As the corporate world begins to emerge from the COVID pandemic, employee benefits and workplace culture are more important than ever. In Business North Carolina’s 2021 list of Best Employers in the state, companies are getting creative in order to recruit and retain top talent, offering perks such as unlimited paid time off, on-site fitness programs, incentive trips, virtual events and contests, and fun, off-campus outings. In its annual survey, Best Companies Group polled employees and their employers on dozens of topics, from recruiting practices to recognition programs. Topping the list are Mackenzie Ryan, a Raleigh-based staffing company; Hickory-based accounting firm Martin Starnes & Associates; and Williams Mullen, a legal firm based in Richmond, Va. Employment numbers are as of Jan. 1, 2021.
SMALL EMPLOYER CATEGORY (15-49 employees)
Other: Employees enjoy the tunes of an office DJ, who spins, creates mixes, takes requests and livens up the atmosphere. Fun office activities include company Olympics, Family Feud and games of Kahoot.
Other: Work-life balance is key, with 35-hour workweeks for non-exempt staff and minimum overtime. The company also offers Flex Fridays off every other week throughout the year.
Other: The accounting firm gives out a Rock Star Award that recognizes an employee with outstanding performance with a cash prize. A new wellness program promotes healthy challenges among the staff with reward points up for grabs.
Other: Workers are celebrated during Employee Appreciation Week with cards and gifts. During the pandemic lockdown, the company provided lunch for essential on-site workers every day for six weeks from local restaurants.
Other: Fun is incorporated in the workplace with an in-office game room, complete with foosball, a pool table and a golf simulator. During the pandemic, employees have stayed in touch with monthly cocktail hour Zoom calls.
Other: The company encourages work-life balance with unlimited PTO and keeps employees relaxed with twice-a-week yoga classes in the office. As part of its monthly Second Friday program, workers are treated to a catered lunch and educational presentation.
Other: The entertainment agency puts community first, with donation matching for employees and a paid day off to volunteer. Adding a fun spin to the workplace, employees can play Spin the Wheel and win cash prizes, and the company offers revenue-driven bonuses and early releases on Fridays when workers hit monthly or weekly sales goals.
Other: Monthly MVP Awards are given to an employee-nominated worker who receives an extra half-day of vacation and a $50 gift card. One Friday per quarter, employees participate in a fun activity during work hours as part of Fantastic Fridays.
Other: The accounting firm didn’t allow the pandemic to curb its enthusiasm for employee bonding: Workers competed in a virtual 5K, reporting their times and celebrating participation on a Zoom call. For Halloween, employees submitted photos of their costumes and voted for their favorites online.
Other: Fun annual employee events include a Halloween party, Thanksgiving lunch, Valentine’s Day celebration, Secret Santa gift exchange and baby showers. The not-for-profit company promotes out-of-office outings such as bowling and team building activities at All Associates Advance Days.
Other: The staffing company celebrates anniversaries, promotions and transitions to new teams, birthdays, and other life events such as marriage, children and moving. Each December, Verigent hosts a raffle when workers can win prizes such as an Echo, a set of knives or a $500 gift card.
Other: The company awarded brand new 2020 King Ranch trucks to its top three crew leaders. Workers kick back after a long day at the Charlotte campus, which is complete with pingpong tables, a batting cage, a foosball table, two basketball nets and an in-house beer keg.
Other: Zöe Dental keeps the workplace lively with quarterly celebrations such as Christmas decorating parties, game show parties, craft-making activities and potluck lunches. If the company meets or exceeds yearly goals, team members have been rewarded with shopping sprees, manicures and pedicures, massages and zip line adventures.
Other: Capital Investment Cos. shows appreciation for employees by awarding gift cards for exception customer service and surprise cash bonuses. Breakfast and/or lunch is provided frequently to those working in person. Before the pandemic, the company hosted two annual corporate retreats, monthly yoga sessions and quarterly chair massages.
Other: Employees are involved in the community with volunteer opportunities at Second Harvest Food Bank and other nonprofit organizations. The company celebrates the holidays with Halloween costume days, ugly Christmas sweater competitions, potlucks and spirit weeks.
MEDIUM EMPLOYER CATEGORY (50-249 employees)
Other: Employees are shown appreciation for educational achievements and licenses with treats, massages, competitions, and games such as Bingo, trivia, Sudoku and more. The company kept up the Christmas cheer with a virtual event, and workers were given monogrammed stockings, gifts and candy by partners who dressed up like elves.
Other: The company’s Emerald Award Program allows employees to recognize a co-worker who goes above and beyond normal job responsibilities. Employees bond over group lunches, group outings and activities, and Halloween costume and ugly sweater contests.
