Seven Northwest Indiana companies rank among the Best Places to Work in Indiana, according to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
The Indianapolis-based "voice of Indiana business" honored 125 companies in its 2020 Best Places to Work in Indiana list, including 38 first-time honorees or winners that had been absent for at least a year.
Horseshoe Casino in Hammond was honored as one of the best major companies with more than 1,000 employees to work at in the Hoosier state, while Merrillville-based Centier Bank was recognized as a top large company with between 250 and 999 workers.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce also named Community Outreach Advocates in Hammond, General Insurance Services in Valparaiso, Lakeside Wealth Management in Chesterton, Peepers by PeeperSpecs in Michigan City and Starin Marketing in Chesterton as among the best small companies with between 15 to 74 employees at which to work.
“We’ve been hosting the Best Places to Work program for 15 years and continue to be impressed with the quality of employers, their strong workplace cultures and best practices they have in place that both strengthen the company and the employer-employee relationship,” Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar said. “No matter where a company finishes, this program provides vital information that will only enhance organizations going forward. We are encouraged that year after year companies return to the competition for this benefit, plus we see a number of new faces take advantage of this rather unique opportunity.”
The honors were based on employer reports and employee surveys. The Best Companies Group, which oversees similar programs in 25 states, selected the winners.
Anyone who was nominated got an evaluation of strengths and weaknesses as a workplace that could be used to recruit and retain employees.
The winners will be honored at a banquet down in Indianapolis in April.
For more information, visit www.bestplacestoworkin.com.
Best Places to Work: The 7 Region businesses that made the list in 2018
7 Region businesses make best workplace list
Seven Region businesses were named Best Places to Work in an Indiana Chamber of Commerce program that uses anonymous employee surveys and company reports to identify employers who focus on employees' development and fulfillment.
Horseshoe and Ameristar casinos, Centier and Peoples banks, Lakeside Wealth Management, Peepers by PeeperSpecs and General Insurance Services were among 125 Indiana businesses receiving the Best Places to Work award.
“Attracting and keeping a talented workforce is top of mind for all Hoosier employers," Indiana chamber President Kevin Brinegar said. "Every company on the list made people the priority in its workplace, backing that up with policies and practices geared toward employee success and satisfaction.”
Two Northwest Indiana recipients — Centier Bank and Horseshoe Casino — are recognized as Hall of Fame awardees, a designation given to companies that have been on the list at least 60 percent of the time in the program’s history.
Businesses are divided into four categories: small companies, with 15 to 74 employees; medium companies, with 75 to 249 employees; large companies, with 250 to 999; and major companies, with 1,000 or more employees.
In 2018, 57 small companies, 30 medium, 25 large and 13 major were named Best Places to Work. Horseshoe and Ameristar are in the major category; Centier Bank, large; Peoples Bank, medium; Lakeside Wealth Management, Peepers by PeeperSpecs and General Insurance Services, small.
The companies received the Best Places to Work award at a dinner at the Indiana Convention Center and sponsored by Ivy Tech Community College.
“We have many tremendous employers in the state, so it’s great to see more and more companies take part in this effort to evaluate their workplace cultures and gain the recognition they deserve,” Brinegar said. “These organizations come from a wide variety of industries yet they all have a common thread. They continually demonstrate to their employees through their culture, communication, career opportunities, benefits and more how much they value their contributions.”
Read about the seven honorees below. For more information on the Indiana Chamber’s Best Places to Work program, go to www.bestplacestoworkIN.com.
Best Places to Work: At Ameristar, a culture of caring
Constant communication, a team-based approach and service-oriented attitude helped Ameristar Casino Hotel in East Chicago earn a place on the Best Places to Work list.
"There's a lot of pride here," Vice President and General Manager Matt Schuffert said. "We're very excited to have the honor this year."
