Building Great Places to Work

August 29. 2014

2014 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report

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August 29. 2014

This FREE benchmark report summarizes best practices and innovative trends in the workplace among the 2014 NorthCoast 99 winners in recruiting, selection and on-boarding; compensation, rewards, and appreciation; training, development, and performance management; work/life and wellness; leadership, empowerment, and involvement; and community impact.

Download the 2014 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report

The report contains hundreds of pages of best practices, benchmark data, stories and examples, and case studies based on data provided by the 2014 NorthCoast 99 winners. Specifically, the report features:

  • Dozens of HR metrics, including targeted metrics for top performers
  • Hundreds of data points on workplace practices and policies
  • Data breakouts by industry and organizational size (in Northeast Ohio)
  • Summaries of common winner workplace practices
  • Hundreds of examples of actual workplace practices and innovations
  • Analysis of what makes top performers stay at organizations, attributes they look for in jobs, attributes that would make them leave their jobs, and their engagement
  • Analysis of new-hire feedback as well as key drivers of new-hire satisfaction and engagement

August 7. 2014

Winner Spotlight: Cleveland State University

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August 7. 2014

Founded in 1964, Cleveland State University is a public urban research university that provides a dynamic setting for engaged learning. With an enrollment of more than 17,500 students, eight colleges and more than 200 academic programs, CSU was again chosen in 2014 as one of America's Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report.

Cleveland State would not be where it is today without its diverse, enthusiastic and motivated staff. Located in the heart of downtown Cleveland, there is excitement in the air with record-setting freshman classes, a $500 million campus makeover and countless academic achievements; it’s also no surprise that CSU is a three-time winner of the NorthCoast 99 Award.

We got the chance to explore this vibrant campus and talk with employees about why they love working for Cleveland State and how the campus and downtown Cleveland have come together to create a best-in-class urban university.More...

June 11. 2014

Winner Spotlight: Flight Options

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June 11. 2014

Flight Options: Soaring Above the Standard

Flight Options, located in Cleveland, is one of the largest private aviation companies in the world, serving owners and clients across the globe. The Cleveland headquarters alone employs more than 500 employees.

Even though Flight Options caters to owners and clients all over, it never forgets who is at the root of this successful operation: its employees.

Flight Options is a 10-time NorthCoast 99 winner, and it credits its employees for not only carrying out but going above and beyond expectations with its three fundamental principles.

"We believe these fundamental principles to be timeless and use them as our guiding principles to help make decisions from a management and employee standpoint, almost every step of the way,” says Bob Sullivan, Vice President of Human Resources.More...

April 10. 2014

Winner Spotlight: Findaway World

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April 10. 2014

Findaway World: Always Find A Way

Findaway World, located in Solon, produces audio and digital content and is best known for its preloaded audio player, Playaway.

Mitch Kroll, CEO of Findaway World, co-founded the company in 2004 after watching Steve Jobs introduce the iPod to the world. To date, Playaway has sold more than 4.5 million units and has contracts with schools and libraries all around the country, as well as the military.

Findaway World has won the NorthCoast99 Award for the past 5 years and it’s not just because of the innovative product it produces. We got the chance to speak with Kroll and some of the Findawayers to understand what makes this company one of the 99 best workplaces for top talent in Northeast Ohio.More...

March 12. 2014

Winner Spotlight: Main Street Gourmet

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March 12. 2014

Main Street Gourmet is a bakery manufacturer located in Cuyahoga Falls, specializing in a wide variety of custom foods such as cookies, muffins, granola, brownies and desserts. Steve Marks and Harvey Nelson, co-owners and CEO’s of the company, have been in business together for more than 25 years.

For the past 4 years, and 7 times overall, it has also been among the winners of the NorthCoast 99 award. We got the exciting chance to speak with the owners and employees to go beyond baking muffins, and find out what really makes this company a top workplace in Northeast Ohio.