Other: Though many of its team bonding activities have gone virtual during the past year, fun outings have included eating out at restaurants, bowling, escape rooms and go-kart racing. Other events such as Office Olympics, cooking competitions, picnics, chili cook-offs, outdoor movie nights and a Halloween trunk-or-treat keep workers engaged.
Other: Employees look forward to various company-sponsored events throughout the year including a chili cook-off, cookie baking contest, Halloween costume and pumpkin-carving contest, annual frozen turkey for Thanksgiving, ice cream trucks in July for National Ice Cream Month and a Christmas party.
Other: Service awards are given to employees who have served one, three, five, seven, 10, 15 and 20 years; winners get to select a gift from an online catalog as a prize. Workers who have been with the company for 10 years receive a four-week paid sabbatical leave.
Other: Workers look forward to exciting quarterly events such as laser tag, a fishing competition, a scavenger hunt and a pool party. When the company went fully remote last March because of the pandemic, it continued to boost morale with virtual events and contests for employees.
Other: Employees are eligible for an Annual Service Award, receiving a plaque and their choice of gift or money in five-year increments. The corporate office has a relaxation station with a massage chair for employees to decompress during the workday.
Other: As part of the Essie Bucks program, employees have giveaway “bucks” to reward co-workers for excellent customer service, which can be redeemed for cash, time off or other prizes. At an end of the year party, employees who have been with the company for five-year increments receive a cash award that increases with the years of service.
Other: WIMCO hosts fun employee events throughout the year including Family Fun Day, an annual meeting and awards ceremony, a Christmas party and off-site team-building activities. Workers get three hours a week on the clock to exercise, whether it be at the in-office gym, an off-site facility or at home.
Other: Biweekly happy hours, raffles, and group and volunteer activities such as company-sponsored hikes and a pet-friendly office are just a few of the ways Pine Gate Renewables keeps its employees happy. It has supported its workforce during the pandemic by contributing a $75 stipend for working from home and initiating a child care assistance program in which employees can be reimbursed $300 per week for eligible care expenses.
Other: The accounting firm rewards hard work with its Employee of the Quarter recognition, which comes with a $500 bonus. Employees who pass all four parts of the CPA exam receive a $1,500 bonus, and during busy season, the company offers 15-minute chair massages to workers.
Other: Food and ice cream trucks frequent the office several times a year, and the company offers several employee contests including cornhole tournaments, a free-throw contest, pingpong tournaments, a creative snack contest, a Halloween costume contest, an ugly sweater contest and a gingerbread house contest.
Other: Employees are treated to appreciation luncheons and breakfasts, birthday gifts, casual Fridays and firm-sponsored yoga. The company has a donation-matching policy to help support workers’ favorite charities.
Other: The company’s Give a Wow is a peer-to-peer recognition program that gives employees an opportunity to acknowledge each other’s great work. Work outings include Durham Bulls games, laser tag, painting and pottery classes, and arcade games.
Other: The third-generation family-owned company looks out for employees during tough times with donations of money and resources for in-need families. Copiers Plus reimburses as much as 50% of employee training and education that is deemed beneficial to the company.
Other: Employees enjoy weekly lunches, holiday parties and tickets to local sporting events. The company purchases an AAA membership for its female workers and gives employees flexible hours to accommodate life events such as school functions and doctors’ appointments.
Other: Each year, the company takes employees and their families on a trip to the beach, covering the bill for gas, accommodations, several meals and entertainment. Go-Forth Pest Control offers workers and dependants a 100% employer-paid telemedicine plan immediately upon hire.
Other: Champion Credit Union’s Service Award Program, which recognizes winners at its annual holiday social, comes with a monetary gift and an extra week of PTO. The company’s wellness program offers rewards — including cash, gift cards and extra PTO — for participation and reaching certain levels.
Other: The nonprofit group, which focuses on preserving and operating Grandfather Mountain, hosts an annual employee picnic and Christmas party for workers and families to give them a chance to socialize outside the office. Two annual employee-nominated customer service awards that include a cash prize are presented at the party.
Other: The nonprofit group hosts monthly raffles for gift cards and items such as TVs, AirPods, tablets, smartwatches and appliances. Employees enjoy fun contests throughout the year including an ugly sweater contest, gingerbread house wars, or remote workspace competition and pet contests for gift cards.
Other: The distribution company throws employee luncheons, family picnics and an annual Halloween party. It also offers free or discounted tickets to local family entertainment or sporting events.
Other: The woman-owned engineering company treats employees like family with a flexible schedule, Christmas bonus and holiday parties throughout the year.
