Steal these ideas from some of Westchester’s most coveted employers, and ramp up your company’s great-place-to-work quotient.

By Deborah Skolnik

 

Who wouldn’t want to be known as one of our county’s most desirable employers? Beyond the bragging rights, it’s a great way to attract desirable workers — which, with today’s low unemployment levels, is no small feat. But ambition alone isn’t enough: It takes planning, creativity, and day-to-day commitment to create a superior employee experience. We asked some of Westchester’s most celebrated companies, which have won various awards for being great places to work, what’s in their secret sauce. Read on for their eye-opening answers and inspiring ideas.

 

Promote Diversity

The need to cultivate a diverse workforce needs to be more than just lip service.

 

Westmed Medical Group uses analytics to ensure the right mix.

“Our analytics really separate us. We care about the types of candidates we’re getting, and we pride ourselves on having a diverse workforce. We firmly believe that any organization that is really successful and worth its weight in gold has an obligation to be emblematic of the environments and communities in which it operates. We have a diverse patient population, and as a result of that, it’s important for us to have a diverse workforce.”

—Joseph DiCarlo, Chief Talent and Engagement Officer

 

USI Insurance Services looks for diversity at every level. 

“If we begin to improve the representation of [diverse] groups in the entry point to our company, we can start to make a difference. We launched a national internship program in 2017 and expanded it in 2018 to multiple offices. Last year, more than two-thirds of the entrants were diverse in gender, race, or ethnicity. We are a sales organization; our employee base needs to represent our clients, and that’s true across our company at every level.”

—Kim Van Orman, Senior Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer

 

Regeneron embraces a non-hierarchical approach. 

“We take a very broad definition of diversity, where you want to provide equal access to employees to help contribute to, and collaborate in, the richness of innovation as a company. So, we have a non-hierarchical work environment that pulls together people from multiple levels, multiple backgrounds, and different ways of thinking. This allows us to draw upon diversity in all its forms. We feel that we’re trying to solve some of the toughest challenges that exist: figuring out how to unlock human biology in a way that yields a drug that will fill an unmet need in a patient. The only way to solve tough problems is to make sure you have a lot of people weighing into the challenge.”

—Sally Paull, Senior Vice President, Human Resources

 

Offer Family-Friendly Policies

Work/life balance isn’t just a buzzy phrase — it’s a necessity.

 

Citrin Cooperman takes care of its moms (and dads). 

We have programs that help our employees with childcare, as well as parental care. Employees with the firm four years or more get a full 12 weeks of paid maternity leave (for mothers) and two weeks for dads on paternity leave. The Women’s Initiative at Citrin Cooperman developed the Leaning Out program, which can help female employees who need to either reduce some of their hours or potentially step completely away from their career for a temporary period of time.

Through the program, our employees can take the time they need while still maintaining their connection with the firm and our resources. We can also provide access to training so employees can keep up with professional education requirements, include them in mailing lists for networking events, connect them with a mentor to keep relationships open, and more. Also, all our professionals get about 22 paid days off when they first start. We have work-from-home policies and flexible-schedule policies. We have a truckload of paid time off, which can be used very flexibly.”

—Alan G. Badey, Regional Managing Partner

 

Levitt-Fuirst is sensitive during sensitive times. 

“A great indicator of our culture is our attitude toward supporting our employees during periods of special needs. We work with our team to help them if they have medical issues or there are situations with their children, parents, or even grandchildren. If an employee is trusted and treated with respect, then being flexible with work schedules is something that easily follows.”

Ken Fuirst, Co-President, Levitt-Fuirst Associates

 

Westchester Medical Center is generous with time off. 

“Our nurses have five weeks of vacation per year, and most of our other staff have between three and four weeks of vacation each year. In addition to vacation time, depending on where an employee works, we provide a very generous paid-time-off combination of holiday, sick, and personal days (between 18-24 days), and obviously we comply with all the federal and state Family and Medical Leave Act laws.”

—Jordy Rabinowitz, Senior Vice President of Human Resources

 

Meet the Masters

 

We tapped these firms for advice because they have all been widely recognized as stellar places to work through various workplace-excellence recognition programs. Here are just some of the awards these firms have racked up.

