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Top Places to Work | Worker appreciation

Going the extra mile

A little encouragement goes a long way

At Wequassett Golf Resort, employee Kara Lachance works in conference services. Wequassett employees often enjoy a taste of the lifestyle they provide for guests, with clambakes, croquet matches, and themed events At Wequassett Golf Resort, employee Kara Lachance works in conference services. Wequassett employees often enjoy a taste of the lifestyle they provide for guests, with clambakes, croquet matches, and themed events (Suzanne Kreiter/ Globe Staff)
By John Dyer
Globe Correspondent / November 7, 2010

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In an economy that can sometimes feel heartless, gestures large and small go a long way for employees who say they feel the most appreciated by their employers.

Beach parties and cookouts, educational trips to Central and South America, and bosses who consistently promote from within are the actions that make some workers feel as if they are important parts of a larger effort.

Executives at organizations where employees felt particularly appreciated said they made the effort to recognize good work to cultivate a sense of teamwork, even as they promote independence. Often, that approach paid off with extraordinary loyalty.

“Individual decisions and the ability to contribute and feel valued have got to be important,’’ said Chris Stevens, vice president of corporate relations for the coffee equipment maker Keurig in Reading. “When people feel rewarded, they feel involved. When you build an environment like that, you build real trust.’’

In the Top Places to Work survey, these firms ranked highly as places where employees felt exceptionally appreciated.

Wequassett Resort and Golf Club

At the Wequassett Resort and Golf Club in Chatham on Cape Cod, employees often enjoy a taste of the lifestyle they provide for guests, with clambakes, croquet matches, and themed events inspired by the Roaring Twenties and other eras, thrown just for the folks who work at the resort.

“Right before you’ve just finished one party, the next party is planned for you,’’ said Kara Lachance, who has worked at the resort for four seasons, which run from April to December. She is now based in Wequassett’s conference services department. “It’s fun to use the facilities,’’ she said.

The events make workers feel like they participate in both sides of a broad culture of hospitality. Staff who don’t interact directly with customers, like chefs and others in the kitchen, receive awards like “Heart of the House’’ to recognize their contributions.

As a result, the relaxing vibe of the resort for customers rubs off on the staff — and vice versa. “If you ever are having a bad day, all you have to do is look out the window at bay,’’ said Lachance, referring to the resort’s seaside vistas. “Everyone takes pride in the property. We take care of it and maintain it.’’

Keurig

Every year, a handful of Keurig employees journey to Central and South America to see where the company and its owner, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, obtain their java. Called “Origin Trips,’’ the five-day excursions are designed to reward good employees, and deepen their relationship to the company, said Kate Van Zele, a product specialist who handles coffee brewer sales to businesses.

“You get to see the very beginning of our coffee supply chain, and meet the farmers where the coffee comes from,’’ said Van Zele.

The trips also drive home the company’s environmental mission of sustainability. Lachance said the trips are inspiring, and motivate workers to improve their performance once they’re back home.

“It’s not something you can put up on a PowerPoint’’ presentation, said Lachance. “You go there and you can hear stories from farmers. You are hearing what true passion can feel like.’’

New England Law, Boston

Employers with good employee retention might say it’s a sign of worker satisfaction. Well, at New England Law, the employees agree.

Susan Calamare, associate dean for administration, has worked for the school for almost 32 years, and that’s nowhere near the record. Chief financial officer Frank Scioli has worked at the school in downtown Boston for 52 years.

More than 20 percent of the school’s workers have been employed there for more than 20 years, said external relations director Sandy Goldsmith.

“I thought I would work here six months, learn to type a little better, and return to school, because I had gone out to Aspen and been a ski bum,’’ Calamare said.

Instead, she found a home. “There was just a feeling of family and inclusion I thought was unique. And I started to work hard and was immediately recognized for that,’’ she said.

Calamare moved up the administrative ladder at the school, serving as faculty secretary, director of financial aid, and registrar, among other positions, before she became associate dean. When she had children, the school gave her flexible hours. Along the way, she developed an enormous body of institutional knowledge that benefits students, according to Law School dean John O’Brien.

O’Brien said the school bends to make sure employees can stay. “We’re able,’’ he said, “to take care of someone’s long-term commitment here.’’

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