Ameristar managers conduct surveys and round-tables to make sure they know their employees' needs. The company has an open door policy at every level, and, it takes care in who it hires: "We hire caring and compassionate people who love serving others," the company wrote in its nomination.
Along with typical perqs and benefits, Ameristar offers a free employee dining room, a personal health coach, pet insurance and estate planning. Its Be the Best You program includes tuition reimbursement of up to $3,000 per year for part-time and full-time employees working toward a GED, college degree or a professional certification.
Other learning opportunities include leadership and skills training offered by the company, and an e-learning series designed to increase team members' knowledge and expertise in subjects related to the business' operations. Each employee has a personalized development action-plan for career goals.
Ameristar also offers a Living Our Values Award, periodically recognizing up to five team members in the categories of Integrity, Excellence, Care, Innovation and Ownership. At the end of the year, five honorees are selected as top Living Our Values winners and awarded $3,000 each, and a special parking space for the year.
And they have fun, making music videos to compete with other Pinnacle Entertainment properties, and hosting an annual talent show whose winner gets to compete with the other properties' winners. Among their volunteer activities, their favorite is their Thanksgiving dinner at the Salvation Army.
Schuffert said the Best Places to Work status is recognition of the culture the company and 1,300-plus team members have created.
"I think it's a reflection of our team members' commitment to taking care of each other and creating that culture," he said.
Best Places to Work: At Lakeside Wealth Management, it's all about trust
With 39 employees and an office dog, the keys to the success at Lakeside Wealth Management are good partners and engaged employees, says CEO Mark Chamberlain.
“Customers are drawn to eager employees,” Chamberlain said.
And those eager employees played a large role in Lakeside Wealth Management being ranked among the best small businesses in the state.
Lakeside Wealth Management was ranked seventh among small companies in the Indiana Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Best Places to Work in Indiana competition.
The winners were announced May 3 at a celebration dinner in at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.
The contest was conducted by The Best Companies Group and based on employee reports and comprehensive surveys. The company conducts similar contests in 25 other states.
After company officials complete a survey, each of the employees is asked to complete a confidential survey.
Chamberlain started Lakeside in 2002 after retiring as a trader at the Chicago Board of Trade. Since then, the company has grown with offices now in Merrillville, Indianapolis, Wisconsin and Las Vegas. It manages $1.5 billion in assets.
Lakeside does not advertise in traditional media, said Jenn Brown, corporate communications manager. Most new business is from referrals or word of mouth.
That success is a reflection of the dedication of Lakeside’s employees, Chamberlain said.
“If we take good care of employees they’ll take good care of our customers,” he said.
Chamberlain said taking care of the employees goes beyond giving them meaningful compensation for meaningful work. Lakeside offers what Chamberlain calls creative benefits — among them are unlimited sick days for employees and their families. They also allow employees to work from home when necessary.
“It’s all about building trust with the employees,” he said.
Another creative benefit is Lou, the office dog.
Chamberlain said Lou once belonged to his daughter, but she gave the dog to him when she had kids. He began taking Lou to the office, and he became a regular, earning the title of “chief barketing officer.” Lou is available for walks or petting during breaks.
Lakeside also makes sure all employees get to see the outcome of their work, whether or not they work directly with clients.
“It goes beyond client experience, client advice and investing,” he said.
Managing and growing client assets happens at many firms, Chamberlain said.
At Lakeside, more focus is put on people’s lives, and the legacy of their investments.
That realization hit Chamberlain before he started Lakeside.
“I thought a financial service company has got to be about numbers and transactions,” he said. “But it’s way more about relationships and building trust.”
The trust, he said, has contributed to the growth of the company and has allowed Lakeside to contribute more than $300,000 and 14,000 volunteer hours to the community.
The growth of the company and the satisfaction of their clients and employees point to their fourth award in four years by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
Lakeside has ranked sixth, 10th, 14th and this year 7th in the state in the Best Places to Work in Indiana Chamber contest.
