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UptownGrrl

Charlotte's coolest companies to work for

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The City Committee has done some research on Charlotte area companies that have been successful in attracting and retaining educated and talented knowledge workers to the area. Looking beyond the cliches of casual dress, ping pong in the breakroom, and other gimmicks, the study has identified companies that are really trying to offer an environment, a lifestyle and a career that will appeal to upcoming generations of workers (and in the process, help expand and diversify our economy and our culture).

Really, its an endeavor to see which companies out there are doing cool or unexpected things, but might be flying under the radar a bit. It could have to do with innovative products or services, a particularly entreprenurial environment, really nifty technology, a flat org structure with great opportunities for talented people or a true work/life culture.

The survey results will be presented as awards at an event to be held on March 30th at the McGlohon Theater in Spirit Square at 7:30. Tickets are available through the Blumenthal ticket office at www.blumenthalcenter.org if you'd like to check it out.

The awards are planned as an annual event - its an ongoing mission of the City Committee to help promote Charlotte as a great place to live and work. So, even if you can't attend this year, think about nominating your company, or other cool Charlotte companies for next year's awards, and look for this year's results in Charlotte magazine.

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I agree about the clothing thing and the gimmics. So what are the coolest things that companies offer their employees these days?

we offer our employees paychecks.

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That's true, a cool company fully funds payroll :).

To me, I could not care less about things like ping pongs and outings. A cool company to work for from my perspective is one that is flexible and varied in day to day activities. It is very important to avoid the drone effect, or the 'am I going to do this the rest of my life' effect.

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There's a bunch of studies and articles out there on what appeals to the different generations of workers. In most cases, its not a tangible offering, like a cool breakroom or a documented benefit, like 401k match. From what I've read, what appeals most to the Gen Y workers just entering the workforce tends to be the more fuzzy attributes such as flexibility that (really) supports life outside of work; progress-oriented careers where you continually learn new skills and are rewarded with new challenges; less time behind a desk; comfortable workspace when you are behind a desk; using the latest technology and getting personal recognition. The most appreciated "standard" benefit appears to be tuition reimbursement. This group has one of the lowest loyalty levels with an average job tenure of about 2 years and will leave a job as soon as they will leave a cell phone company, if they get bored or dissatisfied. Their experience as consumers has taught them they can customize just about anything to suit their individual tastes - including their careers.

The challenge for companies is tough -- do they buy into this and make adjustments to their management approach or do they call it a bunch of hooey and think anyone who doesn't fit in to their traditional way of doing things is just lazy or unmotivated? I can just hear the grumpy voice: "back in my day... ". :P But, the numbers continue to predict a coming labor shortage, with the power shifting to this generation of fickle workers. If the predictions hold true, these emerging college grads will get what they want in a city and get what they want in a job... or they may very well leave both.

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The economy has it's own way of realigning these things when it gets too far out of whack.

During the dot com boom I remember hearing about employees demanding to work 3 pm to 11 pm (so there was time to play golf in the daylight) or refusing to relocate -- and getting travel expense to fly back and forth from LA to the Bay Area every day.

Employees become a lot less fickle when they need their jobs, have bills to face, or become concerned about aging out of the workforce. So I think the gen-Y'ers will mellow out at some point.

Also, dig back in the literature a bit... You can find worrisome articles about "How will companies cope when those people (hippies, gen-X, etc) hit the workplace" Well, life moves on.

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I might be wrong but I find that most people, once they have settled down and find themselves responsible for more than just themselves, are quite happy to settle into a job as long as it pays well enough and offers some flexibility. This seems to be regardless of age. The difference now is that most employers these day's don't care about their employees and in return they don't get any loyality from their employees. Older employees also jump jobs these days, but they have a harder time of it because of age discrimination.

Aside from that this is the first generation of college grads that have had to compete with college grads in India who are willing to work for much much less, are harder working, and accept the dictates of corporate management. If they are too fickle and demanding, their job could end up there. Of course this is for those dealing with corporations.

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The difference now is that most employers these day's don't care about their employees and in return they don't get any loyality from their employees.

Metro hit the nail on the head there. I have no company loyalty and that's why. What would I really want from a company? How about for starters a company that doesn't try to boil me, my co-workers, or my entire generation into some sort of stupid mathematical algorithm by giving us stupid questionnaires on "my generation". Or a company that doesn't lump its employees into some nameless faceless numerical sum to be picked up or let go at anytime depending on bottom line. Companies have lost personal touch and it is reflective of our society which has done the same. Person to person interaction is rapidly disappearing in favor of technology and generalizations by survey. It's a whole marketing can of crap and I think many of the up coming generation are going to want to do something about it. They'll want to work for a smaller company where they know more of their coworkers and have access to most of the employees there from the bottom up. They want to be apart of the companies bigger picture instead of working some anonymous job in one the massive corporations 100s of departments. They also understand that, in the world of corporate layoffs, your career and your job are two different things. Your career can be made up of not only your job but also with committees, volunteer efforts, cultural programs and involvements that round you out as a human being. We are dealing with a generation that has grown up in a very socially isolated society, I think want they want more than anything else is a company that makes them truly feel as if they belong and they matter. That they're not faceless and nameless and that they are appreciated and needed. If a company were able to do that then I know the loyalty they would be met with would be great from this generation.

