Building Great Places to Work

March 11. 2013

NorthCoast 99 Application Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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March 11. 2013

The following document contains commonly asked questions and answers about the NorthCoast 99 Application process specifically related to registration, the application's questions, the new-hire and top performer surveys, reports, and more.

Download Applicaton FAQs

If you have additional questions, please contact or 440-684-9700.


March 5. 2013

Responsiveness to Job Applicants Affects Perceptions of Hiring Process

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March 5. 2013

Research is continuing to point to the importance of responding to job applicants and communicating with them at various steps in the recruiting hiring process.  

A new survey conducted by CareerBuilder shows that one in four job seekers reports having a poor experience when applying for a job. Specifically, responsiveness to job applicants is a major gap with three-quarters of job seekers saying they never heard back from the employer with which they applied for a job. Most also cited that their employer never let them know the decision after the interview.

Also, over a third of respondents indicated that their organization's representative did not present a positive experience and slightly fewer felt that the company representative seemed knowledgeable. Additionally, job seekers' negative experiences during the recruiting and hiring process seemed to affect their reactions and behaviors.

ERC's research in the NorthCoast 99 program shows that communication during the recruiting and hiring process is a factor that is core to candidate and new-hire experience. Based on data from hundreds of new-hires on their organizations' hiring, selection, and on-boarding practices in the 2012 NorthCoast 99 application process, numerous variables related to frequent updates and communication during the recruiting process strongly influenced participants' views of the organization and the hiring process. Additionally, new-hires who were more satisfied with their organization's hiring practices had more positive perceptions of their organization and work environment.

The conclusions we can draw from this research is that applicant and candidate experience are significantly important in influencing applicants' perceptions of an organization and their subsequent behaviors.


February 20. 2013

Local Top Workplaces Attract More Job Applicants

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February 20. 2013

Looking to attract a larger pool of applicants for your open positions? Both national and local research shows that organizations which are recognized as local great places to work receive more applicants per open position than employers recognized as great places to work nationally.

On average, NorthCoast 99 winners receive 62 applicants per open position. This compares to an average of 42 applicants per open position reported by the Great Place to Work Institute, based on the best places to work it recognizes. This suggests that NorthCoast 99 winners receive more applicants than best places to work nationally, and the value of local recognition as a top workplace in attracting talent.

Below is the average number of applicants reported by NorthCoast 99 winners across industries.

Average number of applicants by industry among NorthCoast 99 Winners

Health & Human Services 30
Manufacturing 64
Professional Services 76
Technology 47
Other Non-Profit Organizations 57
Other For-Profit Organizations 82

With increasing challenges in attracting skilled talent, gaining recognition as a top workplace has helped a number of organizations recruit top performers. Recognition as a top workplace has many advantages, most notably validating your workplace practices, culture, and environment to potential applicants; providing further marketing opportunities to brand your company as a great place to work; and helping your organization stand out or gain attention when seeking talent in a competitive job market.

For more information on recruiting trends and practices among these top workplaces, download our white paper "The Right Fit: How Top Employers Find the Perfect Candidate." Or, to start the 2013 NorthCoast 99 Application process and become recognized as a top employer in Northeast Ohio, visit

February 5. 2013

The 2013 NorthCoast 99 Application: What's New in 2013?

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February 5. 2013

We're now accepting applications for the 2013 NorthCoast 99 Award through April 19th! This year, our online application contains several new and improved features to save you time and make completing the application much easier!

Editing Past Responses

If you participated in 2012, the NorthCoast 99 application will now pre-populate your responses from last year! All you need to do is approve each of those responses, edit, and/or delete them. It's also easier than ever to paste from Word or Excel and format your answers inside of the application!

New Saving Features

The new application has saving features which automatically save your progress every 5 minutes as you are working on the application in case you forget to click "save progress." In addition, your company's application responses will be saved from year to year, beginning with responses submitted in 2012, saving you hours of time!