“It’s based on good reviews from our employees and that’s the biggest complement of them all,” Chamberlain said.
Best Places to Work: Centier Bank continues to raise the bar
MERRILLVILLE — Centier Bank's recognition for the 12th consecutive year by the Indiana Chamber for being among the Best Places to Work is no accident.
Centier is a family-owned, independent bank where the overarching culture that exists is that associates are part of the family, not a number, Chrisanne Christ said.
"Studies show that companies that exhibit a strong culture have associates who work harder, take more pride in their work, and have less turnover. We have seen firsthand the impact that our focus on building a culture has had on our associates. We have many associates who have been with Centier for decades, and referred their family and friends to work here," said Christ, senior partner in Human Resource Development at Centier.
Centier qualified in the large company category, which features organizations that employ between 250 to 999 U.S. associates.
Since 2007, Centier Bank has been among the top Best Places to Work in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and received national attention by American Banker magazine as one of the Top Best Banks to Work For in the U.S.A.
“This distinction is a result of how our associates feel about working at Centier. The award is a part of a journey for us. Every year we look to raise the bar in how we take care of our associates. What means most to us isn’t necessarily receiving the designation, but learning that our associates feel our culture is special and consider us a Best Place to Work," Christ said.
Some of the programs offered at the bank to employees include free onsite and near-site clinics and video-doctors including generic prescriptions and lab work; a CARE program that helps associates through difficult times by assisting them financially and with other personal needs; casual Fridays and other fun activities and wellness programs including personal training and Biggest Loser type challenges.
"When you take care of your people and put them first, they take care of everything else. Because our associates are so happy here, they naturally are going to give the best service," Christ said.
Two hundred companies applied for the distinction this year, and a record 125 companies have been named to the list. Centier Bank is one of 19 companies named Best Places to Work in Indiana to achieve Hall of Fame status, a result of being named to this list in 12 of the 13 the list has been accrued. The Best Places to Work in Indiana are determined through employer reports and comprehensive employer surveys conducted by The Best Companies Group, which oversees similar programs in 25 other states.
“We have many tremendous employers in the state, so it’s great to see more and more companies take part in this effort to evaluate their workplace cultures and gain the recognition they deserve,” said Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. “These organizations come from a wide variety of industries yet they all have a common thread. They continually demonstrate to their employees through their culture, communication, career opportunities, benefits and more how much they value their contributions.”
The final rankings for the companies were unveiled at an awards dinner held at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis on May 4.
Centier is the largest, private, family-owned bank in Indiana and remains committed to being owned and operated by the Schrage family in the future. The bank has retail banking locations in Allen, Boone, Elkhart, Hamilton, Lake, La Porte, Marion, Marshall, Porter, St. Joseph, and Tippecanoe Counties in Indiana.
"The goal is to have your leadership, employees and customers all describe the same sense of culture when they come to work or come into a branch. At Centier, we pride ourselves in our values of culture, loyalty, integrity, friendship and fun. When our clients see us exhibiting these values in every interaction, it just makes business sense," Christ said.
Best Places to Work: General Insurance Services 'treats everyone like family'
General Insurance Services has been named one of the Best Places to Work in Indiana for the second consecutive year.
The majority of the employees surveyed as part of the review process said they liked working for GIS because "they treat everyone like family," GIS Marketing Coordinator Kara Moon said.
"For me it's the people. It's a great place to work because we are all working toward a common goal, which is to secure the future of the communities we serve," Moon said.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce honored GIS and 124 other companies on May 3 at the 2018 Best Places to Work in Indiana celebration dinner in Indianapolis.
Rankings were announced in four categories: small companies (15-74); medium companies (75-249); large companies (250-999) and major companies (1,000 plus employees).
GIS, with offices in Hobart, Valparaiso, Michigan City and LaPorte, won its recognition in the small company category, chamber officials said.
This statewide survey and awards program were designed to identify, recognize, and honor the best places of employment in Indiana, benefiting the state's economy, its workforce, and businesses.
