AWE -- Alliance for Workplace Excellence
Supporting Workplaces that Benefit Employees, Communities and the Environment
2012 Q & A

QUESTION: Happiness in the workplace is an evolving trend that has captured the attention of many successful leaders. Please share your thoughts and opinions and any initiatives you are implementing to address this newly established priority:

AtSite Inc.

AtSite thrives in providing a fun and dynamic environment in which team members can socialize, share ideas, feedback, and communicate effectively. We often hold social events internally such as happy hours, ping pong socials, and other special events. We also provide a kitchen stocked with complimentary snacks and beverages for employees. Within employee benefits, employees are offered a very generous paid-time-off schedule. Bonuses are rewarded following effective and constructive peer 360 reviews. No employee’s performance goes unrecognized, and the growth potential is immense.


Everything BDO offers its employees as incentives for continued success – including work-life Flex programs, personal and professional growth opportunities, compensation and benefits - is part of our Total Rewards package. Our Total Rewards approach, with its many interlocking resources, exemplifies our position on both firm and employee well-being. One of our most popular initiatives is BDO L.I.F.E., a firm wide wellness program that supports Lifestyle Improvements For Everyone. BDO L.I.F.E.’s goal is to enhance our people’s quality of life by providing motivation and support to help them make healthy choices. One of the primary ways we create a healthy work environment is through our quarterly wellness challenges, including the BDO Biggest Loser, Step Up to the Challenge, the BDO Bucket List and the No Fizz challenge. BDO L.I.F.E. is supported by a network of Wellness Ambassadors in each office that champion the program’s initiatives by sharing the monthly “L.I.F.E.line” wellness newsletters, encouraging participation in challenges and creating excitement about living a healthy lifestyle. The quarterly BDO L.I.F.E. challenges have been hugely successful, with participation ranging from 200 to 800 partners and employees firm wide per challenge! During the firm’s busy season, BDO distributes a Busy Season Perks Toolkit to local office leaders to highlight simple ways to infuse fun, reduce stress and build team camaraderie. The BDO Greater Washington, D.C. office’s busy season perks include providing lunch and dinner each day, allowing casual dress on Fridays, encouraging employees to work from home, and hosting a party to celebrate the end of busy season.

Chesapeake-Potomac Home Health Agency

We take our employees satisfaction very seriously at Chesapeake-Potomac. Once a year, we conduct an Employee Satisfaction Survey. The most informative part of the survey is the blank lines at the end where employees can write in their own suggestions and improvements. Our Employee Focus Group then seeks ways that we can make these requests happen.

CollabraSpace, Inc.

New hires and existing employees play an active role in their place on the team. During the hiring process, our applicants meet with the team to set expectation and overall understanding of the tasks they will perform and support. It needs to be the right decision for them to work long term. Our existing employees know management encourages change. If employees seek a new challenge, we will help them find it without leaving CollabraSpace.

Decision Lens

Our company culture pervades our brand, colors, office space, web site, products – it is within and throughout our business. The brand projects a youthful, vibrant organization that is changing how companies make decisions. Our colors are blue and bright orange, and in Washington DC which tends to be very conservative, we really stand out. Most other offices in the area are battleship grey. Our offices are painted with these bright colors, and we have literally had employee candidates walk in, take one look and tell us “I saw the colors and I knew I wanted to work here. We enjoy throwing food at our employees - such as bacon and eggs to start the day or wings for an afternoon snack. Everyone loves free food and we want our employees to know we care about them and their happiness - food seems to resonate the quickest.

Dynaxys, LLC

Dynaxys has been an innovator for years in the realm of happiness in the workplace. With an established fun committee, we hold events almost every month during the work day as a release for our employees. The fun committee has sponsored everything from a grill day featuring a grill in our parking lot, to a chili cook off, to a Chinese New Year celebration and a black history month trivia contest. We get great turnouts at these events.

Foundation Financial Group

Recognition and personalized career development plans. Recognition tied to monthly awards, travel incentive trips and lucrative compensation plans. Personalized career development plans by listening to our employees and understanding their career aspirations.

Honest Tea

It isn't new to us. Having happy employees has been a part of our core values for 14 years and will remain that way.

Human Genome Sciences, Inc.

At HGS, we believe that is an integral part of our culture to enjoy the company, the environment, and the people that we work with. Management at every level is very accessible and egos are pretty much non-existent. We have a long-standing history of taking time to celebrate our successes, both in our individual departments and as a company. Each department has a discretionary budget for group-specific celebrations, but company-wide events are usually inclusive of family and/or friends. We recognize that our company is the sum of our individual members and we try to address things that matter to our employees in our business, our philanthropy, our benefits, and our celebrations.