 “Winning the NorthCoast 99 award really validates what we are trying to do,” says Marks. “We want people to be happy here, and satisfied employees’ results in productive employees. I don’t want anyone to work here and be miserable, so to be awarded for having a great workplace where people like to come to work is amazing.”More...

February 27. 2014

NorthCoast 99 Recognized as Top Corporate Event of the Year!

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February 27. 2014

NorthCoast 99 has been recognized as a Connector’s Choice Award Winner for the Best Corporate Event of the Year (Non-Fundraiser) by CBC™ Magazine!

NorthCoast 99 won the award for its 2013 awards banquet, held September 18, 2013 at LaCentre Conference & Banquet Facility. The event was attended by over 850 Northeast Ohio businesspeople, with a keynote from worldwide philanthropist, Craig Kielburger; and a special presentation from Cleveland's youth chorus, The Singing Angels.

This is the 7th annual Connectors’ Choice Awards, which recognizes professionals in the corporate events and networking industries. From October through December of 2013, CBC™ surveyed its readers, advertisers and vendors to determineNortheast Ohio’s top connectors.  The top 5 in each category were then voted on by a panel of judges and determined the winners for each of the 26 categories.

NorthCoast 99 and all of the other Connector’s Choice Award winners will be featured in the March issue of CBC™ magazine. The winners were recognized at the CBC™ Connectors’ Choice Awards Celebration on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at Cleveland Playhouse Square. This is the second time that NorthCoast 99 has been recognized with a Connectors' Choice Award.

"We are delighted that NorthCoast 99 has been recognized as the top corporate event for 2013," said Pat Perry, President of ERC. "To be at the top of the class with the other events in our category is quite an honor. I'd also like thank our sponsors; without their support this event would not be possible.  This is the second time that the NorthCoast 99 event has received this honor and we could not be more thrilled."

Finalists in the Best Corporate Events category include: Cleveland Event Expo; COSE Small Business Conference; Gear Up, Iron Man 3; and National Senior Games Opening Ceremony.

If your organization is interested in applying for the 2014 NorthCoast 99 Award, please visit for details and to register to apply. The application deadline is April 25, 2014.

December 10. 2013

Top Company Workplace Trends from 2013

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December 10. 2013

NorthCoast 99 winners lead the way when it comes to starting new trends in the workplace. Here are some of the top trends we’ve observed among NorthCoast 99 winners in 2013. 

Recruiting & Hiring

  • Improving the candidate experience with better responsiveness, communication, and on-boarding
  • Using data-driven online marketing methods to recruit
  • Targeted recruitment (niche resources, social media, etc.)
  • Focusing on culture in the hiring process (culture-specific communication, hiring criteria, etc.)
  • Using case studies and other work sample tasks to base hiring decisions

 Performance Management

  • Doing more communication and analysis of what makes top performers different from other employees
  • Having top performers mentor others to improve performance
  • Initiating shadowing between lower performers or younger employees and top performers
  • Tailoring performance conversations to three groups of employees: high performers, average performers, and low performers
  • Improving performance management support for supervisors (guides, talking points, etc.)

Recognition & Rewards

  • Using online rewards and recognition systems which allow employees to engage in recognition of others
  • Implementing recognition programs or initiatives for “unsung heroes” hidden behind the scenes
  • Focusing on staff appreciation through employee appreciation days and/or weeks

 Training & Development

  • Coaching and mentoring engagements with senior leaders
  • Leadership and knowledge sharing groups which provide support for leadership development
  • Women’s initiatives, dedicated to female development
  • Career development systems, websites, and training series’ providing employees with tools and information to guide their career

 Community Involvement

  • Providing paid time off to participate in community service or community service activities during company workdays
  • Initiating unique community service projects relevant to the organization’s business or employees' passions
  • Developing funds and foundations
  • Using local resources: buying local, using community leadership programs, and participating in local community organizations

 Work/Life & Wellness

  • More flexible sick and bereavement time policies
  • Less restrictive attendance policies
  • Holistic wellness initiatives (yoga, meditation, guided imagery, etc.)
  • Offering healthy food in the workplace
  • Incorporating counseling and support on other wellness issues (financial, emotional, career, stress, etc.)