GIS president Craig Menne said he was proud to have received the recognition the second year in a row.
“All of our colleagues take great pride in the work we do to help make a positive impact on our communities. We’ve been on a journey to build, cultivate, and maintain a values-based culture, and it’s truly gratifying to know that we’re on the right track and doing a good job," Menne said.
Company culture is a top priority for GIS, Menne said.
"The creation of the GIS Way, a series of fundamentals that we work and live by, has been an integral part of our business for the past year," Menne said.
Other programs that contributed to the company receiving its best place to work honor included paid volunteer time, team building events like the annual Corn Hole Tournament and the traveling Purple Cow employee recognition trophy.
“Attracting and keeping a talented workforce is top of mind for all Hoosier employers. Every company on the list made people the priority in its workplace, backing that up with policies and practicies geared toward employee success and satisfaction," said Kevin Brinegar, Indiana Chamber President.
All companies participating in the 2018 Best Places to Work program receive an in-depth evaluation identifying strengths and weaknesses according to their employees, who are surveyed anonymously. The report is often used in developing or enhancing employee retention and recruitment programs.
Moon said those employees who took part in the anonymous survey most often listed the fact that the company treats its employees like family.
"Working at General Insurance Services is like coming to work every day and working with family. We are there for each other during the good, bad and the ugly," wrote one GIS employee who took part in the anonymous survey.
GIS is an independent insurance company serving Northwest Indiana for more than 80 years, with roots going back to LaPorte, then Michigan City in the 1940s. Offices were opened in Valparaiso about 20 years ago and in Hobart just this past year, Moon said.
To define its unique culture, the company has created a set of 33 fundamentals that set it apart and drive its success, according to GIS officials. Those 33 fundamentals are called the GIS Way, officials said.
Best Places to Work: Horseshoe makes 8th appearance on Best Places to Work list
Horseshoe Casino in Hammond is on the Best Places to Work in Indiana list for the eighth time, making it one of 20 employers in the state to receive a Hall of Fame designation in the Indiana Chamber of Commerce program.
"It is an immense honor for Horseshoe to be ranked again as one of the Best Places to Work in Indiana," company officials said.
Horseshoe has maintained its place on the list — which was second place overall this year — by offering experiences that help its more than 1,800 employees bond and aid the community.
Horseshoe's team packs food during the holidays, grows produce for a local food pantry, volunteers for Meals on Wheels and spends time cleaning the lakeshore they call home.
Their charitable activity during the past year included raising $20,000 to donate to the American Cancer Society as part of its Making Strides Against Breast Cancer program.
“We are proud to support important causes like Making Strides," said Dawn Reynolds Pettit, Horseshoe’s regional vice president of human resources, after the donation was made. "Many of us have been impacted by the devastation of cancer and it is more important than ever to fight for a cure. Thanks to our amazing team members, who seem to find a way every year to raise the bar on support efforts."
Nearly 50 volunteers in the casino's HERO program — for Horseshoe Employees Reaching Out — spent two days last summer on a landscaping and remodeling project for two of Campagna Academy’s residential cottages for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Caesars Foundation, Horseshoe's parent company's charitable arm, donated $10,000 to fund the volunteer project at Campagna.
“While we know that monetary support is always beneficial, it is just as important for our volunteers to be able to put their talents to work in our community,” Pettit said.
And they have fun along the way, with golf outings, bowling, softball and other activities, "jeans days" to raise money for local non-profits, including the cancer society.
They also enjoyed a summer festival for employees and their families at Wolf Lake, including food, bounce houses, games and music.
Best Places to Work: Peepers in Michigan City provides colorful work environment, staff perks
Peepers by PeeperSpecs, an eyewear designer in Michigan City, has been promoted by the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Sheryl Crow. Now, for the second time in a row, the family-owned company has made it onto the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s Best Places to Work list.
