In Good Company
Benefits, Events and Work-Life Balance Earn Honors among Local Employers
Popcorn Fridays, monthly lunches and other fun events are just a small number of the unique perks offered by several area companies recognized during this year’s Frederick County Best Places to Work Awards.
“It is a unique perspective, being able to see all the wonderful things these companies are doing,” says Wes Leatherman of Frederick County Workforce Services. “You get to see employers acting as more than just an employer. They are fun, they are family, they are heroes, they are community and they are oftentimes a lifestyle for those employed there.”
Started in 2003, the annual awards showcase employers that emphasize innovative and creative workplace practices and the importance of work-life balance. They are a joint venture of Workforce Services, the Frederick County Office of Economic Development, the City of Frederick Department of Economic Development and the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce.
“The four partner agencies believe that attracting and retaining talent is incredibly important to any successful company,” says Donna Goff of the City of Frederick Department of Economic Development. “This award provides positive public recognition of good workplace practices. It signals to current and future employees that a company truly values its workforce. … These businesses add to the quality of life in Frederick County.”
Small Employer: Datakwip
When Datakwip officials considered applying for the workplace award, they emailed their staff of eight asking what they enjoyed the most about working for the Frederick-based company. Three main themes emerged from the answers: Employees liked the company’s innovative environment that helped commercial clients lower their energy use; they enjoyed the mentorship provided by company founder Cory Perdue; and they appreciated the company’s benefits package that includes a flexible work schedule and eight paid company holidays, plus a floating day off to be used at an employee’s discretion.
Perdue, president and chief executive officer, believes there are two factors that sets Datakwip apart from others—the team members and culture of innovation. “All of our employees play a major role in shaping our products and our services and on a daily basis are making decisions and taking actions that impact the future of our company, our customers and the industry as a whole,” he says. “… It’s a place where passionate, innovative people can come together and they know that their work and actions are having an incredibly meaningful impact on their teammates, the company, the customers and, ultimately because of what we do, the sustainability industry.”
Employees also have access to the company’s board of advisors to gain knowledge from experience-driven perspectives. The office has a 70-inch television with a PlayStation that employees can enjoy if they need a break. The company also offers a takeout lunch every month from various area restaurants and hosts fun outings such as happy hours and Topgolf. “We try to do something fun and collaborative and just relaxing once a month,” Perdue says.
Small/Medium Employer: Frederick Mutual Insurance Company
Created in 1843, Frederick Mutual Insurance Company is the third-oldest insurance company in the state and the ninth-oldest in the country. Its four guiding principles—being faithful in the execution of claims, carrying out a business philosophy of low conservative growth, limiting underwriting to quality properties and investing surplus funds wisely—continue to profitably grow and guide the company in today’s marketplace.
Home to 30 employees, the company offers clients, ranging from homeowners, small businesses to artisan contractors, a variety of coverage areas, including general liability and commercial automotive. Employees earn competitive salaries while offered flexible working hours and training opportunities and a 401(k) plan that has about 90 percent company participation.
The company also has a Fun Committee that plans company events such as themed quarterly employee meetings with favorite foods, an annual picnic at a Frederick Keys game over the summer and a holiday office decorating contest. “[The committee] really gets people engaged,” says Nancy Newmister, president and CEO. “… It allows a lot of the folks to be creative.”
The employees and the collaborative environment help to make the Frederick company stand out from others, according to Newmister. “I want people to be curious, bring great ideas to the table, get credit for those ideas and follow them through.”
Medium Employer: VaLogic LLC
Beyond competitive salaries, VaLogic LLC president Bill Robertson notes the Frederick-based compliance and technology solutions company offers two significant benefits.
With about 35 employees, the company remains very family-oriented, including celebrating special life moments such as graduations, birthdays and baby showers. “Everybody in the organization is very much part of an extended family,” he says. “We call it the VaLogic family. Every day is approached like that here. It makes it very rewarding. We are all in it together.”
Laughter is also a part of their recipe of success. “Without laughter, you can’t really expect much success in what you are working on,” Robertson says. “We have a lot of serious work to do, but we do what we can to make it very enjoyable and fun too. … If I don’t hear people laughing, I get nervous so I get up and make some very bad jokes. I just check on the team to make sure everybody is doing OK.”
The company offers employees the opportunity to cross-train in different areas that may interest them. “Our folks never have an opportunity to get bored,” he says. “… We welcome that curiosity and we cross-train in those other areas so they have a better understanding and appreciation for the other functional areas of the company. It also develops their expertise. When our team is working with clients, they have a broad spectrum of knowledge and understanding.”
Large Employer: The Emmes Corporation
The Emmes Corporation, focusing on contract biotechnology research, has more than 750 employees globally. In this region, it initially had two offices—Rockville and Tyson’s Corner. In 2017, it opened up a Frederick office to reduce employee commute times. Today, 85 people work at the Corporate Drive office.
“The work we do is important and challenging, so we need to have rested, engaged employees,” says Dr. Anne Lindblad, president and chief executive officer. “When employees tell me that opening our Frederick office has nearly eliminated their commute, it gives me great satisfaction. They have more time to spend with their families and they love working in a great location like Frederick. Work-life balance means happier employees, higher productivity and ultimately being viewed as a great place to work.”
Instead of hosting an annual holiday party, the company has staff partake in volunteer activities such as Bring a Broom Saturday in Downtown Frederick, blood drives and packing bag lunches at the Frederick Rescue Mission.
There is great emphasis placed on professional development with training opportunities with in-person and online resources. Dating back to the early days of the company, it continues to offer Popcorn Fridays where freshly popped kernels are dispersed to staff as a gathering time to encourage camaraderie and informal discussion.
Major Employer: Frederick County Public Schools
When determining the benefits package for school system staff, Darryl Boffman, executive director of public affairs, notes the needs of the 6,000-plus employees were taken into account. Officials looked at health and life insurance, disability, sick leave and vacation days and set up the package based on ensuring employees could focus on work and not be concerned about these areas.
School system leadership “is a team of professionals that really care about providing the best work environment for the employees to give them the training that they need to be effective, the support they need to do their jobs and to lead with heart,” Boffman says.
One of the largest employers in the county, Frederick County Public Schools is home to 67 schools educating more than 44,000 students. Many are drawn to work at the school system because their efforts will affect the quality of life for many, according to Boffman. The organization offers a professional environment, job growth opportunities, training and the ability to work with a wide variety of community organizations.
“There is a lot of pride in the work and the efforts of the staff at FCPS, and when you are in an environment where people take their jobs seriously and they want to do their best and they are willing to ensure that you are also in a position where you can do your best, what better work environment could you have?” Boffman says.