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St. Louis' top workplaces could be models for the new normal

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ST. LOUIS — Survey St. Louis’ Top Workplaces this year and, as always, you’ll find a select set of high-performing companies going all-out for their employees.

This year, you also could be looking at models for other firms that are trying to navigate a reopening economy.

With COVID-19 caseloads slimming and vaccinations increasing, many companies are looking to get back to normal. But after a year of disruption, some workers have different ideas about normal — and they’re pushing employers to ante up.

A widespread labor shortage has led restaurants from McDonald’s to Mission Taco Joint to raise wages and offer new benefits to fill shifts. An epidemic of quitting is showing companies they have to work to keep employees happy once they have them or face turnover. And workers are monitoring their benefits closer than before.

Peter Boumgarden, who studies workplace strategy and design at Washington University, cautioned that it’s not clear the current labor market will last, but he said businesses that make the right investments anyway likely won’t regret it.

“Those organizations are going to retain talent, drive innovation and thrive in a deep way,” Boumgarden said.

The companies on the Post-Dispatch’s list of top St. Louis workplaces, compiled in partnership with Philadelphia-based Energage, appear to prove that.

The Top Flite Financial office here, which makes a habit of giving away money and lavish trips to encourage employee performance, is its company’s top revenue driver among 37 locations nationwide.

“We’re the biggest team, and we do more than half the company’s total loan volume,” division manager Todd Feager said.

At RedKey Realty, where executives bring in masseuses for head, neck and shoulder massages to relieve stress and make a point of encouraging employees to go after personal as well as professional goals, the story is the same.

“Every year our revenues have grown,” CEO Jill Butler said. “I truly believe if people are happy, it shows up in your bottom line.”

And when agents finish raving about the collaborative work culture and retreats to Pere Marquette State Park, they confide it’d be near impossible to poach them.

“I’m excited to go into the office,” agent Sandra Mesker said. “And not everyone can say that.”

Some pluses may not be replicable in every workplace.

Top Flite’s main vehicle for giveaways, a 9-foot-tall carnival wheel that employees spin each month, was custom-made and barely fit through the door.

Real estate agents at RedKey and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties also have a unique level of control over their workdays because of the nature of their jobs.

But winning employers said their success is as much about a mindset of investing in every employee as anything else.

“The concept is: What if you treated others first?” said Top Flite co-manager Dave Bray. “Usually, the guys in the corner office get the financial rewards. It’s a simple version of the golden rule.”

It’s not just about cash, either.

Jill Fisher, who started at Berkshire Select Properties part time in accounting 18 years ago and is now the firm’s chief financial officer, said she’s always appreciated how the company trains and hires from within.

“They’ve always said, ‘Who do we have? Who knows our culture? Who can rise to the opportunity?’” Fisher said.

Which employers are the best in the St. Louis area? Check the 2021 list of Top Workplaces

Employees, in surveys, rated these companies as the best places to work in the area.

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What are the best places to work in St. Louis? Employees said these businesses are excellent employers.

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RedKey employees say an uncommonly collaborative culture makes them look forward to going to the office.

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Top Flite Financial likes to hand out money and lavish trips to encourage employee performance, which have helped launch it to the top revenue spot among the company’s 37 locations nationwide, executives said.

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The opportunity for career growth is a top reason Select Properties took first place among large employers in this year’s Top Workplaces survey.

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