InTec, LLC

At InTec, we hope everyone is both socially and professionally happy. InTec hosts after hour get togethers at least twice / year and informal team lunches. The President visits employee at their work site on a regular basis and discusses not only their work but also their personal life and ensures all employees are happy/satisfied with their current situations and if there is anything InTec can do to make things better. Additionally, the President takes each employee to lunch on their InTec anniversary; this gives employees one-on-one time with the President where they can discuss their work, personal life, and anything they’d like to inform management. He is a hands-on manager that promotes the use of InTec benefits and encourages our generous leave policies are taken advantage of. He leads by example and shares pictures of his vacations and family time with the company and is always generous with impromptu lunches for employees. With the small company size, management is uniquely aware of employee home life situations and can name spouses, significant others and dependents. Employees treat the company as family as is evident by the personal revelations shared with management through our Open Door policy. The many events throughout the year are always highly attended, both by employees and their families. We hope our benefits, events, and culture keep our employees socially happy, but on-site jobs and managers may often change without our input. When such a situation arises and an employee is not happy with their situation and informs InTec management, we immediately begin the search for a position or project that is agreeable to the employee. Our employees are more than just billable hours and we treat them as such.

IntelliDyne, LLC

We believe that an employee’s relationship with his or her manager is the cornerstone of employee satisfaction. We want the full experience of working with at IntelliDyne to be valuable to our employees. To achieve that goal, we focus on the development of our managers. In 2010, the Executive Team commissioned a management training program that provides a combination of soft skills and business acumen. Managers learn soft skills such as time management, effective team communication, problem solving, delegation, diversity management, and performance coaching. The impact of our program can be seen in a variety of quantitative measures. In our 2011 Employee Survey, 90% of our employees indicated they were satisfied or very satisfied with their manager’s ability to listen, set clear expectations, show concern and have a genuine interest in them. These figures were further reinforced when employees indicated that their relationship with management is one of the things they value most about working at IntelliDyne.

LifeWork Strategies

Happiness in our workplace involves incorporating a little fun into our daily work routines. We have potluck staff meetings and off-site gatherings to get a change of scenery. We have fitness challenges and rewards for meeting personal wellness goals. We even have a game whereby employees vote on their favorite American Idol contestant! True happiness is derived from having personal values that are consistent with the values reinforced in the workplace. Our corporate values are illustrated through RISES - five core values that we use as a guide in carrying out our day-to-day activities: 1.Respect: We recognize the infinite worth of the individual and care for each one as a whole person. 2.Integrity: We are above reproach in everything we do. 3.Service: We provide compassionate and attentive care in a manner that inspires confidence. 4.Excellence: We provide world class clinical outcomes in an environment that is safe for both our patients and caregivers. 5.Stewardship: We take personal responsibility for the efficient and effective accomplishment of our mission.

Loiederman Soltesz Associates, Inc.

Loiederman Soltesz Associates, Inc. continuously looks at ways to improve benefits as well as encourage employee recognition. Periodic reviews and comparisons to the market are conducted to make sure we are competitive or to see if there is something we can offer that we have not thought of to date. Employees are frequently recognized “on the spot” for going above and beyond and these recognitions are communicated monthly company-wide. Additionally, we are always looking for input and feedback from our employees on how we can improve.

Main Event Caterers

We believe we have a responsibility to not only provide a consistent, supportive working environment for our employees but also one in which they enjoy if not look forward to coming to work. First and foremost when adding to our staff we always look for happy, positive people. One bad apple can spoil the bunch so negativity is not tolerated in our workplace. Beyond that management goes out of their way to provide little perks here and there to all staff - not just the ones who produce revenue. Tickets to sporting events, ice cream on hot days, bagels in the morning, on site massages after busy seasons, mani/pedi's for the girls, company picnics, Easter egg hunts, etc. etc. We find that these unexpected little pleasures help us stand out from other employers and contribute to our employee retention rate.

Mental Health Association of Montgomery County

It is very important for you to be happy at your job; after all you spend a tremendous amount of time at work. Our staff meetings provide time to talk about important personal events (a wedding, a baby, buying a house, etc.). There isn’t a meeting where people don’t exchange laughter – our overall atmosphere is relaxed which makes employees feel comfortable in the work environment. A happy person is going to be more productive – creates a positive team environment – likes to be creative - often makes better decisions – doesn’t miss a lot of time – learns faster – looks for a way to fix problems. Smiling and laughing is a very good way of releasing frustrations with a difficult and/or stressful situation. We have recently developed a HR Newsletter in which we include things to make people smile, usually a comic. A recent staff survey indicated that happiness is of interest to our employees, so we are looking to our EAP to bring in some new ideas and presentations just to make people smile.

Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit Union

Happiness in the workplace isn't a newly established priority for Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit Union. It is what drives many of our decisions and has been for years! We believe happy employees translate into excellent service to our members and they are the reason we exist. The only thing new about it is that this economy has made it more challenging to keep our employees happy when we have to reduce budgets and slow down hiring new employees. This forces us to be more creative and look for low cost and no cost initiatives to preserve employee morale.

The MITRE Corporation

Employee appreciation events, people's choice awards, direct engagement by senior staff, (management by walking around), and informal gatherings at all levels help employees to feel more engaged and "happy."

Near Infinity Corporation

Because there is such a limited pool of people Near Infinity is looking to recruit – very bright, passionate software developers who hold a security clearance – the company’s culture, and specifically how happy employees are in their jobs becomes a major factor for recruiting and retaining great employees. We work to make the company fun. We host happy hours and frequent team lunches, sponsor a soccer team, form running teams for races, and keep company meetings informal and social. The activities outside of work make NIC a fun company, but the most important element of workplace happiness is our employees’ day-to-day jobs. Our developers are happiest on teams with other NIC people, doing mission-focused work. This is why we go out of our way to place teams of employees together, rather than placing single employees, and we are careful to select projects where our software development skills can make a significant impact. Near Infinity has many times turned away work on projects where we felt our employees would be unhappy. This focus on employees’ well being ahead of the company’s profitability has resulted in the intense loyalty of our most precious resource, our people.

SAP, NS2 (National Security Services)

We make our employees feel that we are one team working together towards one goal and that everyone plays a major part in this success. People really like working with our company and feel, even though they may be on a customer site that they are part of the overall success.


The owners of Smartronix personally call and email every employee on their employment anniversary date and supervisors are provided a monthly list of their employees' birthdays. Also, all parents and grandparents receive a personalized baby blanket when their new bundle of joy arrives! Smartronix employees enjoy seeing the photographs of the babies in their blankets on the Smartronix intranet. All locations are provided annual budgets for ‘fun’ employee welfare events throughout the year for employees and their families. It may include picnics, sporting events, dinner events, chili-cook-offs, happy hours, and monthly birthday cakes for the office. Recognizing that some of our employees are geographically separated from their team and are not able to participate in group events, this past year, we provided gifts of cookies and nuts to employees in Japan. An employee responded that he thought Smartronix was “the best in the world.” Not all work and family interaction is positive, however, we were able to turn a very sad event into one that the employees are proud of how Smartronix responded. We recently experienced the death of one of our young employees. Smartronix reached out to the family in support of all the typical employment needs, but then did more. Our late employee’s family and friends were invited to a celebration of him on the anniversary date of his death. The laboratory where he worked was dedicated to him with a bronze plaque and a beautiful ceremony followed by a lunch of meatloaf and mashed potatoes – his favorite meal! While his sister was not able to attend the ceremony in person (as she lives in California), she participated in the entire event by way of video-conferencing. Additionally, Smartronix sponsored a scholarship fundraising effort in the employee’s memory and encouraged employees to participate. Once employee said that our sincere efforts and response not only to the employee’s family but also to the rest of the Smartronix employees in terms of supporting them during this very difficult time, really demonstrated to her how we are a family. 90% of surveyed Smartronix employees say that Smartronix celebrates individual and organizational milestones as well as has a clear mission statement that gives direction and meaning to their work.

United Educators

Happiness and engagement go hand-in-hand; UE firmly believes that a happy employee will have positive relationships with his or her supervisor, colleagues, and the UE members he or she serves. Although we haven’t implemented any initiatives related specifically to happiness, we offer monthly social activities which enable people to decompress and enjoy each other’s company.

Vaco, LLC

Creating happiness in the workplace goes beyond what happens from nine to five. Vaco owes much of our success to the understanding families of our employees. Realizing the importance of maximizing the work-life balance, we have implemented a schedule for quarterly team building activities that take place during the workday. In addition, Vaco not only invites but offers to financially support the participation of employee family members in several of the philanthropic and community events we are involved in. In an effort to link employee performance and personal rewards, Vaco’s management proposed a “4th Quarter Challenge.” This was an open competition between Vaco’s four divisions to reach their quarterly financial goals. For each team who reached their goal, each member received a night at The Jefferson, a historical Richmond hotel, for their personal use. With weekly updates to our scoreboard, this incentive plan got everyone to “bring it” in the 4th quarter. Creating a fun and competitive environment that promotes personal interests as well as professional goals is key to creating happiness in the Vaco offices.

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