Downloading and Printing the Application

You can now download and print your application and responses at any time. Printouts have been enhanced as well, making reviewing your application much easier.

User Management

Each organization that applies for the NorthCoast 99 award will have one designated main contact. This individual will be responsible for submitting the application as well as inviting and managing users. The main contact may invite and remove users and assign them to edit or complete certain sections within the application.

Main Contact Changes

If your organization wants to change its main contact, it may change this individual within the application system.

Question Options

You have the option to view one question at a time ("Question View") or a list of all of the questions within the section ("List View"). Within these views, there are also several new features that allow you to easily track your progress in completing the application, including a progress bar.

Question Tips

This year, we've added helpful tips and additional information to help you respond to the questions in the application. These tips are included right next to each question within the application. Just hover over the icon at the end of the question.

Uploading Capabilities

The new application allows you to upload all of the policies required for the application process directly into the system versus emailing or mailing them to ERC.


Questions? Contact or 440/684-9700. Get started on your organization's application today at:

IMPORTANT: If your organization applied for the NorthCoast 99 Award in 2012, your organization already has an account set up in our application system as well as a main contact for the NorthCoast99 program, so you do not need to create a new account. You need only create an account if your organization did not register to apply for the NorthCoast 99 Award in 2012. If you are not sure if your organization already has an account, be sure to contact us at or 440/684-9700 before you register!


January 8. 2013

Resolutions to Transform Your Workplace in 2013

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January 8. 2013

Many workplaces are in need of a serious workplace transformation in 2013. They are fraught with employee problems, poor managers and leadership, high turnover, and an inability to attract and keep good talent. If these issues sound familiar, here are some resolutions you should to commit to in order to transform your workplace in 2013.

Make work/life balance a priority. Most organizations keep asking employees to do more with less (less pay, advancement opportunities, resources, training, etc.), but top performers eventually leave jobs that force them to make work a priority over their family or overwork them to the point that it strains their personal lives.

Give rewards that are long overdue. How many of your workers have not been given pay raises, not been recognized or rewarded adequately, and not given a promotion or new career opportunity in the last couple years? Make 2013 the year where you give back generously to your employees what they have given so openhandedly to your organization: their time, talents, and passion.

Get rid of punitive policies. Start treating employees like the adults they are. Eliminate workplace policies are that are too punitive, rigid, or over-involved. For example, start with your probationary period, attendance, paid time off, and progressive discipline policies. These are the usual culprits for policies that fail to create positive cultures. Plus, these policies usually make HR's job a lot harder.

Treat your employees better. Treat employees more fairly, considerately, and respectfully. Spend more time helping, supporting, and mentoring them. Communicate well and with decency. Recognize people when they do a good job and criticize them gently when necessary. If your managers can't do these things, send them to training or re-evaluate their performance.

Provide learning and growth. Top performers don't stay in jobs that are stagnant and unchallenging. They also don't respect managers who don't mentor them or encourage their learning and growth. You have a responsibility to care about your employees' growth and development into the best possible employees they can be. Start investing the time in helping them become better at what they do.

Give employees a voice. It's easy to make workplace decisions in a vacuum at the executive table, without considering the perspectives of your employees. Instead, this year, challenge yourselves to make decisions differently, with the help of your employees and especially top performers. For example, conduct an engagement survey, invite employees to a leadership meeting, or hold some focus groups.

As managers, leaders, and HR professionals, we have the opportunity, ability, and responsibility to make the workplace better for our employees and we can either resolve to do that in the new year or face continued workplace challenges. Fortunately, a new year can bring a new workplace, so long as your organization commits itself to some positive change.

December 11. 2012

Emerging Practices & Innovations Among Top Employers

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December 11. 2012

Each year brings new practices and innovations to the workplace and 2013 will be no exception. In NorthCoast 99 program, we collect information about the creative tactics employers use to attract, retain, and motive employees and we’ve compiled some emerging practices and innovations (with links to case studies embedded) that forward-thinking companies are using to create a great workplace.

