, maintain consistent communication with workers and set reasonable goals.
“Transparency, honesty and integrity are cornerstones of the leadership at the company and that attitude flows down,” employees say.
Antenna isn’t your average marketing and advertising agency. Contracting employees’ marketing services out to other clients, often times Antenna employees work in separate locations. However, employees say that the company makes it a priority to bring them together on a regular basis for meetings, seminars and social events.
The company periodically holds seminars and brings in outside speakers and industry experts. This helps employees stay on top of best practices and trends in the marketing industry, so they can understand their clients on a deeper level.
Also different than the typical contracting agency, Antenna offers benefits to all employees, including contractors. Through all of these efforts, Antenna has been able to help its employees feel connected to each other and to the company as a whole.
“This is a community I can call on for leadership, advice, support and growth,” one employee says.
BEST IN CLASS: SMALL (UP TO 35 EMPLOYEES)
Not only is FRSecure LLC passionate about information security, but the company is also passionate about the future of its employees.
FRSecure is a full-service information security management and consulting company. Started in 2008 by CEO Evan Francen with the hopes of changing what he saw as a broken information security industry, FRSecure is lauded by employees for its strong leadership and fun environment.
Employees consistently say they look forward to going to work at FRSecure. Mondays in particular are known as team-building days. Leadership works to make Monday meetings fun, often followed by a round of ping pong or floor hockey in the warehouse with the CEO.
Leadership is also known among workers for being approachable, with not just an “open door” but a virtual “no door” policy. Francen and his team also work hard to make sure people are doing what they love, and have options for training and continuing education. Through things like this, employees say they feel supported and encouraged to grow with the company, learning much along the way.
“We have an amazing team of talented and skilled people who all work together and are willing to step in on any project where help is needed,” employees say.
In the dead of a Minnesota winter with icy road conditions, working from home is an invaluable luxury. And the employees at IT job placement firm Harbinger Partners Inc. couldn’t agree more. Founded in 1999, the company helps place IT workers in and around the St. Paul-Minneapolis, Omaha and Dallas areas.
Though employees work remotely from their homes and coffee shops, they say they still feel connected through the virtual office model, and that it actually increases productivity and encourages work/life balance.
CEO Scott Grausnick stays in touch with employees through quarterly meetings, weekly updates, and one-on-one meetings while working remotely.
“We may all work from home, but I feel more connected with my co-workers than I have at other places where they would have been in a cube right next to me,” one employee says.
Employee recognition programs include gifts and bonuses for employee anniversaries and each year they get together for a family weekend retreat at a resort in northern Minnesota, courtesy of the company.
At executive search firm SkyWater Search Partners, employees say the company has built a family atmosphere in just the couple of short years since its inception. With a philosophy to work hard, play hard and give back, the company places a strong emphasis on team-building, which has served both it and its employees well thus far.
Every Friday, employees put their work on hold and enjoy “Friday bagel breakfast” together. The office also features mini-hoop basketball, darts, a putting green and a lounge area where employees can spend time together throughout the day.
“We love being around each other and celebrating each other’s success,” one employee says.
Leadership is known for “being in the trenches” and “leading by example” fostering an environment of open communication among the team. They also promote an open-door policy where employees feel that they can step in and talk about questions or concerns any time.