AWE -- Alliance for Workplace Excellence
Supporting Workplaces that Benefit Employees, Communities and the Environment
2011 Q & A

QUESTION: Describe the most unique characteristic of your corporate culture which significantly contributes to your company’s workplace excellence:


Akridge is a full-service commercial real estate firm that endeavors to lead the industry in sustainability within its offices, building portfolio, and community. In 1996, Akridge developed the AAAS headquarters building at 1200 New York Avenue, still believed to be one of the country's finest examples of green architecture. In 2009, Akridge developed 700 Sixth Street, NW, one of DC’s first LEED Platinum buildings. In between and since, numerous awards for smart growth and green practices chronicle the company's effective focus on conserving energy, reducing the waste stream, curtailing pollution, and supporting ecologically sound development throughout the area. New projects utilize the latest building innovations to minimize resource consumption, safeguard air quality, and reduce wastewater. Existing buildings are continually upgraded to reduce their carbon footprint, and building maintenance incorporates preferred status for vendors and contractors using green products and practices. But green building features are only a part of the culture of sustainability -all of the company’s departments and functions embrace Akridge’s commitment to sustainability. Human Resources offers benefits such as ZipCar and Capital Bikeshare memberships; Property management educates and supports Clients in ways to green their offices and their activities; an internal Green Team explores, shares, and implements new ideas in environmental responsibility. And the company is a major contributor to outside organizations that also promote sustainable initiatives.

AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP

AstraZeneca’s corporate culture is about educating, engaging, and empowering employees to make the necessary changes to our processes that will reduce our footprint on the environment.


For the last few years, BDO has been investing in and transforming our culture to become an employer of choice. The main driver of our cultural change has been a unique and innovative strategy we call BDO Flex. The goal of BDO Flex is to help everyone at BDO achieve the optimal work+life fit that meets their personal needs, as well as the needs of the firm. Just like business needs, we realize that personal needs change over time and even on a day to day basis. That’s why we offer day-to-day flex, which can be used on an as-needed basis for small changes, and Formal Flex, for which an employee and his or her manager agree upon a long-term change in where, when or how the employee works. Through day-to-day flex, our employees can work from home the morning the plumber is due, or leave work early to attend their child’s big game. Through Formal Flex, employees can work longer hours four days a week and take Fridays off, or work from home full time to save money on a long commute. In practice, BDO Flex can be used in an infinite number of different ways because it all depends on the employee's needs and the firm's needs and how they fit together. That's why BDO Flex is utilized by so many of our employees, from entry level to partner. By integrating flexibility at the individual level, we help our professionals manage their jobs, as well as their lives outside work.

Booz Allen Hamilton

The Way We Work (WWW) strategic initiative was developed to better leverage work arrangements (including remote delivery, teleworking, hoteling, and internal job transfers) to benefit clients and staff, help the environment, and promote work-life balance. As part of the plan, we are moving staff out of our multi-building campus headquarters as building leases expire into new or expanded facilities across the DC metro area. This plan aligns staff to offices closest to their home zip codes and includes a hoteling model for additional flexibility.

While small numbers of staff began transitioning to new offices in 2009, thousands made the move in 2010—and we started seeing true results from the initiative. As a result of WWW, employees’ average commute to and from one tracked office decreased by 1 hour (30 minutes each way) every day. This decrease translates to 5 hours more a week that those staff is able to spend with family. And so far, the changes in driving patterns and leased space have been calculated to reduce more than 500 metric tons of CO2 emissions in the region per year.

Calvert Investments

Calvert is a company in which employees are valued for both their individual and collaborative contributions. Each employee becomes a specialist in their position and is counted on for their subject matter expertise.

Barbara J. Krumsiek, President and CEO of Calvert states, "We strive to create a positive working environment for our employees because we believe that they are the most important component of our success." Barbara has always supported Calvert’s commitment to worklife strategies, from her unending encouragement of Calvert’s continued community involvement efforts to her full support of Calvert’s sometimes unconventional employee benefits.

Our employees’ satisfaction is evidenced by employee retention, exceeding 95% in 2010, and our employee tenure, averaging more than eight years of service.