“It’s incredible that out of all the workplaces in Indiana we were chosen,” said Ariel Berrier, public relations and e-commerce coordinator. “It really shows us that we are doing something right and the focus we put on our employees is being noticed.”
Peepers sells reading glasses and sunglasses across the U.S. and Canada, both online and in a variety of stores, such as Hallmark. Owned by brother-and-sister team Alec and Lindsay Sammann, Peepers has made the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing companies for the past five years. Peepers started business in 1993 and currently has a total of 32 employees. Berrier said great benefits, insurance and paid-time off are among the perks of working at Peepers, but there’s much more to it than that.
“Our culture at Peepers is what sets us apart,” Berrier said. “We keep a light-hearted spirit and know how to fun have while getting the job done. Every month if we meet our company revenue goals we have ‘Yay Days.’ These have been everything from cornhole tournaments, bringing a masseuse into the office, snow cones and food trucks, indoor miniature golf around our office to a giant 68' inflatable obstacle course in our parking lot.”
The Peepers Michigan City location is centered around creating a fun environment, Berrier said. In 2016, the company made a $300,000 renovation to the Michigan City location, adding a showroom, a design room and an employee gym. Amenities like a ping pong table have been set up for a playful atmosphere. She said the team also regularly gets together for outings like lunch dates, wine tastings, bowling and group dinners courtesy of the company.
Because of these factors, Berrier said they have several employees who have been with the company for years and don’t experience a high turn-over rate.
“Our team culture is very special,” Berrier said. “We all work together very well and have a fun, inviting atmosphere. Culture is something that we really take into consideration when making hiring decisions. We want our team to operate like an extended part of the Sammann family, and we really do.”
Best Places to Work: Peoples Bank continues century-old legacy
Peoples Bank has been serving Northwest Indiana for more than 100 years, operating in Lake and Porter counties. Ben Bochnowski, president and CEO, said this has been the sixth year Peoples Bank has been named as one of the best places to work by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
“It reflects the fact that employees are key stakeholders in the company,” Bochnowski said. “Without them, we wouldn’t enjoy success for 100 years as a company. The ranking is based on what employees say about us, and this shows that we invest in the workplace and in our employees.”
Headquartered in Munster, Peoples has banking centers in Crown Point, Dyer, East Chicago, Gary, Hammond, Highland, Hobart, Merrillville, St. John, Schererville, Valparaiso, Whiting and Winfield. As a whole, the bank employs 220 people, with roughly half working at the Munster location.
Aspects like training, tuition reimbursement, career pathing and internal development programs are all part of the equation that makes Peoples Bank one of the area’s top employers, according to Bochnowski.
“There’s also a family environment of closeness,” Bochnowski said. “I still work with some of the people who worked here in the ‘90s when I was in high school. We have generations where the parents worked here, and then their children came to work here.”
Bochnowski’s great grandfather, John Bochnowski, founded the bank in 1910 to serve the immigrant community in East Chicago during the industry boom at the turn of the century. Bochnowski began working at the bank when he was in high school, rising up the ranks throughout college and ultimately taking a leadership role.
He said that with the amount of longtime employees at Peoples Bank, his story is not rare; 15 percent of Peoples Bank’s employees have been with the company for at least 20 years and half of the employees have had 10 years of service with the bank.
“Our reason for investing in the workplace is in order to create stability and success, so it really comes full circle,” he said. “When the employee wants to move up in their career, we offer that opportunity to them, we show them they’re valued here.”
From 2007 through 2017, American Banker magazine named Peoples Bank among the top 200 community banks in the nation. And Peoples has climbed the ranks among the top 100 companies. Bochnowski said Peoples Bank has grown both in its reach and success, and is currently working on an acquisition in Illinois.
“It shows that we can invest in the workplace and grow financially,” Bochnowski said. “Internally we’ve had record earnings, and our investments in the workplace drive the results.”