 

Citrin Cooperman, White Plains (plus other US locations)
Fortune 25 Best Small and Medium Workplaces in New York, 2017;  Business Council of Fairfield Healthy Workplace Honoree, 2017; NJBIZ Best Places to Work in New Jersey, 2018; Hartford Business Journal Best Places to Work in Connecticut, 2017, 2018, 2019

 

Curtis Instruments, Mount Kisco
New York State Society for Human Resource Management Best Companies to Work For in New York, 2017 (2nd place, Large Companies)

 

Levitt-Fuirst Associates, White Plains
Business Insurance Best Places to Work in Insurance 2015

 

Marks Paneth, Purchase
Vault.com Accounting Top 50 2019

 

PURE Insurance, White Plains
Fortune Best Workplaces in Finance and Insurance, 2016-2018; Inc. Best Workplaces 2018

 

Regeneron, Tarrytown
Fortune Best Companies to Work For (2015-2018); Forbes World’s Best Employers 2018, Best Employers for Women 2018, America’s Best Midsize Employers 2018; Great Place to Work Best Workplaces in Healthcare & Biopharma 2018, Best Workplaces for Millennials 2018, Best Workplaces for Diversity 2017; Science Magazine Top Employers 2017

 

Stew Leonard’s, Yonkers
Fortune Best Companies to Work For (2001-2011)

 

Strategies for Wealth, Rye Brook
Journal News Top Workplaces 2016; Crain’s New York Business Best Places to Work 2015

 

The Westchester Bank, White Plains
Great Place To Work Best Workplaces in New York 2017, 2018

 

USI Insurance Services, Valhalla
Forbes America’s Best Large Employers, 2018; Insurance Business America Top Insurance Workplace, 2018; American Heart Association Workplace Health Achievement, 2018 (Gold level)

 

Westchester Medical Center, Valhalla
2017 Business Ally Award, The LOFT LGBT Community Center

 

Westmed medical group, White Plains
Fortune Best Workplaces in Healthcare 2017; Great Place To Work Best Workplaces in Healthcare & Biopharma 2017, 2018, Best Workplaces in New York 2017

 

Get Those Millennials!

Attracting and retaining the next generation of employees is uber-important to your company’s long-term health.

 

Curtis Instruments offers green — and international — opportunities.

“We develop green technology – integrated systems and components for electric vehicles of all types. Millennials have environmental consciousness, and they like working for a green-tech company. Also, besides having great benefit packages and good starting salaries, we offer interesting technological and business opportunities.

If you are a young person, and you often have the chance to travel worldwide and truly be part of an international corporation, it’s attractive. Also, we’re also not stiff about dress requirements.”

—Frank Matheis, Director of Corporate Marketing Communication

 

USI Insurance Services gives employees of-the-moment technology. 

“Millennials want to see investment in technology that is current and allows them to be nimble and productive. We provide our employees with Microsoft Surfaces rather than desktops or laptops — they’re light and they’re easy to transport. Then we have something called Surface Hubs, which are effectively like huge iPads. They’re on the walls in our conference rooms and allow us to work collaboratively with all of our offices around the country.”

—Kim Van Orman, Senior Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer

 

Levitt-Fuirst offers room to grow — and youthful spirit. 

“We find that the most important way to attract and retain Millennials is to give them the opportunity to grow within the organization. We are constantly supporting them with educational opportunities and the chance to take on more responsibilities. Also, a few years ago we created a Spirit Committee, to develop fun events for the office — everything from cubicle-decorating contests to bowling night — and many Millennials take key roles in organizing and running those events. Younger employees especially value doing good things for the local community, so we have multiple events throughout the year [when they can do that].”

—Ken Fuirst, Co-President, Levitt-Fuirst Associates

 

Marks Paneth keeps an eye on up-and-coming talent. 

“We have strong relationships with key universities, offering scholarships to their accounting departments and maintaining a strong presence on their campuses throughout the year. This keeps Marks Paneth front-of-mind in candidates’ minds and helps us stay tuned in to the changing expectations of this generation of job seekers.