Capital One Financial Corporation

Our Capital One culture is built on a set of shared Values: Excellence and Do the Right Thing. These Values anchor our culture and differentiate our company as they serve as the foundation for how we develop and execute business strategies and decisions. Uniquely intertwined, these values create a healthy, productive work environment for our associates.

Carroll Hospital Center

At Carroll Hospital Center we are committed to being the best place to work. Over the past year, we have continued to develop our retention and recognition practices. Our SPIRIT values, mission and vision are integral to everything we do, guiding our Associates’ actions and decisions each day as they provide exceptional care and service.

Choice Hotels International, Inc.

Choice Hotels takes a genuine interest in its associates. This key cultural value makes Choice an excellent workplace as well as an excellent corporate citizen. Our strong cultural values have been integrated into our everyday activities and quickly become a part of our organizational DNA for new hires as well as seasoned associates. This aspect of Choice’s culture is exemplified in the associates who make up our company. We begin with how we interact with each other day-to-day and carry that over to our customers, franchisees, and the broader community. An example of our community outreach is the Choice Hotels International Foundation which provides the opportunity for Choice associates, partners and customers to get involved in a range of activities. The goal of our signature cause partnership with Rebuilding Together, which falls under the banner of “Room to Rebuild,” has allowed us to improve the lives of low income homeowners in our communities.

Comtech Mobile Datacom Corporation

Each Friday, breakfast is provided to all CMDC staff in the form of bagels, danishes and donuts. This provides an opportunity for staff to mingle with others who they may not normally work with on a regular basis.  In addition, CMDC is proud to assist in raising funds for local charities once each quarter during “Jeans for Charity” weeklong events.  Charities donated to in the past include, but are not limited to: The American Cancer Society, American Red Cross, Haiti Earthquake Fund, Montgomery County Humane Society, St. Jude, American Heart Association, Autism Research Institute and Children Incorporated.  As a result of the donations for Children, Inc., CMDC adopted a child.  Donations go assisting with medical visits, food, clothing, school supplies and other necessities, otherwise not available to the child.

Federal Realty Investment Trust

Federal Realty is publicly traded on the NYSE with a $5 billion market cap yet our culture operates with the excitement and energy of a start up company. Our executives are accessible to all levels of the organization providing opportunity for ideas to be shared, input to be heard, and achievements to be recognized.


FINRA’s CEO wants to hear from employees of all level across the company. In 2010 he began a busy schedule of visiting a number of different FINRA offices to engage employees in candid conversations about diversity—and to learn about their individual experiences, challenges and successes at FINRA.

Global Environment Fund

GEF, a private equity investment firm, was founded over 20 years ago, long before “green” was “in” on the principal that capital deployed with a disciplined approach in specific sectors can bring significant improvements to the environment and quality of life throughout the world. We have stayed true to this principal and instilled it in the next generation of investment professionals, holding ourselves and our portfolio companies to the highest standards of corporate governance, ethics, and sustainability.

Holy Cross Hospital

Holy Cross is a welcoming, mission centered organization. The culture of Holy Cross Hospital reflects its mission orientation and its reputation in the community is consistent with that truth. During every orientation, one of the characteristics cited as most influential in the employees’ decision to work for Holy Cross, is its evident commitment to the mission to serve the poor and underserved, and how it strives to become the most trusted provider of health care services in our area. Holy Cross Hospital has been recognized by the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission as having an exemplary program in Community Benefit. In addition, and despite the economic challenges of our time, it is also among the top ten hospitals in the state for financial performance.

Hughes Network Systems, LLC

The work force at Hughes is widely diverse and highly intelligent; a large percentage of the population holds advanced degrees as well as patents in the satellite industry. The emphasis placed on communication within the corporate culture encourages team work, innovative thinking, trust, commitment and customer satisfaction to further the company’s technological success. This unique characteristic separates our corporate culture from others in our industry and supports the workplace excellence we strive to maintain.

Human Genome Sciences, Inc.

Describe the most unique characteristic of your corporate culture which significantly contributes to your company’s workplace excellence.

Human Genome Sciences exists to place new therapies into the hands of those battling serious disease, with a focus on unmet medical needs. Solving critical medical challenges takes careful planning, commitment, resilience, and the best scientific minds.