Mobile recruiting. With more job seekers using mobile devices, a handful of NorthCoast 99 winners have started using mobile applications to recruit by not only developing applications, but making sure their websites, job postings, and application process are mobile-friendly.

Dynamic and engaging content. Some NorthCoast 99 winners are creating engaging, personalized recruiting content for their job seekers such as employee-written blog posts, videos, graphics, photos, and other types to engage applicants in learning more about their organization and culture.

Hiring assessment. Several NorthCoast 99 winners have designed unique hiring assessment approaches to find top performers including job tryouts, assessment tools, and other experimental hiring tactics.

Learning “bits and bytes.” Some NorthCoast 99 winners are moving to short forms of learning to supplement classroom and online training. Short lessons, articles, podcasts, videos, learning games, etc. are now used by some winners to reinforce concepts participants learned in training.

Future leader initiatives. A number of NorthCoast 99 winners have created targeted, strategic future leadership and management development programs for unique groups of employees such as young professionals, thought leaders, and technical leaders.

Coaching and mentoring. Forward-thinking employers like many of the NorthCoast 99 winners are using formal and targeted one-on-one coaching and mentoring relationships and programs to a greater degree to supplement training and development initiatives.

Advancement resources. Some employers are moving towards creating specific resources to provide greater clarity regarding how employees can advance in their organizations. Such resources include interactive matrices and maps as well as career management websites and tools.

Line of sight programs and campaigns. Some NorthCoast 99 winners have implemented programs, initiatives or campaigns to communicate to employees how their work matters and has purpose – to their organizations, customers, and even the world.

Holistic wellness. A number of NorthCoast 99 winners are broadening the focus of their wellness programs, implementing tactics to improve employees’ social, emotional, financial, and even spiritual well-being.

Flexible workforce. Telecommuting, virtual work options, and creative alternative scheduling practices are gaining ground as some workplaces provide more flexible options that support employees’ work/life and can be customized to their personal needs.

Employee services. Innovations in services offered to employees continue to expand with more employers offering unique services such as concierge, holiday gift-wrapping, a hair salon, coffee bars, a seamstress, and more.

Engagement. Some organizations are creating programs to reinforce employee engagement like “engagement employee groups” to implement tactics to enhance engagement and create an engaging work culture.

Innovative cultures and workplace environments. For some employers, traditional workplace environments of stale wall colors and cubicles have been replaced with vibrant, open work environments equipped with areas for collaboration, tools for innovation, and an atmosphere that contributes to creativity.

These are just a few of many innovations we see in the NorthCoast 99 program, but perhaps are some of the most notable ones from 2012. The NorthCoast 99 winners consistently tackle and solve traditional workplace problems with new, innovative solutions. For more ideas and information about workplace innovations, consult the 2012 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report.


December 3. 2012

How to Become an Employer of Choice in 2013

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December 3. 2012

Employers of choice are known for having lower turnover, better productivity, more engaged employees and customers, and a stronger bottom line. They also often enjoy greater access to skilled talent because talented employees choose to work for them and stay with them over their competitors.

ERC is often asked by employers, "How do we become a great workplace?" Becoming an employer of choice is an incredibly worthwhile goal that many organizations embark on to improve their chances of landing the best talent and keeping it. The transition doesn't happen overnight, however. Here are steps to start the journey to becoming a great workplace.

1. Set a strategic goal. Organizations that achieve recognition as an employer of choice make a choice to become one. They set a strategic goal which makes becoming a great workplace a priority and guides many of their other organizational goals and initiatives.

2. Get your leadership team onboard. A goal to become an employer of choice will fail without top leadership support. Make sure you have the right people on your leadership team who are engaged in this vision and who support it in word and action.