LARGE EMPLOYER CATEGORY (250 or more U.S. employees)
Other: As part of its Staff Appreciation Week, employees are given lunch, a firm gift, special gifts for service milestones, hand-written notes from managers, a free hour of PTO and Jeans Day. Outstanding employees are nominated by co-workers for Spotlight Awards and receive a plaque and gift card and are profiled on the firm’s intranet.
Other: Annual employee activities include College Colors Day parties, book clubs, birthday celebrations, food trucks at the office and an afternoon smoothie bar. The company also hosts on-site wellness workshops focused on stress management and offered a virtual fitness class twice a week in early 2020.
Other: The financial-services company keeps associates and their families healthy with an on-site health center, Weight Watchers and other nutrition programs, free flu shots, COVID vaccinations, biometric screenings, walking contests and health coaching. Fun annual events include a firm picnic, holiday party, Donut Day, March Madness, and an Elf on the Shelf contest highlighting firm associates.
Other: Edward Jones prides itself on its employee giveaways and contests, including free local sporting event tickets, turkeys and ice cream, and rewards outstanding workers with Jeans Days for special achievements. Its summer regional meetings mix business and fun in beautiful locations for a three-day escape for employees and their families.
Other: Samet keeps workers physically fit by offering yoga classes, basketball and a walking club. It also offers on-site personal development seminars and workshops.
Other: Each quarter, three employees are nominated by co-workers and recognized by Captrust’s CEO with quarterly excellence awards. Its Captrust Way group sponsors annual events such as a trick-or-treating and Halloween celebration at headquarters and trivia and game nights.
Other: South State Bank loves to celebrate throughout the year with a bracket contest for March Madness, a Super Bowl party, Easter egg hunts, a Halloween costume contest and festive Fridays in December. The company also has a relaxed dress code that allows employees to wear business casual and jeans throughout the day.
Other: The company’s MacCulture Recognition Program allows managers to recognize exceptional employee-owners with points, which can be redeemed for gift cards or merchandise. Annual events include a company picnic, potlucks, a holiday party, team-building activities and more.
Other: CSI shows appreciation for employees with events such as cookouts, lunches and ice cream socials, and virtual happy hours, games and events while working remote. Additionally, employees are encouraged to participate in quarterly group community outreach projects and take paid time off to give back.
Other: Coastal Credit Union employees utilize You Earned It (Kazoo), an online recognition system in which managers reward employees and employees recognize each other for accomplishments. As part of its new remote work policy, the company gives workers $50 per pay period for remote work costs and provides employees with toilet paper, sanitizer, masks and disinfectant wipes.
Other: Employees have an opportunity to share their social responsibility and volunteer activities with an internal website to log volunteer hours and charitable giving. The Gallagher Foundation matches eligible charitable donations, empowering employees to make twice the difference to the charities of their choosing.
Other: Top-performing logistics account executives and a guest receive an all-expenses paid getaway to a tropical destination. Employees have fun in the office with pingpong tables, pop-a-shot machines, cornhole boards, putting greens and basketball courts.
Other: Employees can earn a spot for a two-night stay in Myrtle Beach for Terminix’s Annual Awards Weekend, when top performers are recognized with awards and all eligible employees are wined and dined and given the chance to win a variety of prizes.
Other: The utilities organization hosts an annual picnic for employees and their families. Workers stay active with fitness offerings such as CrossFit and yoga classes.
Other: Workplace celebrations include monthly birthday parties, a Valentine’s Day brunch that doubles as a fundraiser for the N.C. chapter of the Lymphoma & Leukemia Society, a chili cook-off, a Halloween potluck lunch and costume contest, a Thanksgiving feast, and a holiday cookie exchange and ugly sweater contest.
Other: Strata Clean Energy hosts company parties, group volunteer events and weekly Good News Emails to keep employee spirits up. Workers are recognized for their hard work with spot bonuses, employee incentives and safety awards.
Other: Employees nominate co-workers for the Hawthorn Award on a quarterly basis for demonstrating company values, and winners receive a $50 gift card. Gaia Herbs also has a recognition platform that lets employees earn points that can be cashed in for gift cards or company swag.
Other: Dauntless Discovery bids the old year adieu and kicks off the new year with annual Christmas and New Year parties and hosts company potluck events. To stay connected during the pandemic, the company has hosted virtual holiday get-togethers and has a Microsoft Teams “Coffee Shop” chat dedicated to employee socializing.
Other: CPI keeps things fun at the office with games, activities and televisions throughout the breakrooms, holiday-themed parties and luncheons, and contests such as cubicle decoration, dress-up days and raffles.
Other: Employees are recognized for outstanding work with the Wannamaker Award, which includes a $300 gift, a newsletter article and an award. The company boasts fun employee contests throughout the year, weight loss challenges, internal promotions, raffles and office celebrations.