Adhering to the four tenets below, each employee at Human Genome Sciences works together in our pursuit of excellence:

1. NEVER STOP GROWING:  Leverage success and culture; optimize impact while pursuing original ideas for the future; build strong partnerships and remain flexible enough to jump on new opportunities;

2. DEMAND A RIGOROUS SCIENTIFIC APPROACH:  Never give up when looking for a creative solution and take risks that will drive us forward; expect excellence from every member of our team, refuse mediocrity; never stop making our operations faster, better, stronger, remembering that in everything we do we take one more step toward our goals;

3. RELY ON EACH OTHER: Work across departments, get to know each other as people, develop teamwork and share new ideas; have the courage to learn together from both our successes and our missteps;

4. MAINTAIN TOTAL INTEGRITY: Strive to do the right thing at all times; never over promise by communicating with precision and transparency; test thoroughly. 

Human Genome Sciences nurtures a culture of challenging and meaningful work characterized by open communication and programs that help employees develop both personally and professionally. Company-sponsored employee and leadership development workshops encourage professional growth while our innovative Live Smart program supports both personal and physical wellness through work-life programs, counseling, and on-site exercise classes.

Human Genome Sciences is committed to ensuring that our employees have the resources to navigate the balance between work and life.


Our employees’ passion for their community set us apart and significantly contributes to KPMG’s workplace excellence. We are as passionate about giving back to our community as we are about serving our clients. Our firm’s Corporate Responsibility focus is work-force readiness. KPMG’s Family for Literacy program, a collaboration with the non-profit First Book, provides new books to underprivileged children. In this effort we are making strides against illiteracy and breaking down barriers to education. Since 2008 we have donated over 25,000 new books to underserved populations throughout the Greater Washington region. This means that thousands of children are building a library for themselves at home and developing a love of reading.

In addition, we believe Health and Wellness is core to being a great place to work. KPMG connects employee wellness to serving our community by sponsoring participation in many fundraising “walks”, including Autism Speaks, American Heart Association’s Heart Walk for America, Leukemia Light the Night, and Kidney and Diabetes foundation walks. And as the Office Champion, I provided a challenge to all our professionals by asking each to participate in at least one walk this past fall. Our participation increased by 50% from the year earlier. Passion meets pedometers!

Marriott International, Inc.

Marriott’s number one core principle – since the founding of our company 84 years ago – has been that associates are the key to our success. Our culture is cemented in the concept that “taking care of our associates” means that they will then take exceptional care of our guests and the guests will return again and again. Both our own experience as the leading global hospitality company and empirical data bear out the truth of that concept. Corporate studies and our company’s in-depth analysis have demonstrated a direct correlation between employee commitment or engagement and a company’s financial performance.

MCT Federal Credit Union

MCT’s most unique characteristic is our commitment to providing one-on-one guidance.  For our members, this means listening to their financial challenges and guiding them to make sound financial decisions that will have a lasting positive impact.  We also use member feedback to create unique programs that you don’t find at most financial institutions that take the stress out of big financial decisions such as purchasing a home and planning for retirement.  For our employees, we’re dedicated to creating individualized development plans based on each employee’s unique career ambitions to continuously evolve their skill sets.  We also use employee feedback to constantly improve the way we do business. 

Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit Union

Town hall style staff meetings where employees are encouraged to ask tough questions (no holds barred) of the Leadership Team and Management about what’s going on in our company and our industry.

The MITRE Corporation

MITRE has a culture of excellence and collaboration: MITRE employees have the opportunity to collaborate with some of the best minds working in the information technology area- both within and outside the company. This level of expertise, and collaboration that occurs between staff members throughout the corporation, has fostered an environment based on mutual respect and camaraderie. MITRE also provides a supportive and flexible work environment: MITRE employees can work in an environment that facilitates learning and personal growth. MITRE employees receive competitive salaries and benefits that help to satisfy their financial needs, and Quality of Work Life programs that assist them in navigating their work and personal responsibilities.

