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Sparks companies strive to offer employees ‘best places to work’
by Jessica Mosebach
Apr 17, 2008 | 2014 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Debra Reid - Granite Construction workers excavate a trench for a new curb and gutter in Reno on Wednesday. Granite is in the running for an award for the work environment it provides for employees.
Tribune/Debra Reid - Granite Construction workers excavate a trench for a new curb and gutter in Reno on Wednesday. Granite is in the running for an award for the work environment it provides for employees.
Rusty Kilkenny has a lot to brag about with his company, Ebara International. The benefits package serves the employees well and they work to educate the public on helping the environment by going green.

“All the employees are very much valued here; each and every person plays an important role in the region,” said Kilkenny, executive vice president.

Ebara is one of 49 finalists for the inaugural “Greater Reno-Tahoe Best Places to Work” awards sponsored by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN). Six finalists are based or have operations in Sparks, including Kiley Ranch, Land Resource Investments, Haws Corporation, Granite Construction and Ebara International.

The program is an effort to highlight the significance of the employee in the workplace and to boost morale.

“A lot of (the program) is that our employers really understand the value of their employees,” said Gail Conkey, director of marketing at EDAWN. “We live in a unique lifestyle here. We hear lots of stories of employers doing very innovative programs and giving benefits and scheduling flexible work hours. That’s very unusual for a community of our size.”

She said many employees have a vested interest in their line of work and “have great pride in their workplace.”

Kilkenny agrees.

“What’s really neat is they come to me with different ideas,” he said. “Each employee has their own strengths and they bring them to work and share them with us. Each segment of the community is touched because we have so many employees in Sparks, Reno, Tahoe, Fernley, Carson City — and they’re all involved.”

Ebara, which engineers cast iron and stainless steel pumps for commercial businesses and residences, offers profit sharing, a benefits package and a committee within the company that schedules extracurricular events, such as picnics and bowling, Kilkenny said.

“There’s a lot of employee involvement in the company,” he said.

Kiley Ranch, another nominee, also reports having a solid team of employees that contributes to the local economy through volunteerism.

“Instead of having people on different levels, we’re one big team and we all work hard,” said marketing coordinator Angela Cordova. “We try to get involved as much as we can to help people.”

Kiley Ranch employees take part in educational programs at Sepulveda Elementary School and help out in food drives. They also raise awareness on environment issues and going “green.”

“We put different write-ups on our blog and Web site,” she said. “This year, we’ll have a booth on Earth Day and we’re working on ... educating our guests on green building.”

At Granite Construction, a national contractor with offices at 1900 Glendale Ave. in Sparks, business manager Jim Grogan said the company’s Employee Development Initiative (EDI) offers workers a chance to continue learning while on the job. The program includes learning programs in the field, in the office and in the classroom where employees of all levels — management, office and trade — teach and support each other.

“The rewards received by our EDI for both our people and Granite far outweigh the costs involved,” Grogan said.

The Best Places to Work program was launched in early January and the call for nominations was open until the end of February. Nominations were submitted by employers or clients. Companies that were nominated then had until March 14 to implement the surveys.

Employees answered questions regarding team effectiveness, retention, alignment with company goals, trust with co-workers, manager effectiveness, trust in senior leaders, feeling valued, work engagement and people practices.

Survey questions were designed to find out how employees felt in each of these areas and to quantify how each of these factors affects the employee in the workplace.

“The important thing is human capital, which is your employees being your greatest asset,” Conkey said of managers. “Best Places to Work is to recognize the employers that already offer a terrific work environment. It gets them greater exposure from a (public relations) and marketing standpoint and significantly helps with recruiting.”

Conkey said the program also encourages companies to learn from each other on how to improve on areas of weakness.

“It gives the company an idea of, ‘Gosh, we really need to work on management effectiveness as a strategy,’ “ she said. “It gives them opportunities to see where they are and raise the mark in their own company.”

The awards are divided into three categories according to staff size. Also, Conkey noted, EDAWN does not have a part in selecting the winners. An outside organization was hired to tabulate the results and determine the winners based on the highest scores for each category.

The winners will be announced at EDAWN’s annual luncheon and 25th anniversary celebration at John Ascuaga’s Nugget on Thursday at 11:30 a.m.
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