United Way of Southwest Michigan Names to 20 Best Places to Work in SWM

Pride is a decided common denominator among those who work for the companies selected to be recognized as the 20 Best Places to Work in Michigan's Great Southwest. In fact, at United Way of Southwest Michigan, they will tell you that "feeling proud of the work you do at the end of the day is just the beginning when you work at United Way." That's the concluding line in their assignment in the survey to establish a recruitment ad to encourage others to consider being a part of the team. There's plenty of pride to go around at United Way, but take a moment to read on so you can discover the amazing things that the United Way team not only does in and for the community, but in and for one another as prime examples of what a Best Place to Work should look like. They are a model of perfection in that realm, and their story is truly compelling. Enjoy the ride!

What is the name of the business you are nominating?

United Way of Southwest Michigan

Who are the owner(s) and/or principals in this company?

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Anna Murphy, President & CEO

Business Contact Information

Anna Murphy

2015 Lakeview Avenue

St. Joseph, MI 49085

How many people work at the company you are nominating?

23

Tell us the story behind the nominated company. What does it do, and what sets them apart from other companies in the region?

United Way of Southwest Michigan is a local non-profit organization dedicated to making a positive impact in Berrien and Cass Counties. United Way of Southwest Michigan fights for the Health, Education, and Financial Stability of every person in Southwest Michigan. United Way’s mission is to improve people’s lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities to advance the common good. Simply put – we change lives!  United Way is uniquely positioned to be a vehicle for volunteers, donors and advocates who seek to make a difference in their communities and strengthen Southwest Michigan through service, collaboration and impact. Last year, United Way positively impacted the lives of nearly 57,000 individuals in Berrien and Cass counties. These are individuals who come from every zip code in our two-county region and represent all socio-economic backgrounds and ages. Very few organizations in our community are able to make this kind of meaningful, broad impact in such a significant and life-changing way.

In your own words, why do you think this company deserves to be declared to be one of the 20 Best Places to Work in Michigan's Great Southwest?

In addition to the rewarding and outstanding work that United Way does in serving our community, it is also an incredible place to work. The culture that has been created promotes a life-work balance so that employees are encouraged to take care of themselves and their families first. In doing so, we can give our very best at our jobs and to the community we love and serve. We are committed to excellence in everything that we do; and while we work hard, we also have lots of fun. The atmosphere is one of family – each person is valued, respected and supported. We work extremely well together as part of a highly talented and motivated team. Innovation and new ideas are encouraged, as well as free, open discussion. We celebrate each other’s successes and take great pride in what we can accomplish together. Each person’s unique skill sets and diverse backgrounds are genuinely appreciated, and are important in helping United Way accomplish its mission. It is a true pleasure to come to work every day!

What makes workers proud to say they work there, and keeps them a part of the team?

We love our mission and how we literally get to help people every single day! We are all dedicated to making our community a better place, and we work well together as a team to make an important impact in people’s lives here in Southwest Michigan. Our office environment is inclusive – every person working here has a purpose and is needed. In short, when you believe in the work you are doing, it is a joy to come to work. We are all very proud of the work we do in our community.

Let's pretend you're writing a review for Yelp! or Trip Advisor. Give us your best recommendation for the nominated company that would make the rest of us wish we worked there, too.

Most people are concerned about “what” they do. At United Way, we’re concerned about “what for.” And, the answer to that question is “for others.” Working in an “other-oriented” environment, with a noble mission of service, is one of the most satisfying experiences, and infuses our work with a very gratifying sense of purpose.

What three key words best describe why this company is a Best Places to Work caliber company?

  1. Caring…2. Innovative…3. Collaborative

As a Best Places to Work company "Super Hero," what are the two most magical "Super Powers" this company has on a day-to-day basis? (i.e., Ability to read minds, fly, invisibility, etc) And why?

Super Power One Flexibility -- Able to respond to emerging and ever-changing needs in our community. A prime example is the leadership and resources we provided to our community during last year's floods.

Super Power Two Connectivity -- United Way is able to bring people, resources, and ideas to solve problems/issues facing our community.

Tell us about the leadership of the nominated company and what they do to:

A] Keep spirits and motivation high? Provides support, understanding and the tools we need to do our work. Offers opportunity for flexible work schedule depending on our needs, implements summer work hours with half-day Fridays. We have a lot of fun -- staff cookouts, fun incentives for our internal campaign, movie days, a great Christmas gathering, other activities/outings offered, appreciation is expressed always for the work we do, as a bonus – we have time off between Christmas & New Year's to give us the extra break to recharge and come back fresh for the new year. We all genuinely feel appreciated. That is worth so much!

B] Keep innovation and fresh ideas advancing? We have a great team that seeks each other's opinions and feedback. We also have great support from leadership that allows us the freedom to explore new ideas and collaborate with each other. The support from leadership has allowed us to embrace our creativity and to be constantly thinking of new and better ways to do things. Leadership allows everyone to express their thoughts/provide input and to not be afraid to fail. We also are given opportunities for individual staff development at conferences, workshops, etc. Employee development is a priority at United Way.

C] Keep communications open? Everyone is approachable. We have an open door policy and a culture that fosters and encourages communications. We have staff water cooler chats every Monday morning to stay connected and share what we are working on, a project we may need help with, or to highlight something we learned the week before. We have a staff Facebook page where we can post internal information, along with a chat system so we can easily/quickly communicate with each other. Everyone here is accessible and feels comfortable bringing their thoughts, ideas, questions and concerns to leadership and to each other. Again, it is a part of the culture that leadership has created.