3. Define a top performer. Becoming an employer of choice is all about talent, specifically attracting the best talent as well as retaining it. In order to do this, you need to define a top performer at your organization. What characteristics and competencies do they have? What behaviors do they exhibit? How are your superstars different than other employees?

4. Evaluate your practices. Seek a baseline. You need to know how your organization stands up against employers of choice. Compare your numbers, metrics, and practices. Apply for awards programs such as the NorthCoast 99 award which provide you with rich benchmark information, like the 2012 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report. In addition, participate in surveys to gather benchmark information from other employers.

5. Start an employee survey initiative. Nearly every employer of choice has one and they use it to make positive changes to their workplace. You must understand how your employees view your workplace and if they are satisfied, committed, and involved with their work. Annual or bi-annual employee engagement surveys gather this information.

6. Create an action plan. Once you have data on how you stack up, list areas of the workplace that are strong and areas that are in need of improvement to become an employer of choice. Next, list the barriers to improving the weaker areas. Create action plans to...

  • Maintain strengths.
  • Improve weak areas of the workplace. Start with "quick fixes" and move on to larger initiatives.
  • Remove barriers OR creatively overcome them.

7. Invest in your workplace. You won't become an employer of choice without investing in your workplace. This doesn't mean you need to outspend your competition on employee perks. What it does mean is that you need to allocate cash and time to enhance areas of the workplace that are most critical to your becoming an employer of choice. Steps #3 and #4 will provide you with information on what those areas are.

8. Measure your progress. Set metrics or standards to measure your progress. Such metrics could be achieving 0% turnover of top performers or improving employee engagement scores by a specific percentage. Other metrics could be tied to certain areas of the workplace, such as compensation (90% of employees are paid at or above market), recruiting (achieving 0% turnover of new-hires in the first year), or training (i.e. 100% of employees attend at least one professional development activity).

Obviously, there are many ways to become an employer of choice, but usually, these tactics help tremendously in guiding organizations' efforts toward becoming a great workplace. Also, if you are thinking about becoming a great workplace or an employer of choice, or want to gain recognition for being an employer of choice, attend our free upcoming event to learn more about the NorthCoast 99 program.

November 27. 2012

5 Holiday Practices at Great Workplaces

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November 27. 2012

Great workplaces like the NorthCoast 99 winners do unique and special things around the holidays for their employees. They celebrate success, emphasize employee appreciation, recognize and reward milestones, develop unique traditions, and create meaningful experiences that make their employees not only feel valued for all that they accomplished during the year, but also feel proud to work at their organization. Below are five common holiday practices at great workplaces.

1. Holiday parties. Most NorthCoast 99 winners provide their employees with a holiday party or gathering to show appreciation for their contributions and accomplishments. Winners' parties take different forms - year-end banquets, luncheons, breakfasts, dinners, or even elaborate celebrations. They often include a unique theme, form of entertainment, or special surprise.

2. Community service. Many NorthCoast 99 winners make time to give back to their local communities during the holiday season. Winners coordinate community service activities around the holidays, participate in food drives and seasonal programs such as Adopt-a-Family, and donate gifts and other essential items to those in need.

3. Holiday gifts. Winners usually provide employees with holiday gifts. Gifts vary widely but can include iPADs, iPODs, gift cards, and cash bonuses. Sometimes these gifts are personalized to each employee. Gifts are often handed to employees directly by the CEO.

4. Holiday touches and gestures. It's not uncommon for NorthCoast 99 winners' CEO and/or leadership teams to write employees meaningful notes and letters during the holiday season to thank and recognize them. Top leaders at winners reach out personally and one-on-one to employees around the holidays.

5. Holiday support and flexibility. Some winners provide special support and on-site conveniences around the holidays. Some offer vendor discounts for shopping around the holidays; coordinate holiday gift wrapping services; provide special holiday schedules or flexible hours; and offer free holiday meals, baked goods, or hams/turkeys, and more.

In addition, below are a few examples of how NorthCoast 99 winners celebrate the holidays with their employees to further illustrate their holiday practices.

