Last updated: August 23. 2013 2:48AM - 1161 Views

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LIMA — Fresh fruit, pedometers and walking contests. An alternative work schedule that earns employees every other Friday off. On-site fitness facilities. Matching employees’ charitable contributions.

They’re all signs of great places to work. The Ohio Society of Human Resource Managers actually puts a name to them, ranking their “Best Employers in Ohio.”

The region has two: Trilogy Health Services LLC, which owns Richland Manor in Bluffton, and Potash Corp., in Lima. All of the things in that above list can be found in at least one of those two companies.

The companies on the list have found that investing in employees and communicating that their work is valued makes for more productive employees and better business, human resource experts said.

“Valued employees are productive employees. I would say valued, not happy. Companies can’t make a person happy. But when your contribution is noted, and your making a difference in the company is noted, you’re more productive,” said Steve Browne, director of the Ohio Society of Human Resource Managers Council. “There continues to be financial pressures to not do these things. But the companies featured have figured out ways to have success through processes instead of in spite of them. We wish more employers would embrace the concept. It’s a constant challenge in human resources.”

The society’s ranking comes from employers in Ohio voluntarily entering into a two-part process; 25 percent is based on an evaluation of workplace policies, practices and philosophy and 75 percent is based on an employee survey to measure employee experience. The society compiles lists for large and small companies.

Potash had not participated in the ranking before this year, and volunteered for the process just to gain employee feedback, the company’s human resources director, Jennifer Niese, said.

“We were talking among ourselves and felt we had a great place to work. You can just tell, with the culture we have, what we’ve created and developed,” Niese said. “We thought it was a good process to go through to get feedback, to see what people think we need to work on, what we can do better. We didn’t think we’d be ranked. We were pretty excited.”

Entering into an honest evaluation is a great first step for a company, said Holly Rex, president-elect for the Lima chapter of SHRM and human resources director at Lima Allen Council on Community Affairs.

“At LACCA we actually go through that process on an annual basis, because of federal regulations,” Rex said. “We measure ourselves and the community measures us. We want to find out what we can be doing better, and find out if we have a best practice that we can tout as well.”

Browne is executive director of human resources for LaRosa’s Inc. — a regional pizzeria restaurant chain in southwest Ohio, northern Kentucky and southwest Indiana based in Cincinnati. Just back from a national conference for human resource managers, Browne is now blogging on new ideas discussed there.

Astronaut Mark Kelly spoke at the conference. His message was, “No one is as dumb as all of us,” Browne said.

“You’re going along with the general idea, instead of stepping back and asking if that’s the right idea,” Browne said. “Kelly spoke about the Challenger accident. You’re going along, and not asking questions. They never saw the mistake that caused the explosion, and when they looked back, they realized it was right in front of them.”

Human resources have always struggled to be part of the conversation, Browne said. In the old days, HR managers struggled just for “a seat at the table,” to be considered part of the strategic and executive-level conversations. Today, it’s that and more for effective human resources.

“We need to be integrated throughout what an organization is doing, not just coming to meetings,” Browne said.

At Potash, many employees commented about the safety culture the company has created at the crop nutrient facility, Niese said.

“Essentially anyone, manager or hourly person or contractor, has the right, if they see something that looks unsafe — everyone has the right to stop that work and get something addressed,” Niese said. “We have a lot of respect for each other. People are treated fairly, respected. We’re a close-knit group.”

One of the ways the company shows its appreciation is to match employees’ charitable contributions, dollar for dollar, from a minimum of $25 to a maximum of $10,000 each year. The company makes the donation in the employee’s name.

Potash has 146 employees in Lima, but it’s growing every day. It’s one of the things that happens to a place at which people want to work.

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