In addition to on-campus and internship programs, Marks Paneth also runs an all-day leadership program once a year that welcomes accounting students into our firm to learn more about our culture and seek career advice from our seasoned accountants. Also, many of our newer policies are driven by the desires of the younger generation of employees, such as a more relaxed dress code and flexible schedules that would have been unheard of at traditional accounting firms in past decades.ˮ

—Steven D. Sacks, Chief Human Resources Officer

 

Make Employee Recognition Count

Employees want to feel valued all the time — not only when they hit a certain milestone or seniority level.

 

Westchester Medical Center celebrates caretaking and corporate values. 

“We have something called Care Champions, where people who are identified by either patients or their peers are celebrated [for their caregiving efforts]. In addition, we have our VITAL Value awards, celebrating [employees who embody] one of our various different vital values, such as leadership or accountability. And we give out something called the DAISY Award for excellence in nursing. We find as many ways as possible to recognize the people who give so much of their time to our patients.”

—Jordy Rabinowitz, Senior Vice President of Human Resources

 

Stew Leonard’s doles out trophies, food, and cash. 

“We have something called a Moo Note — managers write three or four sentences thanking or acknowledging somebody for doing a good job. And at the bottom of the note, there’s a free lunch coupon. The managers are free to give out as many of those as they want; we handed out 25,000 last year. We also have the Superstar of the Month, where we recognize a part-timer and a full-timer for satisfying customers, embracing great teamwork, and striving toward excellence. They get a $150 gift card. In addition, we have the Sweaty Palm Award. This is actually a trophy and it looks like a hand. It’s called a sweaty palm because it means you stepped outside your comfort zone throughout the year, doing something you normally wouldn’t do.”

—Jill Leonard Tavello, Vice President of Culture and Communication

 

Marks Paneth offers instant gratification.

“When an employee becomes a CPA, they receive an immediate salary increase. All employees are eligible for ‘spot bonuses which are rewarded throughout the year to employees who demonstrate exceptional performance. We also honor employee tenure with generous service awards that are given in incremental value for every five-year service mark.ˮ

—Steven D. Sacks, Chief Human Resources Officer

 

Help Employees Stay Well

Wellness initiatives, like on-site yoga and discounted gym memberships, go a long way toward making employees healthy and happy.

 

PURE Insurance gives cash for fitness. 

“We offer discounted gym memberships, and if employees are enrolled in our medical insurance and go to the gym a certain number of times during a six-month period, we’ll give them a cash bonus. We also have a relationship with a wellness partner called Training Amigo, which is a phone app and computer-based program that helps us support wellness challenges.

Through that program we have health challenges like get more sleep, drink more water, take more steps, and more. We just hosted wellness fairs in our three major hub offices, to offer counsel on things like sitting properly at your desk, making better food choices, managing stress — going beyond the typical take-your-blood-pressure-and-temperature kind of stuff. Another thing that we’re particularly excited about is that we’ve launched a relationship with HeadSpace, which is also an app-based program, centered around mindfulness and meditation.”

—Katherine Richardson, Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer

 

The Westchester Bank provides education — and incentives. 

“We have lunch-and-learn programs [around health and wellness topics]. The American Heart Association has come in to talk about lifestyles, food, and exercise, and we’ve had sessions for diabetes as well. We also have an incentive that if someone stops smoking for six months they receive a check for $500. If they make the next six months, they receive another $500. It’s been very effective, and it’s great to see people move away from smoking.”

—John Tolomer, President and CEO

 

Offer Above-and-Beyond Perks

Employees today are demanding, and they expect companies to offer way more than just the basics.

 

Citrin Cooperman lets employees take a sabbatical. 

“We offer a four-week paid sabbatical to employees after they have completed six years with the firm. Our people work so hard, we felt that after six years, they really deserve a bit of a break. So they get four weeks in addition to their paid time off. They’re asked to complete two papers [while on sabbatical], each about 1,000 words. The first topic is ‘What would you change about the firm — how could you improve it?’ and number two is, ‘What are your goals in your career?’”

—Alan G. Badey, Regional Managing Partner

 

Strategies for Wealth makes Fridays fun. 

“We offer simple things like getting out at 4 p.m. on Fridays during the summer and at 4:30 p.m. on Fridays during the winter. Also during the summer, we have something called Family Fridays — people can take two summer Fridays off if they make up those hours during the workweek. And in December, staffers can take a half-day off for holiday shopping.” 
—Jeff Neeck, partner

 

Stew Leonard’s serves gourmet meals. 

