Most people spend more time at work than they do at home. So it makes sense that employees prefer to have jobs they enjoy. While job satisfaction means different things to different people, a happy job can be hard to define. What makes a great work place?

In the quest to find some answers, Oregon Business magazine, based in Portland, surveys companies statewide each year to find the 100 best places to work.

Workers have the opportunity to tell it like it is (anonymously) about their jobs and supervisors. They answer a range of questions about their workplaces based on these categories: benefits/compensation, work environment, decision-making and trust, performance management, and career development and learning. A point system is used to rate and rank companies.

The magazine groups businesses as small, medium or large depending on the number of employees they have. To participate in the survey, companies must have a minimum of 15 employees.

Companies can become part of the survey by submitting their company names and contact info. Oregon Business Magazine publishes two Top 100 annual lists: one for non-profits and another for for-profit companies.

TLC Federal Credit Union

In the fall of 2009, the magazine rated the top 100 best nonprofit companies to work for in the state.

The TLC Federal Credit Union, based in Tillamook, snagged the No. 2 spot for medium-sized nonprofits, out of a field of 34 organizations of similar size. The credit union has five branches, including Astoria, Lincoln City, Seaside and Newport.

CRBJ called TLC in Astoria to ask for an interview about the credit union's award.

"You better talk to Mike," they said. "He's the reason."

"Mike" is CEO Mike Pierce. Pierce is based in Tillamook and has been with TLC for about 15 years.

"Have you ever worked somewhere where on Sunday night you got this feeling of dread about going to work on Monday?" he said during an interview in the credit union's lovely new headquarters in Tillamook. "I've worked there."

Before he was in management, Pierce told himself that if he ever got the chance, he would do his best to make his work environment a place where people like to come to work.

During his years at TLC, he hasn't forgotten how excruciating it can be to endure an unpleasant workplace.

"It doesn't have to be like that," he said. "We can still get everything done without making it the worst place to work."

Pierce said supervisors have a big responsibility for setting the tone with employees.

"We have to earn their respect all the time. It's like a relationship; it takes work and a long time to develop," he said. "I don't want to let people down."

Among the concepts that surfaced over and over during the interview: respect for people, involvement, and making a difference.

"We give people a lot of opportunity," he said. "Everybody has ideas. No one is better than anyone else. If someone comes up with a good idea, we give them credit. We really try to work with people."

Pierce said TLC has a community-minded mission that resonates with employees and gives them pride in their work.

The credit union has funded many community projects in Tillamook and Clatsop counties, in some cases giving interest-free loans to get efforts off the ground, like new bleachers for the Tillamook County fairgrounds, and helping out the local school district when funding losses threatened programs.

"We're making a difference," Pierce said. "That's our mission statement."

Pierce himself is reassuring, funny, and self-effacing, while still being firmly in charge. He jokingly calls himself a numbers guy who "likes to take a lot of naps."

But it's all well and good to let the boss talk about how great the company is. What do employees think?

"Mike is very understanding," Marketing Director June Pearson said. "He looks at us as people. He creates an environment where we can learn and think outside the box."

Pearson said another factor in TLC's happy work environment is stability: the current management team has been in place for about a dozen years, which creates positive continuity.

She said flexibility and creativity are some of the hallmarks of working at TLC.

"People are happy here," she said. "We really do help our members. It's something we can be proud of."

Tillamook is also home to another non-profit that made the Oregon Business top 100 list in 2009. The Tillamook County Women's Resource Center also made the grade, in the small non-profit category, among a field of 33 businesses.

Clatsop Community Bank

This past January, Oregon Business Magazine published its 2010 list of the top 100 best for-profit businesses to work for.

Clatsop Community Bank, founded only two years ago, was rated one of the best small companies to work for in the state out of a field of 33 similarly sized businesses. The company has branches in Astoria and Seaside.

Tips to help employers create a great workplace

by Joanne Rideout

The employers we interviewed for this month's feature on workplace harmony were pretty clear about what makes an effective and happy work environment.

Here are some of the highlights - approaches these successful organizations have implemented to create a great place to work.a

•    Give and expect respect.

Realize that respect and trust in the workplace, as in all relationships, must be earned. Mike Pierce, CEO of the TLC Federal Credit Union, said of supervisors: "We have to earn their [employees'] respect all the time."

 •    Foster employee empowerment.

Seek out and listen to your employees' ideas; implement the good ones and give credit where it's due.

•    Honor employees' desire to "make a difference."

Some employers allow staff to do community service volunteer projects on company time, or firms give generously to projects that benefit the community. This helps employees take pride in working for the company.

•    Take ample time to hire employees who are a good fit for your workplace "culture."

Clatsop Community Bank CEO Steve Ferber said the organization goes through a lengthy hiring process to determine whether the applicant is a good fit for the bank and vice versa. That often involves four to six interviews, and asking potential hires to complete attitude and personality testing. 

President and CEO Steve Ferber said the bank wants to retain highly qualified employees and rewards them well for their work.

"We scored high on commitment to career and salary advancement," he said. "People feel that they are at the top of their game. That reflects what we've tried to do from day one. We are very careful in selecting employees."

Ferber said hiring at the bank is a process of seeing whether a candidate is a good fit for the culture of the company, and vice versa.

Darith Andrew agrees. She's the operations manager for the bank's Astoria branch. She said potential new hires go through four to six interviews before they join the Clatsop team.

"We have a good group," she said. "We all like each other."

She said the "possibilities are endless" at Clatsop Community Bank for employees who want to think outside the box.

"Management is open to our ideas," she said. "There's an opportunity to grow and learn here."

Clatsop Community Bank Executive Vice President Joe Schulte said that as he and other bank officials hashed out the details of creating a new workplace, they did their best to learn from mistakes they had witnessed in other organizations.

"It's about putting high value on the employee and letting them know that they are truly valued and encouraged," he said. "We want employees to be empowered to make good decisions to do their jobs."

Schulte agreed that the bank has adopted a rigorous hiring process that includes cognitive, behavioral and attitude assessments.

"Most employers meet with a person just once or twice," he said,

He added that while the hiring process helps the bank bring in people who will be a good fit for the organization, it also helps prospective employees really scope out whether the bank will be a place where they will feel happy and fulfilled on the job.

Without such a process in place, Schulte said, the risk is higher that employees will not stay long term - something that costs the bank more money for training and disrupts staff continuity.

"We have a friendly, fun culture of empowerment," he said. "Everyone wants to come to work."

Schulte gave an example in which a Clatsop Community Bank employee had received feedback from a customer about a financial product offered by the bank. The employee brought the issue to the attention of management. The result was that the policy was revised to reflect employee and customer ideas.

"The customer said, 'I can't believe you took my suggestion,'" Schulte said. "That's one thing that's great about our organization. People know they can talk to us."

The bank contributes to numerous charitable organizations around the region and encourages employees to get involved too.

Schulte said staff meetings at Clatsop Community Bank involve all employees - no one is left out. Issues are discussed collectively.

"It's communication - when employees feel like they really know what is going on, and they feel like their opinion matters and is valued," he said. "That's trust."

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