Workplace Culture

Workforce 100: It Feels Like the First Time

By Andie Burjek

Apr. 26, 2017

Workforce has been ranking the top 100 companies for excellence in human resources practices for the past four years. During that time companies including AT&T Inc. and Marriott International Inc. consistently ranked in the top 20. Companies like ADP  and McDonald’s Corp. have sunk from the top five in 2014 to the bottom of the list or off the list entirely, while companies like The Walt Disney Co., Apple and Comcast Corp. have climbed from the bottom 10 in 2014 to the top 10 in 2017.

From left to right: Stacey Browning, president, Paycor; Pamela Harless, chief people and culture officer, Grant Thornton; Maureen Hoersten, chief revenue officer, LaSalle Network; Susan Stelter, chief people officer, West Monroe Partners.

[Click here to read “Ranking the World’s Top Companies for HR” for the full 2017 list, company information and methodology.]

Each company has its own unique story of how its HR practices, policies and innovations have made an impact on company culture. This year Workforce tapped into 25 companies that have never been ranked on the Workforce 100 List. We’ve explored what they’ve done in HR to move the company from ordinary to noteworthy.

Ultimate Software (No. 19) was the highest-ranked of our first timers. The Weston, Florida-based computer software company focuses on one mission: always put people first, said Vivian Maza, chief people officer at Ultimate, in an email statement.

“Our people make us who we are. We know we wouldn’t be here without them, so we’re 100 percent focused on putting them first and caring for them like family,” she wrote. “We know if we take care of our employees, they’ll take care of our customers — by creating the most innovative products and delivering the industry’s best service.”

The company has “communities of interest” for women, veterans and LGBTQIA employees, covers 100 percent of health care premiums for full-time employees and their families, and offers a 40 percent dollar-for-dollar match on 401(k) contributions with no cap.

A similar employee-first theme ran through other first-timers, including LaSalle Network (No. 38), West Monroe Partners (No. 31) and Grant Thornton (No. 92).

Ultimate Software employees celebrate PRIDE
Co-workers celebrating PRIDE at Ultimate Software. Photo courtesy of Ultimate Software.

Good for People, Good for Business

At Chicago-based staffing and recruiting firm LaSalle Network, they view human resources as a partner for both the business and the employees. The idea is that happy people have happy clients. A subsection of the HR department, the Human Concierge Department, exists to aid new hires. It provides employees assistance for various life challenges like finding quality day care and parental care, searching for an apartment and even getting a divorce.

“[We’re]making sure they know we go above and beyond, that they know, ‘We take care of this, you take care of learning the job and learning LaSalle,’ ” said Sirmara Campbell Twohill, the company’s chief human resources officer.

It’s all about looking at someone as a whole, said Maureen Hoersten, the company’s chief revenue officer. “We don’t believe in work-life balance. We believe everything should be integrated.” If the company doesn’t know anything about an employee outside of work, she said, it’s missing a big piece of the puzzle when trying to help them develop professionally.

2017 Workforce 100 List: 25 First Time companies including Paycor, West Monroe Partners, LaSalle Network and more Treating people well creates a positive culture, she added. “The people and the rituals make the culture, not the fun things we do or the keg in the office. A lot of companies have that misconception. But your people are your culture. How you treat your people is your culture.”

Chicago-based management and technology consulting company West Monroe Partners also has a people-first culture. Treating people well is especially critical because West Monroe Partners is an employee-owned business, with 850 employee-owners.

“We embrace the idea of career equity, that for people to ultimately feel fulfilled, they have to be engaged in work, cultivate meaningful relationships here, and believe that we are an organization that will challenge them to learn and grow,” said Susan Stelter, the company’s chief people officer.

As part of this they utilize the Three Year Letter. An employee writes about what they hope to accomplish professionally and personally in the next three years. Executives have an open conversation with an employee about their goals and help with their development, even if they don’t include staying with West Monroe Partners long-term.

Public accounting firm Grant Thornton began a journey toward culture change just over three years ago. The goal was to inspire employees to bring their whole selves to work, said Pamela Harless, chief people and culture officer at the Chicago-based company. This culture journey was the umbrella under which they introduced different programs and initiatives in recent years.

One aspect of HR they decided to change was performance management, particularly fixing an outdated approach to feedback and evaluations. They opted for a more informal, continuous approach to feedback. “We’re seeing a lot of results around the ultimate goal: to have our people receive more real-time, meaningful, actionable feedback in the moment for the benefit of their own development as well as their clients,” said Harless.

Good for the Community

Corporate social responsibility was another common theme running through each company.

West Monroe Partners embraces its staff giving back to the community. One perk they offer is the 1+1+1 program. A long-time program for West Monroe, the company gives back 1 percent of their time in volunteer hours, 1 percent of its talent to do pro bono work for nonprofits, and 1 percent of its profits.

Paycor team members do community service. Corporate social responsibility is increasingly important for companies to engage employees.
Team members at Cincinnati-based Paycor (No. 77) putting work into the community. Photo courtesy of Paycor

Employees can also apply to the Fischer Fellowship, named after one of the company’s co-founders, which offers an employee a three- to six-month paid opportunity to volunteer anywhere in the world. Eleven staff members have received the fellowship in the past three years, said Stelter.

One employee went to Ghana to teach computer and technology skills. When he found that they didn’t have a computer lab and that the designated building was dilapidated and unusable, he raised $20,000 with the help of his co-workers back home. He was able to work with West Monroe Partners’ performance services team to fix the equipment he had available and worked with their energy and utilities practice to create sustainable energy.

“Although it was one person there, it became a team effort of how we could make a change far from where we all live,” said Stelter. “We believe that’s one of those examples of career equity coming into play where people are doing work they’re passionate about. We’re doing work in our local and global community, and we’re helping people achieve their ultimate aspiration.”

Similarly, LaSalle Network has the Community Champions, a committee dedicated to companywide philanthropy initiatives. It coordinates volunteer opportunities every month.

Meanwhile, Grant Thornton this past year implemented the GTUnited program, which allows employees to choose their own cause or organization and invest community service hours throughout the year. Rather than participating in something predetermined by the employer, this is a more individualized approach to community service which the company can facilitate for employees.

Employee-owners at West Monroe Partners. Courtesy of West Monroe Partners
Employee-owners at West Monroe Partners (No. 31).  Photo courtesy of West Monroe Partners

The GTUnited program is based on the United Nations’ new Sustainable Development Goals, a set of 17 global goals to achieve by 2030, and Grant Thornton is one of the first companies to utilize them in its national volunteer strategy.

“It’s been incredibly important to our millennial population because they value so much the opportunity to contribute their passions to a broader purpose,” said Harless. “We recognize that as part of our commitment to supporting the whole person.”

Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editorComment below, or email at Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.


Andie Burjek is an associate editor at

Schedule, engage, and pay your staff in one system with