  • Akron General Health System hosts an annual holiday feast which brings all employees together. Employees participate in decorating and preparing the meal, which is served by members of its administration. Employees also enjoy one another's company.
  • Last year, Applied Industrial Technologies built a 7-foot "Canned Food Tree" from its employees' contributions in the corporate lobby. On December 22nd, the tree was disassembled and the contributions were donated to the Cleveland Foodbank for holiday meals.
  • OEConnection provides free holiday gift-wrapping services to its employees. The organization hires temporary workers to wrap and label employees' gifts to help reduce stress during the holidays.
  • Traditionally, Majestic Steel's top leadership writes thoughtful written letters to recognize employees' contributions to the business, and wish them a warm holiday with their families. Letters are personally addressed and include a grocery store gift card for Thanksgiving.
  • Senior management at The Center for Health Affairs has been known to close the organization's offices between Christmas and New Year's and pay employees for the time off to show their appreciation for a successful year.
  • U.S. Endoscopy's CEO and COO meet one-on-one with each production technician to thank them for their hard work and dedication. They personally hand employees their Christmas bonus check with a candy cane.
  • One of Vocon's owners/principals creates a colorful presentation highlighting all the past year's accomplishments and sincerely recognizes numerous employees and successes through verbal recognition and by providing creative gifts.
  • Lachina Publishing's CEO typically provides flexible hours during the December holiday season and also hosts a holiday party.

Holiday practices at great workplaces are celebratory, appreciative, unique, traditional, thoughtful, meaningful, and supportive - a reflection of winners' organizational cultures and work environments.


November 20. 2012

How to Create a Culture of Gratitude

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November 20. 2012

A culture of appreciation and gratitude is central to creating a great place to work. Sincere and frequent acts of recognition and appreciation help build a work environment where employees feel valued as people and for their contributions.

At NorthCoast 99 winners, rewards, recognition, and appreciation efforts are widespread. Most of these organizations have multiple programs and initiatives in place to recognize employees and show appreciation. Even more importantly, these organizations have created cultures that really show how much they value employees, and especially top performers. They understand how much their talent wants and needs to feel valued and appreciated for who they are, their talents, and their accomplishments. Based on our research of the winners, here are some tips for how to create this kind of culture.

Involve your leaders and supervisors.

Top leaders lead by example at winners. They are heavily involved in communicating how much they appreciate and value employees publicly and one-on-one with employees, and directly distributing rewards and recognition. Similarly, first-line supervisors at winners recognize and communicate their appreciation of employees' day-to-day progress and accomplishments.

Involvement of leaders and supervisors is essential. These individuals must be engaged in regularly showing appreciation. They must also want to recognize their employees for a culture of gratitude to evolve.

Develop a language of appreciation.

Creating a language of appreciation in your workplace is an important part of building a culture of gratitude. This language can be communicated verbally, in written form, or shown to employees via simple "thank you's," personal phone calls, emails, notes, or cards from leaders and supervisors; helping a coworker or an employee with a task; or setting aside some special time for employees.

For a culture of gratitude to develop, all of these gestures should become a norm at your workplace over time. In other words, the language of appreciation should be apparent at every level in the organization as well as consistently and frequently communicated.

Provide rewards and recognition.

Investments in rewards and recognition for your employees support building a culture of gratitude. Winners provide so many different types of rewards and recognition including trips, gift cards, cash bonuses, promotions, and career development opportunities. The levels and types of rewards often are varied and suit the recipient, their interests, and their level of achievement.

Rewards and recognition - beyond the simple thank you - are important for a few reasons. First, gift-giving or reward-giving is often associated with feeling appreciated by employees. Second, we've found that providing at least some formal rewards and recognition, even if they aren't necessarily part of a distinct program, is correlated with higher engagement and stronger perceptions of feeling appreciated and recognized.

Celebrate success.