Involvement & Engagement

  • Having non-management employees lead strategic initiatives
  • Using cross-functional initiatives and shadowing in other departments
  • Involving employees in addressing employee engagement issues
  • Involving employees in developing and carrying out the mission, values, and vision

Management & Leadership

  • Movement towards a servant-leadership approach to leading focused on employees’ needs
  • Movement towards managers having a shared responsibility for attraction, retention, and engagement with greater accountability
  • Initiatives to help increase interaction with and exposure to senior leaders and CEO on a one-on-one basis
  • More involvement by senior managers in the recognition, development, and engagement of top performers

These are just some highlights of the major trends that we observed among the NorthCoast 99 winners in 2013. To learn about other workplace trends, please download the 2013 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report.


November 19. 2013

How to Make a Difference at Work: A Practical Guide to More Meaningful and Purposeful Workplaces

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November 19. 2013

The following white paper explores the concept of making a difference at work and in the community, the benefits of making a difference on your business, and practical ways that employers and employees can positively impact others at work. The conclusion and observations in this white paper are supported by research conducted as part of the NorthCoast 99 program as well as the most up-to-date published research on the topic. Specifically, the white paper covers:

  • Why make a difference at work and in the community
  • How employers can make a difference at work
  • How to empower employees to make a difference at work
  • Practical ways that employees can make a difference at work

Download the White Paper


September 24. 2013

Why Giving Back Matters in the Workplace

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September 24. 2013

Last week at ERC's NorthCoast 99 Awards Dinner Event, Craig Kielburger, activist for the rights of children and cofounder of the Free the Children charity and Me to We social enterprise, gave an inspiring keynote, encouraging companies to give back to their communities and make a difference through their actions in the workplace, as these actions create a ripple effect of positive change.

Not only is corporate volunteerism and community involvement in the workplace important in giving back and positively impacting our communities, but research backs that corporate philanthropy is good for the workplace and for business as it seems to benefit employers in a number of other ways. These include:

  • Higher performance than competitors over the long term
  • Return on investment and sales growth
  • Enhanced company reputation and willingness to buy a product or service
  • Increased career and job satisfaction
  • Development of workplace skills

Additionally, new research conducted through the NorthCoast 99 program by ERC shows that top performers who are more satisfied with the opportunities their organization offers relative to community involvement are more likely to be engaged.

In our analysis, we researched top performer engagement levels, desire to stay at an organization, perceptions of whether an organization was a great place to work, and whether top performers felt they had sufficient opportunities to reach out to the community in relationship to the level of community involvement at all organizations that applied for the 2013 NorthCoast 99 Award.

Our results found that among top performers who were the most satisfied with the opportunities their organization provided to reach out to the community, not only were they more engaged, reported being more likely to stay at their organization, and viewed their organization as a great place to work, but their organizations reported doing more in the community. Tenure also tended to be higher at organizations where top performers were the most satisfied with their opportunities to reach out to the community.

Specifically, organizations with the most satisfied top performers, in terms of opportunities to reach out to the community, were significantly more likely to...

  • Organize an organization-wide day of service
  • Coordinate an organization-wide community service
  • Allow employees to provide non-compensated professional services
  • Communicate or promote volunteer opportunities
  • Sponsor fundraisers, charitable events, and/or scholarships
  • Cite a number of ways they contribute to the community or demonstrate social responsibility

Our research via the NorthCoast 99 program is not the first to find a linkage between employee engagement, retention, and volunteerism. Deloitte has found that volunteerism and community involvement contribute to the total work experience and organizational culture, which drives engagement and retention. Other studies have found that community involvement helps companies differentiate themselves from their competitors.