Montgomery College

Collaboratively, Montgomery College employees are particularly proud of our positive influence toward educating and enriching the lives of our students and the community. Our commitment to higher learning is demonstrated not only by extending tuition waiver benefits to eligible employees, but also to spouses and dependent children. Further, our collegial atmosphere provides an environment where employees are encouraged to connect with the public through social engagement and volunteerism. Hence, our employees regularly engage in scholarship fund raising, community causes, and student and humanitarian efforts. In this fashion, talented faculty and staff volunteer their time and expertise by participating in community affiliations, serving on boards, delivering conference presentations, or speaking on behalf of the College's Speakers Bureau. The Speakers Bureau is a free service to the College community in which participating members volunteer their time at speaking engagements throughout the community. With over 160 diverse topics to choose from, audiences are able to select presentations that are relevant to their affiliate group interest.

MorganFranklin Corporation

The corporate culture at MorganFranklin ranges from flexibility and responsibility awarded to each employee, to the equal involvement and guidance provided by all levels of management every day. MorganFranklin has a is a unique culture in both its unwavering commitment to surpassing clients' expectations and its dedication to serving company team members. Above all else, our bottom line that drives workplaces excellence is integrity. That means investing time, energy, ideas, and financial resources to make a positive impact on the environment, health and wellness, and overall quality of life. In the marketplace, MorganFranklin is regarded as a growing firm with the reach and quality of a larger company, which focuses on attracting and retaining high-quality employees who continually reinvest in professional development and improving the value provided to clients. At the same time the company is consistently looking at ways to improve the workplace excellence, by focusing on customer service, expanding communications and building relationships amongst the employees. By operating our business based on integrity, the other attributes of a well-respected organization will follow. We commit to being responsive, accountable, cooperative, open and honest.

Optimal Networks, Inc.

Optimal Networks is committed to our employees—that means weekly company breakfasts (our COO cooks) to discuss financial information, strategy, and direction. In addition, annually we hold two Spirit Days. These are fun, team-building, all-day events that involve all employees. It’s a chance to celebrate our culture and team and individual successes.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

PCRM has a vegan office environment, meaning that no animal products are worn or consumed in the office. This informs our dress policy and what food employees bring to the office, as well as what food we serve at events. Because our mission as a nonprofit is to promote vegan nutrition as a preventive health measure and to advocate alternatives to animal experimentation, the vegan office environment is an important way for staff to uphold the practices we are promoting to the public. Most staff came to work at PCRM specifically because of our mission, and many of them are vegetarian or vegan in their personal lives. For that reason, this environment is actually seen by most employees as a significant perk of working in our office. It fosters a sense of community, is consistent with our mission, supports the health and physical wellbeing of our employees, saves the lives of innocent animals, and is also extremely environmentally-friendly. We share recipes, employees often bring in food to share, and PCRM provides vegan breakfasts for staff on a weekly basis. Once or twice a month, we pick up lunch for interested employees from local vegan-friendly restaurants. Rather than being a restrictive policy, our vegan office environment and its link to our mission significantly contributes to our workplace excellence.


Whether its potluck lunches, the informal atmosphere maintained in the office, or the flexible arrangements adopted for travel, employees agree that PRIZIM always looks for what will work the best in each scenario, whether for clients or staff members. PRIZIM’s culture is evident throughout operations and relationships. Some common descriptors used by employees to describe the work environment are: freedom, engagement, accommodation, ability to have an impact, and rewards for performance. We treat our employees and clients as people first, and we continually seek improvement.


QIAGEN has a global Performance Enhancement System (PES) which has a particular focus on employee development. Each year QIAGEN’s HR Development team publishes a brochure of in-house training programs available to all employees to support their development. QIAGEN also has a high-potential management and leadership development program and offers a QIAGEN MBA program.

Ryan, LLC

Ryan has made a concerted effort during recent years to take aggressive steps to enhance the total well-being of its employees. Our company has enjoyed incredible growth and success during the almost-twenty years since it was founded, and seized the opportunity over two years ago to offer, not only a challenging and rewarding professional opportunity, but one that enables employees to achieve work-life balance and success. To accomplish this, we listened carefully to what our employees had to say, and dramatically enhanced benefits and altered our culture. We moved from an environment that valued “face time” to one that focuses only on results, calling our new environment “myRyan”. Because Ryan measures performance on results achieved, not hours worked, our employees may choose to work where and when they are most efficient and effective – no set hours, no requirement to work from the office. Through collaboration and support, Ryan employees thrive in a guilt-free workplace where the focus is on results and superior client service, rather than where and when the work is done.

