Finding the Best Places to Work (Chip Taulbee Associate Publisher's Note)

Is U.S. Pizza Co. one of the Best Places to Work in Arkansas for 2013? No, not officially. The 40-year-old pizza chain has signed up for Arkansas Business’ new workplace evaluation and recognition program.

I’m not supposed to tell you it has signed up. Participation is anonymous, except for winners. But U.S. Pizza said it was OK to share.

To not win would hardly form a blemish on the company’s stellar record. It’s a resume that includes decades of feasting on local publications’ “Best Of” food and restaurant awards but also recognition for its corporate philanthropy, a spot on Inc.’s 500 Fastest Growing Private Companies list the past two years, even an accolade for city beautification.

U.S. Pizza is especially qualified, however, to receive an honor for treating its employees well. How many restaurants do you know that offer benefits competitive with most office jobs? This includes paid vacation for first-year workers, viable dental and health plans and profit sharing for employees who’ve been there at least two years.

U.S. Pizza’s reason for participating in Arkansas Business’ Best Places to Work, however, is what makes the company so well suited to earn the recognition, and why your organization should sign up as well.

Great companies not only care about how their employees connect with their workplaces; that relationship defines them.

Such is the case at U.S. Pizza, where the culture is not just defined by its employees in some esoteric form but is written policy. Chief Operating Officer Drew Weber charged his employees with writing short essays on U.S. Pizza’s culture, and their answers, edited only for spelling and grammar, compose a pamphlet given to all new team members.

Their essays reveal a family-friendly and fun environment, as well as a history of retaining good employees. But beyond the touchy-feely superlatives, it’s apparent U.S. Pizza avails itself of employee input not just to appease its workers but to learn from them.

So it’s only natural that U.S. Pizza would participate in Best Places to Work and take advantage of the chance to gauge its workers’ satisfaction and engagement with the company.

U.S. Pizza will go through our Best Places to Work regimen just like any other organization. Somebody from the company will provide information about its human resources policies and practices. Employees will take a survey about their impressions of U.S. Pizza. And come fall, based on judgment from Best Companies Group of Harrisburg, Pa., U.S. Pizza will either achieve the benchmarks necessary to be one of the Best Places to Work in Arkansas for 2013 or it won’t.

The upshot, though, is considerably greater than another plaque on the wall for a job well done. The real benefit is the employee feedback U.S. Pizza will get:

• A detailed view of employees’ responses to the 72-question survey (in aggregate but anonymous for individuals), including response rates for different demographics like gender, age, duration of employment and job role,

• A full transcription of employee answers to open-ended questions,

• A benchmark report of its employee responses compared with other participating companies,

• A benchmark report comparing company practices and policies to other Arkansas organizations.

And what’s all that mean for U.S. Pizza? Only an in-depth look at how the restaurant is leveraging its most valuable asset — its workers — and how to improve.

Savvy businesses have myriad metrics to define performance. But what tools do we have to measure our most important — and generally costliest — resource? And how often do we employ those tools?

Arkansas Business’ Best Places to Work program gives your organization the perfect opportunity to gather valuable data and insight about your employees and improve your workforce. Yes, there’s a cost to participate, which goes directly to the firm conducting the research, not to Arkansas Business. However, it’s nominal — about $1,000, depending on number of employees — and pales in comparisons to what most research firms would charge.

For more information, visit ArkansasBusiness.com/BestPlacestoWork, or call me at (501) 372-1443 or CTaulbee@ABPG.com.

Chip Taulbee is associate publisher of Arkansas Business.