All in all, the research shows that corporate volunteerism and community involvement matters in the workplace in terms of attraction, engagement, and retention of great employees, but also because it's just the right thing for companies to do for the communities in which they live and work.

September 18. 2013

Top 10 Attributes Most Important to Top Performers

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September 18. 2013

Each organization that applied for the NorthCoast 99 award was required to choose between 10 and 50 top performing employees (depending on the size of their organization) to complete the Top Performer Engagement Survey. A total of 4,280 top performers participated in the survey.

Within the survey, top performers were asked to select the top five most important job attributes that they look for in a job, with “1” being the most important. They selected from a list of 19 job attributes. The percentage of rankings top performers selected as the #1 most important attribute are noted below.

Challenging and meaningful work was ranked as the number one most important job attribute among all top performers. Compensation, job security, work/life balance, and benefits were also ranked among the top five #1 most important job attributes.

  1. Challenging/Meaningful Work (20%)
  2. Compensation (16%)
  3. Job Security (13%)
  4. Work/Life Balance (10%)
  5. Benefits (7%)
  6. Career Development (6%)
  7. Leadership (6%)
  8. Advancement (6%)
  9. Autonomy (6%)
  10. Product/Service Quality (3%)

Additionally, in our analysis of what top performers are seeking in a job, we found a variety of differences based on gender, age, full-time/part-time, education, and job responsibilities. 


  • Female top performers tended to rank challenging/meaningful work with more importance than compensation and job security, which were ranked slightly more important by male top performers.
  • Work/life balance and benefits appeared to be somewhat more important to female top performers.
  • Male top performers perceived career development and advancement as somewhat more important than female top performers, and more important than work/life balance and benefits.


  • Younger top performers (age 18-30) placed more importance on career development and advancement than older top performers.
  • Top performers age 31-40 ranked compensation, challenging and meaningful work, work/life balance, and job security as the most important job attributes they seek in jobs.
  • Top performers age 41-50 ranked the attributes similarly to top performers age 31-40, but work/life balance tended to drop off in importance with this age bracket when compared to younger top performers. 
  • Older top performers (age 51+) place the most importance on challenging/meaningful work and also perceive benefits, autonomy, and leadership to be more important than younger top performers.


  • Full-time top performers rank challenging and meaningful work, compensation, job security, and career development as more important than part-time top performers.
  • Part-time top performers rank work/life balance as the number one most important attribute they seek in a job, followed by challenging and meaningful work.
  • Autonomy was viewed as more important among part-time top performers than among full-time top performers.


  • Top performers with less education rank job security as the most important attribute that they seek in jobs.
  • For top performers with a Bachelor's degree or higher, challenging and meaningful work is the #1 attribute they seek in a job, followed by compensation, work/life balance, and job security. Career development and advancement were also important to these top performers.
  • Top performers with graduate or professional degrees viewed challenging and meaningful work as more important than top performers with less education and also viewed autonomy and work/life balance as more important.

Job Responsibilities

  • Across the majority of jobs, top performers rank challenging and meaningful work as the most important attribute that they seek in jobs.
  • Job security was most important to top performers in production, transportation, and material moving jobs, and more important to top performers in health and human service as well as construction and maintenance jobs. 
  • Compensation was also ranked highly by nearly every job type, and was ranked as the #1 most important job attribute by top performers in office, administrative, and professional as well as construction and maintenance jobs.
  • Top performers in sales and marketing, specifically, ranked work/life balance as more important than top performers in other jobs.
  • Benefits tended to be more important to top performers in office, administrative, and professional; health and human service; construction and maintenance; and production, transportation, and material moving jobs.

These differences have been largely consistent over the past few years and suggest that gender, age, education level, job responsibility, and even employment status can affect what top performers are looking for in a job. Employers should take note of these differences and make sure that they align recruitment messages and the rewards within the work environment in ways that best attract top talent.

For more information about what top performers are seeking in a job, including specific percentages and breakdowns, please download our 2013 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report.

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