Frequent celebrations, gatherings, and parties are another common way that appreciation is shown at winners' workplaces. Bringing employees together to celebrate and share success is a meaningful and fun way to create an appreciative culture over time. Plus, employees tend to really appreciate and value these types of events.    

Talent thrives in cultures that truly value and appreciate them and their talents. Based on our knowledge and research about how winners make employees feel appreciated and sustain workplaces that excel at recognizing employees, these tactics are crucial for creating a culture of gratitude.  

November 13. 2012

3 Characteristics and Examples of Effective Performance Management Systems

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November 13. 2012

Employers of choice like the NorthCoast 99 winners generally have highly effective performance management processes, as evidenced by the fact that their practices have led to 45% of employees (on average) receiving improved performance ratings, per the 2012 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report. Their performance management practices typically share three common characteristics.

1. Performance management is a cycle.

Performance management is not viewed as a one-time annual occurrence at winners. Instead it's an on-going cycle of performance planning (setting goals and expectations); execution (performing projects and tasks); supporting and developing (providing on-going coaching and feedback as well as training and development); and evaluating (reviewing performance behaviors and results against goals and standards; recognizing performance with rewards and promotions; or redirecting performance) that occurs between managers and employees and with the support of HR and leaders throughout the year.

Example: Clinical Research Management is committed to fostering a high performance culture and strives to provide each employee with clear performance objectives, on-going coaching and feedback, professional development, and recognition for outstanding work. During the performance management cycle at Clinical Research Management, top performers are given the opportunity to request additional assignments designed to grow their capabilities and skills in addition to receiving an assessment of their skill set and career goals. Employees also engage in a formal discussion with their managers to discuss career paths and advancement opportunities. Professional development plans are typically put into place for top performers at this time.

2. Performance management is a strategic business process.

Performance management is viewed as a business process, and not just an administrative HR process, that is critical and necessary for achieving high company performance. Goal-setting is a crucial element of winners' performance management practices. Organizational goals are "cascaded" down through the individual level and aligned with strategic business priorities. Talent outcomes like promotions, pay for performance, succession planning, and leadership development are linked to the performance management process.

Example: CBIZ defines performance management as a business process necessary for achieving sustainable high performance. Leaders are expected to model effective performance management behaviors and support the process. They are required to transition the perception of performance from just an HR process to something that is critical to the organization and for achieving business results. Leaders are held accountable for increasing the frequency and quality of conversations about performance expectations, feedback, and developmental planning. In addition, individual goals are aligned vertically and horizontally in the organization and leaders must tie performance management outcomes to all talent consequences like promotions, incentives, and succession planning.

3. Performance management is systematic and cultural.

Performance management does not simply include a performance evaluation and a performance improvement plan. Instead, performance management is a system of integrated programs, activities, and tools developed by winners that are consistently carried out at the organization. Additionally, an emphasis on high performance is a norm and expected behavior in the company culture. These programs and activities include...

Example: The Cleveland Foundation’s performance management process includes a variety of on-going activities. At the beginning of the process, each employee completes a self-assessment and identifies the goals or objectives they would like to work toward in the following appraisal period. The employee and their supervisor use the self-assessment to complete the performance appraisal and work together to develop challenging and achievable objectives. During the performance management process, developmental opportunities are also discussed and a plan for fulfilling training needs either internally or externally is created. Employees and their supervisors evaluate progress towards these objectives during bi-weekly meetings and at a midyear check-point. Employees are encouraged to address any obstacles preventing them from achieving their objectives at this time.

Many organizations don't achieve the results they want from performance management because their processes are lacking in these three areas...performance management isn't a cycle; it's not viewed as a business process that is aligned with strategy; high performance is not a cultural norm; and the organization lacks a system of integrated performance management activities, programs, and tools.

It's no wonder that most performance management processes do not produce, because based on our research on the NorthCoast 99 winners, performance management is the "crux" behind everything in their organization, including their business results.

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