10 Steps to Becoming a Top Workplace

Marcia Ernstes, organizational development specialist

When we recently heard the news that Sur-Seal made The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Top Workplace list or 2018, we were ecstatic … to put it mildly. We fully realize how significant it is to have employees who are happy to show up to work.

We also strongly believe that focusing on that goal – being a great place to work – has led to the growth that we’ve been experiencing in recent years. When you have a workforce that’s loyal and committed, everything else is more likely to fall into place.

Achieving this milestone also made us reflect on what makes Sur-Seal one of the city’s top workplaces. Here are 10 reasons why we think employees enjoy working here (and, no, it does not include ping-pong tables and espresso machines).

  1. Ground-up leadership. At Sur-Seal, our leadership team is willing to let things happen from the ground up. This translates into a workplace culture in which employees feel that they’re heard when they bring up ideas that are actually implemented. Our executive team also actively takes steps to protect and enhance that type of workplace environment. Employees know they have a voice, whether it’s sharing information through daily huddles, meetings or other avenues.
  2. Recognition for supporting the company’s values. We also have a Living the Values program – a type of peer-to-peer recognition system. Anyone in the company can acknowledge someone they see doing something that supports and promotes Sur-Seal’s core values. The recognition can be as simple as writing a quick note and sticking it up on a board. No perfect grammar or spelling required. Then, during a monthly company gathering, all the notes are read out loud to everyone present, including the executive team. Larry, our CEO, hands the person being recognized $10. It’s not a huge amount, but it’s nice to be acknowledged for your accomplishments in front of the entire team.
  3. Lunch with the President … Sur-Seal’s President/CEO. Although our, Larry, is incredibly busy, he takes about five to eight people out to lunch every month. How many people get a chance to go out and have lunch with the President of their company? Since the setting is casual – at a local restaurant or a boxed lunch at a park – employees feel comfortable about sharing their thoughts or ideas. A couple of months ago, some employees had safety concerns related to working during the second shift. The changes, including additional parking lot lighting, were made very quickly. If the hadn’t had the opportunity to talk to the President over lunch, it’s unlikely they would have gone to his office to share their concerns.
  4. Pats on the back. Everyone wants those pats on the back, but during the course of a busy
    day sometimes they don’t happen. However, many of our managers sit down at the end of the day or at the end of the week to write out the great things people did throughout the week. Those accomplishments also are shared and celebrated during our monthly meetings.
  5. Business family gatherings. We don’t necessarily think of Sur-Seal as a family-owned business (although it is). We first think of it as a business family. It’s our family in the workplace. We host events that bring employees together, such as opening day for the Cincinnati Reds, which is huge here. We may have Skyline Chili cater lunch on that day. And we usually have a cookout in the summer or a chili cook-off in the fall. These bonding events make a difference – you’re not just coming in and going straight to your work station every single workday of the year.
  6. Events for extended family. We also sponsor events like the Sur-Seal Family Fun 5K that gives everyone a chance to meet family members. After the event, we open up Sur-Seal over the weekend so employees can give their family members a tour of the facility and their work area. It gives children a chance to see where Mom or Dad works, and spouses an opportunity to understand what employees are doing every day.
  7. Education for new hires about the ‘why’ of our business. It can be a bit hard to understand exactly what we’re doing at Sur-Seal because we don’t make finished products; there isn’t a cell phone or TV remote control that’s going out the door. That’s why we have a broad educational program to help employees understand that the little piece of material they’re cutting is going inside of a product like the gas meter that ends up in everyone’s homes. Our part will keep the gas meter working efficiently and safely. So, ultimately we’re making parts that keeps everyone safe. It promotes that sense of pride people have about what we’re doing at Sur-Seal.
  8. Investments in growth goals. When people hear about growth in the workplace, they typically think about business growth or financial growth. At Sur-Seal, that’s not the value we stress, we are talking about personal growth. We want everyone to grow and to get a little bit better every day, whether it’s through job development, learning new skills, taking on different roles and even reaching goals in their personal lives. It could be a health-related goal, such as walking more, sleeping more or eating better. We have a coaching program in place to help employees reach their goals.
  9. Casual work environment. Employees are comfortable working at Sur-Seal because there aren’t walls between co-workers, between departments or between leadership and general employees. People are just really part of the fabric … they’re engrained.
  10. Different avenues of communication. We use Slack, the business app, to help communicate business announcements, including internal news, job postings and even memes, if people want to share them. Everyone, from the President to the newest employee, has access to the app. And it’s OK for people to share on it. We use SkyKit, daily huddles and the Sur-Seal Facebook pages to increase our communication and that allows people to share. All of this together really helps to create special bonds.

Overall, if you were to visit Sur-Seal, you would immediately know that the majority of our employees are happy to work here. There are real friendships among coworkers. We are business family. And it’s that feeling of family that really drives our culture – and helped us become one of Cincinnati’s Top Workplaces.