Joyce Jenereaux, president and publisher of the Detroit Free Press, kicked off the evening by introducing 13 firms in the Top Workplaces Circle of Excellence, honoring companies that have placed high on the list year after year. Quicken Loans was recognized for being one of the top five workplaces in Michigan for six consecutive years.
A panel discussion moderated by Detroit Free Press Business Columnist Tom Walsh, featured Bill Emerson, CEO of Quicken Loans, Jim Proppe, Group Managing Partner at Plante Moran and Michael Rosenberg, CEO of Detroit Business Consulting.
Company culture, diversity in the workplace and employee empowerment were just a few of the topics discussed.
Quicken Loans CEO Bill Emerson told the audience, “People want to be successful. We give them the tools and training needed to build their career. It really comes down to a culture of performance – we’re always getting great people in the door and constantly trying to find curious people. If you have the right attitude and effort, everything will take care of itself.”
“What separates us is that we look for all types of backgrounds, not a specific type of major or college,” said Rosenberg of Detroit Business Consulting. “We give people a shot. We push people hard because that’s what sports did for me. If you’re a winner, we want to reward you, and there’s a black and white path to that.”
With approximately 2,000 employees, Plante Moran’s Proppe said, “It’s all about our culture. We do have terrific wages and benefits, but it’s our culture that we pass from generation to generation. Ninety years ago, a philosopher and a taxman founded our firm to focus on both people and clients. We focus on the principle of balance, which addresses work life and home life because everyone’s balance is different.”
When trying to pinpoint what makes someone in their 20s versus someone in their 50’s happy in the workplace, the panelists offered feedback from what they’re seeing daily in their offices. For employees of all ages, communication and empowerment of employees was a common thread across the panelists, with innovation, creativity and resources hinging on each other.
Emerson was passionate about his response, citing a number of ways in which Quicken Loans innovates and executes: “How do we engage the people in our organizations? We get them active from the start. Dan (Gilbert) and I do a presentation on our culture, it’s a 10-hour day but we set the right expectations upfront. It’s a foundation of no boundaries on communication. I give out my cell, my email…anyone can communicate with me anytime.
“One of the ways to do that is what we call Pitch Day. Team members come up with ideas, refine them, put their ideas forth, we vet them, and they present in front of about 300 people live and we stream it across the company. This allows them to think, create, present, win money and awards and execute on ideas.
We also have Bullet Time in which members of our IT team get four hours every Monday to innovate. One of the success stories is Rocket Fiber, which is high speed Internet rolling out right now. In 18 months, it went from an idea, to a business plan, to funding and now, impacting people in Detroit.” With regard to resources and tools, he added, “We believe a penny saved is a penny. The old saying, ‘a penny saved, is a penny earned’ is just not true. We provide items like tablets, phones, or other technology, and people get fired up about finding solutions when they have the right tools.”
Proppe admitted, “We have a lot of different generations at Plante Moran and millennials just work differently. They’re some of the most creative people and have critical thinking skills. It gets you into a better spot because they question things, there’s an energy we can tap into and they network faster than anyone else with a click of a button. For mid-career folks, a way they really grow in their career is to offer mentoring, coaching and building successors to grow the next generation. If you asked, I’d say 99% of our employees would say one of their proudest moments is when they get to introduce a new partner that they helped mentor.”
Walsh mentioned that getting outside the office and playing an active role in the community was a common mark of excellence for the companies recognized.
“I don’t know how you can live and work in a community without helping it. We donated 75,000 volunteer hours last year, and we’re on pace for 100,000 hours of service this year,” said Emerson. “When we moved to Detroit in 2010, some people thought we would lose some of that activity being in the city. But being downtown has made us a stronger organization and there’s a pride our team members feel for what we’re doing in Detroit. Our team members want to get out and help. In addition to team volunteering, every team member gets eight hours of paid time to volunteer with the organization of their choice.”
Following the panel discussion, Jenereaux presented Patrick Doyle, President and CEO of Domino’s, with the Leadership Award. He shared some of the values and vision held by the company. With 12,000 stores in more than 80 countries, their goal is to influence people on a household-by-household basis, especially by keeping things transparent.
“We focus on uncommon honesty – the public face has to be how we operate as a company. Our commercials were direct and blunt. We admitted the pizzas weren’t good and we could do better. We fixed it. We said we knew it wouldn’t be perfect but we think you’ll like it. If you don’t like it, tell us and we’ll continue to fix it. It worked for people.”
In addition to sharing company philosophy, he shared some words of wisdom with attendees: “Be courageous – a vast amount of companies are far too conservative about risk and figuring out how to avoid mistakes. We recognize it’s an important part of moving the business forward. We take a lot of swings and it doesn’t always work – but if you can do it in pizza you can do it anywhere!”
Following Doyle’s presentation, Walsh joined the Free Press’ Christopher Kirkpatrick to announce this year’s award winners. Approximately 1,500 organizations were invited to participate and 61,000 employees filled out anonymous surveys that produced the rankings.
This year’s winners are listed below.
Large-Sized Business Winners:
- 1st: Credit Acceptance Corporation
- 2nd: Edward Jones
- 3rd: Quicken Loans
- 4th: Plante Moran
- 5th: Michigan State University Federal Credit Union
Medium-Sized Business Winners:
- 1st: Home Instead
- 2nd: Team Rehabilitation
- 3rd: Microsoft
- 4th: ESG Automotive
- 5th: Aerotek
Small-Sized Business Winners:
- 1st: Financial Services of America
- 2nd: Detroit Business Consulting
- 3rd: Custom Home Health
- 4th: TNG Worldwide
Quicken Loans is proud to be recognized as one of the top places to work and congratulates all of the other winners who work tirelessly each day to provide a positive workplace for their team members which in turn creates better experiences for the clients they serve.
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