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Business Insurance's 2009 Best Places to Work in Insurance

Common traits of award-winning organizations

<i>Business Insurance</i>'s 2009 Best Places to Work in Insurance

What makes a company a great place to work? In the case of the 33 companies among Business Insurance's 2009 Best Places to Work in Insurance, the answers go well beyond pay and benefits.

The companies among this year's 33 Best Places to Work in Insurance also earned high marks from their employees in areas such as leadership and planning, corporate culture and communications, role satisfaction, work environment, relationship with supervisors, and training and development.

In the area of leadership and planning, for example, employees surveyed by Best Companies Group at companies on the list were strongly positive about understanding the long-term strategy of their organizations.

At small companies—those with 249 or fewer employees—94% of those on the list responded positively—”agree somewhat” or “strongly agree”—that they understand their company's strategy. Meanwhile, at companies with 250 or more employees, 95% responded positively to that statement.

Of the smaller companies among this year's Best Places, 95% of employees responded positively regarding their confidence in their organization's leaders, with 93% of employees at large companies on the list offering a positive response.

In the area of corporate culture and communications, employees at companies on the Best Places list are strongly positive about the frequency and content of their company's corporate communications. At the smaller companies, 94% responded positively to statements that their company's communications were frequent enough and detailed enough; at the larger companies, 93% of employees were positive about frequency and 92% about the level of detail.

Employees were positive about understanding how their companies are doing financially 95% of the time at small companies among the Best Places to Work and 94% of the time at the large companies.

Positive responses were somewhat less frequent to the statement, “Changes that may affect me are communicated to me prior to implementation,” with 86% of employees surveyed at smaller organizations responding positively and 83% at the large companies on the list.

In terms of role satisfaction, employees at smaller companies feel slightly more secure about their jobs than those at larger companies, with 88% of employees at small companies responding positively vs. 83% at large companies that made the ranking.

Some of the lowest levels of satisfaction can be found in the area of training and development.

The statement, “My company clearly tells me what is expected for advancement,” drew positive responses from 79% of employees surveyed at smaller companies on the Best Places to Work in Insurance list, and from 77% of those at companies with 250 or more employees.

And at small companies on the list, only 72% of employees responded positively regarding room to advance within the organization, with 73% at larger companies providing a positive response.

Across statements gauging overall employee engagement—employer satisfaction, willingness to give extra effort, intention to remain at the company, and willingness to recommend the company to friends, the companies on the Best Places to Work in Insurance list averaged high positive scores: 94% for small companies and 93% for those with 250 or more employees.

That high level of employee engagement is particularly significant in a tough economy, said Peter B. Burke, president of Harrisburg, Pa.-based Best Companies Group.

Despite the difficult economy's effect on businesses, “The companies that are doing it right are doing it really right,” Mr. Burke said.

“Great places to work aren't immune to bad things happening to them,” Mr. Burke said. “But the high-quality workplaces are able to handle it better because of the high level of employee engagement.”

Marie Clements, assistant vp for human resource strategies at Unum Group, said a high level of employee engagement at the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company and the quality of the company's communications have had a major benefit.

“I think our employees do have a pretty good understanding of what's happening, they understand the situation and they're willing to give that extra effort,” she said.

Looking at the data from the 33 companies making the 2009 Best Places to Work in Insurance, Mr. Burke said insurance industry companies compared quite favorably with other industries. “The employee data was stronger than average as industries go,” he said.

Of the companies recognized, 16 of the 33 “had an average positive response of 90% or better” on the employee survey, Mr. Burke said. “That's really strong to have half the companies on the list with 90% or more. The average is usually in the mid-80s.”