Sandy Spring Bank

We have a very strong community presence. Our employees give over 20,000 hours of community service annually with some of it during business hours. We have a unique program, Dollars for Doers, that donates money to non-profit organizations to which our employees volunteer 60+ hours.

Sapient Government Services

Sapient’s values-based culture fuels our business strategy, not vice versa. While many organizations point to having company values, we believe (as well as regularly hear from people outside Sapient) that our six Core Values are truly unique, not for what they are but for how we live them. Because without them we would not be the company we are. Sapient’s Six Core Values: o Client-focused Delivery o Creativity o Leadership o Openness o People Growth o Relationships.

Our Core Values guides all we do at Sapient from open workplace where there are no individual offices and walls are covered in white boards to encourage collaboration and creativity. Our people hold each other accountable for alignment to the corporate culture and it’s a big differentiator for new hires and retention.

Sapient people attribute our track record of growth, our record-breaking client win rates and our industry leadership and growth to our Core Values. One of the best validations

we received that our culture has, in fact, significantly contributed to our continued success was being selected by two major business schools, Harvard and Yale, who have incorporated our model into their business course curriculum for organizational success.

Social & Scientific Systems, Inc.

SSS is 100% employee-owned and has many opportunities for employee involvement, particularly through committees. The Employee-Owners' Communications Committee helps promote and support our employee-ownership culture, the Community Service Committee initiates and coordinates volunteer and charitable activities, the Green Committee reduces our impact on the environment, and the Safety Committee ensures the safety of employees and guests. We provide opportunities for employees to make suggestions, provide input, and ask questions through our employee suggestion box, all-staff employee-owners meetings, and other participatory forums with our executive officers, both in person and online.

Sybase, an SAP company

Sybase's basis for everything we do - our fundamental principles of fairness, honesty, and common sense.

United Educators

At United Educators, we pride ourselves on our highly motivated staff who works earnestly to deliver on our mission. Our collegial atmosphere encourages teamwork and open communication. When we recognized an issue with employees not handling conflict in an open manner, we instituted training (DiSC) which enables employees to understand their personal communications style as well as that of their peers. This training builds the skill set of constructive dialogue, which we interpret as giving and receiving feedback while maintaining strong professional relationships.

To nurture and foster that collegial environment, our active social committee plans at least one activity each month. Recent activities have included an Oscars party, complete with a popcorn machine and running trailers of nominated movies. We’ve also had a homecoming celebration, with each staff member wearing clothing from his or her alma mater, and a new year’s resolution lunch, featuring make your own salads.

Vaco Richmond, LLC

Recognizing the relationship between employee flexibility and success, Vaco Richmond creates an open environment both physically and mentally. A large part of our business is networking through social activities throughout the day. Being present for eight hour workdays may happen in a variety of ways. Whether it involves our recruiters walking and talking to consultants on their headsets or client visits from the friendly faces of our staffing team with Starbucks coffee, Vaco gets it done. This is due to the implementation of events and policies that give our employees feelings of independence and entrepreneurship, further embedding a sense of flexibility. In addition, Vaco has annual sales incentive trips for all account executives and recruiters. In recent years, they have traveled to Las Vegas, Panama, Costa Rica, and Cabo San Lucas! These trips motivate Vaco employees personally as well as reach out to their families.

Verizon Wireless

Being a technology company, Verizon Wireless is committed to educating our employees and our customers about the ways wireless technology can improve and save lives, benefit communities everywhere, and meet the needs of your workplace and employees.   We work every day with businesses large and small, as well as government agencies and non-profit organizations, to understand your evolving mission, respect your core values, and deliver solutions to find new ways to get more done in less time with fewer resources.  At Verizon Wireless, the future is now.  We offer a wide range of cutting-edge technologies, including the nation’s largest 4G wireless broadband service, 4G LTE from Verizon Wireless, which delivers speeds ten times faster than 3G networks, enabling you to do things today from a wireless device that were previously unimaginable.

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