“One perk that’s very popular is our Team Member Appreciation Day, where our chefs go all out and do a full-day huge buffet in our cafeteria — options like filet mignon, paella, every possible specialty you can imagine. All of the managers sign up for shifts to do the serving, so our team members are treated to a gourmet meal, and they can come back as often as they want.”

—Jill Leonard Tavello, Vice President of Culture and Communication

 

Curtis Instruments makes work anniversaries special (and lucrative!). 

On your anniversary you get a personal visit from the boss, a card that thanks you for being with the company, and a check for one full day’s pay. And every five anniversaries you get to choose a charity to which the company will make a significant donation in your name. We believe that the members of Curtis are members of the wider community — this is part of our principles.”

—Frank Matheis, Director of Corporate Marketing Communication

 

Give Employees a Say

In-the-trenches employees often have the best ideas. After all, they are typically closest to the company’s products/services and customers.

 

Westmed Medical Group turns employee feedback into decision-making. 

“We love to harness [our employees’] energy and excitement by doing things such as annual engagement surveys and incorporating feedback into our policies and decision-making. The COO [Karen Dolman] and I go around to each of our facilities each year and hold a focus group called ‘Lunch with Karen and Joe.’ We have very direct conversations with staff members about what we can do to make things better.

And some of our best ideas have come out of those meetings, including changes to uniform policy and paid-time-off policy, and even providing free coffee and refreshments to our staff.”

—Joseph DiCarlo, Chief Talent and Engagement Officer

 

Strategies for Wealth respects employee opinions. 

“Our office manager, Yvette Quinones, does a great job going between our different offices making sure that team members are really heard. We all want to feel that our opinions matter. Yvette is really great about letting our staff and team members get a chance to express what’s going on, and identify areas for improvement, along with concerns they might have.”

—Jeff Neeck, partner

 

Avoid These Mistakes

If your company is falling short of being a great place to work, you could be making one of these all-too-common errors.

 

The Westchester Bank never takes employees for granted. 

“Every single person deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. At times, institutions can lose sight of that and just try to get the job done; they don’t necessarily take the time to have people feel good about what they do. The other thing employees want is the opportunity to grow and increase responsibility. We always look first internally [to fill a position] anytime there is a job opening.”

—John Tolomer, President & CEO

 

PURE Insurance never forgets its core principles. 

“If I were to guess what goes wrong at other companies, it is that they write something down as their purpose or their principles or their mission, or they say that’s who they want to be, but their executive teams are not behind it, or they don’t live it every day. Our executive team is absolutely committed to nurturing our culture.”

—Katherine Richardson, Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer

 

Curtis Instruments never overlooks internal evaluations. 

“It is a mistake to accept any external evaluation because many are self-serving and not based on actual employee feedback. The only thing that is meaningful is genuine employee satisfaction that is expressed in anonymous employee surveys. It has to be real. This is how your employees have to actually feel; then it becomes meaningful.”

—Frank Matheis, Director of Corporate Marketing Communication

 


Writer/editor Deborah Skolnik is a contributor to 914INC. and Westchester Magazine. Her work has been published in many other leading publications as well, including The New York Times, The New York Daily News, and Reader's Digest.

 

From left to right: 

Sally Paull | Regeneron | Senior Vice President, Human Resources

Kim Van Orman | USI Insurance Services | Senior Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer

Katherine Richardson | Pure Insurance | Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer

Jill Leonard Tavello | Stew Leonard's | Vice President of Culture and Communication

Joseph DiCarlo | Westmed Medical Group | Chief Talent and Engagement Officer

Jeff Neeck | Strategies for Wealth | Partner

John Tolomer | The Westchester Bank |  President & CEO

Also featured:

Alan G. Badey | Citrin Cooperman | Regional Managing Partner

Ken Fuirst | Levitt-Fuirst Associates | Co-President

Jordy Rabinowitz | Westchester Medical Center |  Senior Vice President of Human Resources

Steven D. Sacks | Marks Paneth | Chief Human Resources Officer

Frank Matheis | Curtis Instruments | Director of Corporate Marketing Communication

 

 

 

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