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They'll want to work for a smaller company where they know more of their coworkers and have access to most of the employees there from the bottom up. They want to be apart of the companies bigger picture instead of working some anonymous job in one the massive corporations 100s of departments... I think want they want more than anything else is a company that makes them truly feel as if they belong and they matter. That they're not faceless and nameless and that they are appreciated and needed.

E X A C T L Y. But it is a macro issue, as well as a micro one. The micro aspect can be handled by the individual company and how they decide to treat any one employee; but the macro aspect needs to project out more broadly - looking at the demographics of aging workers and then at the future workforce that will replace them. They need to evaluate the labor pool with a competitive mindset - how are they going to attract and retain higher quality employees than the company down the street? How successfully can they recruit on campus and attract top talent from other parts of the country to live and work in Charlotte? Trial and error might work. Or, maybe some companies just prefer to burn through a turnover every two or three years. I agree that surveys can be utterly meaningless -- if the companies don't do anything with the results other than congratulate themselves for being in touch with their employees. But, if they do one thing, its help identify trends.

These workforce trends are always cyclical and prone to influence by other societal circumstances (e.g. no men available to take jobs in the 40s, women reemerging as a workforce in the 70s, dot-commers crashing companies left and right in the 90s, the recent emergence of the Ivy League educated executive deciding to be a stay at home parent, etc). At present, the impending mass retirement of baby boomers looks to be the defining issue; combined with an increased emphasis on interests outside of a 9-5 desk job; layered with such astronomic housing prices in places like NY and DC, that people are considering other options for building their life and their career. The growing temptation of entreprenuership is another significant variable which provides more options for motivated people, but is another form of labor competition for existing industry.

The premise is certainly debatable. And, of course, there's the argument that you shouldn't do anything to encourage anything - just let everything happen organically and we'll be better off for it. To proactively plan for adaptation and growth can often come off as aspirational boosterism to the cynics. Maybe it will be just a blip on the radar screen that isn't much to worry about, but it suggests a competitive advantage may be possible for a nice city like Charlotte.

So, which companies in Charlotte are already great places to work for having these attributes of flexibility, challenge, recognition and access that will keep them competitive for top talent? Any job envy out there?

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Given that Charlote is a very corporate town, and the fact that some rather large employers in this city frown on their hires participating at UrbanPlanet (especially during working hours), I would say that you won't get many responses that would tie a person to where they work.

However I will offer up my opinion based on people that I have known over the years.

  • The best places for employees seem to be in the global companies that have offices in Charlotte. Flextime, above average vacation, generous sick pay, domestic benefits, work from home, mobile work, giving employees responsibilty to self manage are hallmarks of these companies. Places such as IBM, Microsoft, EDS, SAS, etc are the first to offer stuff like this. Places such as this don't micromanage employees and instead focus on results instead of how much time they spend in an office. It's possible in these places to get assignments all over the world too.

  • The next tier of companies are the utilities. Duke, BellSouth and Piedmont Natural Gas, have monopolies and employees in these sectors have stability, that doesn't exist in the real world anymore. (except for government workers) They offer good benefits and pay, but are a lot more regimented. And in union shops such as BellSouth, there are always issues with the union over what is allowed and not allowed.

  • Finally Charlotte's two indigenous banks seem to be where there it is really polarized. It's like you are either in the "inner circle" of these places or not. From what I have heard there is a definite pecking order that is to be observed which I would not find very enjoyable. There is still a dress code in some quarters. This may or may not be true, but when you have a bank that shuts down websites the employees may visit, that speaks volumes on how much they judge personal responsibility if you ask me. Of the two, BofA seems to be the better place to work.

  • From what I understand, Lowes is a good place to work and to make a very good living. I have never heard anything bad from anyone that I have known that has worked there. This is really nice considering they are a NC based employer.

  • I think generally if a company is a Charlotte based company expect it to be slower to adopt newer trends that make working there popular. As I said earlier that is going to come from more global type companies that have offices around the world and attempt to treat all their employees to a higher standard

Keep in mind this is my opinion based on what I have heard from people that have worked in these places. I do not have personal knowledged of any of these places.

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