Explain a specific "wow!" moment in this company's history that is virtually "Hall of Fame" or "Best Practices" worthy, as an example to other companies in the region.

In February 2018, Southwest Michigan experienced the worst flooding of the St. Joseph River in a generation.  The homes of dozens of families were devastated, leaving several of them literally homeless. In response, United Way stepped up to serve the community in ways that we never had before. We worked with the Berrien Community Foundation to establish an emergency relief fund that raised more than $44,000 to provide financial assistance to victims. We mobilized 600 volunteers in a matter of days to help remove water-damaged belongings from people’s homes. And at the request of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Management department, we convened a long-term recovery group that still exists one year later to continue to support the families traumatized by this natural disaster. A lot of this critically important work happened behind the scenes, and most people in the community will never know just how much United Way did to respond to this effort. But for our board and staff, it has been one of our proudest moments, where we took a risk, extended ourselves beyond our comfort level, and helped our community in its most desperate time of need.

Best Places to Work have a reputation for not only working hard, but also for playing hard. How does the nominated company:

A] Honor or reward success? United Way celebrates achievements at staff cookouts/other outings, recognition is given at staff water cooler chats, public recognition of the staff is made at events, leave-work-early days are awarded, time off between Christmas and New Year's is provided, just to name a few.

B] Socialize as a team? We participate in fun outings (Mejier Gardens, for example), have fun staff lunches/potlucks, dress up for Halloween, movie days, cookouts, great Christmas gathering with ugly sweater contest, Secret Santa, White Elephant gifts & a fun activity to do together (Wreath-making, Cooking Classes, Glass-making, arts & crafts for the entire staff).

C] Get involved in community events? We are encouraged to volunteer in the community -- we participate in food drives, diaper collections, personal care item drives, children's socks & underwear drive as a part of MLK Day; we have volunteered at the Soup Kitchen, as coaches and volunteers for Girls on the Run of SW Michigan, as well as many other activities. We also have UW staff members who serve on local non-profit Boards and task forces.

D] Celebrate life? We celebrate life by participating in all of the things mentioned above. We also celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries, and other meaningful occasions. We work hard and have a lot of fun too! We are like a family -- sharing each other's triumphs and successes, as well as disappointments and challenges -- always there to be understanding and supportive of each other.

Write a brief, but compelling, recruitment ad telling people about why they should come and work there, too.

Do you like to help others and make your community a better place to live?  Do you enjoy working in a positive, progressive and family-oriented environment?  Well, we have just the place for you!  This innovative, fun and vital non-profit has helped shape Southwest Michigan and address its needs for more than 75 years. United Way is on the front lines working with businesses, community leaders, volunteers and other agencies to create positive impact and lasting change in our community. Working for United Way is more than just a job. You become an advocate for good and helping others. United Way fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community. Feeling proud of the work you do at the end of the day is just the beginning when you work at United Way.  Come join us!

What one thing is special about your nominated company that most people in the community have no idea actually happens there, but should be shouted from the rooftops because it's that cool?

Because the culture of our organization focuses on life-work balance & employee health, we have an internal wellness program that gives employees the opportunity to participate in fun activities that promote wellness and improve their overall health. Our Wellness Committee plans and organizes different activities such as the 10/40 Challenge (10 weeks/40 days of physical activity – 30 minutes per day) that we record/track and reward completion/success with great incentives. We have several challenges like this every year. The Committee also plans outings that encourage physical activity – snowshoeing, tubing, rock climbing course, etc. In addition, we have Healthy Lunch Fridays where we can bring in a healthy lunch, chat & visit, and share healthy recipes with each other. We’ve also had yoga classes and guest speakers presenting various health topics. We even have our own exercise room in the basement filled with equipment & a TV that was donated; and we are encouraged to use it during work hours.

Give us three employee perks or benefits that you think make the company you have nominated worthy of a Best Places to Work trophy?

  1. Culture of life-work balance & family first -- Flexibility in hours based on individual needs…2. Summer Work Schedule (half-days on Fridays – Memorial Day thru Labor Day)…3. Great Benefits, including excellent health insurance and Generous Amount of Paid Time Off (including an additional bonus week between Christmas & New Year’s)

If this is your company and you win, write the best headline ever for your company newsletter describing your successful selection to the list, and be as specific as you can about how you would celebrate the win if money were no object.

BEST & BRIGHTEST PLACE ON EARTH TO WORK – THAT’S UNITED WAY!

United Way of Southwest Michigan is the proud recipient of this year’s Best Places to Work Award.  The entire organization and all its employees are thrilled and honored to be the winner of this prestigious award. To celebrate this milestone achievement, stay true to our mission, and share our joy with the community, we would pay it forward. We would find a very special organization or school that could use a big hand up, and we would work together as a staff on a project to help them realize their dream. That would be the ultimate reward for us!

Tell us anything else you want about this company that you suddenly realize we haven't asked you about, but you're sure will be the thing that puts you squarely into the winner's circle! (Wait a minute! Can you put a square in a circle?)

The only other thing I can add is that we have a very diverse staff with a wide range of ages, backgrounds & experience, as well as tenure with United Way. We have employees who have been with United Way of Southwest Michigan for less than a month, those who have been with United Way for 36+ years – and then everything in between. No matter the age or how long an employee has been with United Way, there is passion, commitment and joy exhibited every day by every employee. There is no finer or more rewarding place to work!