15 great workplaces in manufacturing & production

Photograph by Adam Hinton — Mars, Inc.

Drillers of black gold still dominate this year’s list of great workplaces in manufacturing, despite foundering oil prices. (The cost of a barrel has halved to less than $50 from around $100 since 2010—a boon to industries such as airlines, a bane to ones like energy exploration.) To determine which companies in the broadly-defined manufacturing industry have the happiest workforce, we asked our research partners at Great Rated!, the premiere workplace review site maintained by Great Place to Work, to survey thousands of employees in that space. So what’s most important to workers at automotive distributors, oil & gas producers, medical device makers, and food manufacturers? A commitment to workplace safety, job training and development, and profit sharing, for starters. Read on to learn more about how those in manufacturing maintain work-life balance.

1. Hilcorp

Employees in Texas at Hilcorp's Double Drive promotion

Headquarters: Houston
Employees: 1,409
100 Best Companies Rank: 15
Great Rated! review

This oil and gas exploration firm’s earthen excavators enjoy gushing monetary perks. If the company meets its "dream 2015" goals before next year—doubling its daily production, reserves and equity value over the past five years—it has promised to reward each of its employees with $100,000 cash. Similarly, when more routine goals are reached, Hilcorp managers have been known to dole out $100 bills, T-shirts and gift cards. The company also matches up to 6% of employee contributions to 401(k) plans, covers 85% of health care costs for employees (and 77% for dependents), and allows its workers to invest in the fields it buys. "Here, you have the chance to make a great amount of money if you do what you are told and if you invest in the company correctly,” says one employee. “Your opinion is valued and you feel like you are part of something bigger."

2. Stryker

Two people walk toward the South Street exit of the new Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine in Kalamazoo, Mich. The state-of-the-art facility is already in use: 54 medical students and 200 residents began their studies in August. (AP Photo/Kalamazoo Gazette-MLive Media Group, Mark Bugnaski) ALL LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION INTERNET OUT

Revenue: $9 billion
Headquarters: Kalamazoo, Mich.
Employees: 21,861
100 Best Companies Rank: 42
Great Rated! review

All employees at this medical device maker know their top five skills. That’s because the company supplies an online “strengths finder” survey, allowing employees to determine their talents. Workers average 115 hours of training annually, and Stryker prides itself on supporting their professional development. The company even offers a mini-MBA for mid-level managers seeking to climb the corporate ladder. Plus, a vacation donation program lets some employees reallocate their time off to others in times of need. (On one occasion coworkers donated more than a dozen weeks of vacation to an employee with a medical emergency.) The company is no stranger to donation either: it contributed more than $27 million to charity last year, including gifting humanitarian efforts with devices and equipment. “The strength of Stryker is the internal mobility,” says one employee. “If you desire a different role, you can be confident that someone will invest in you.”

3. Devon Energy

Revenue: $10.4 billion
Headquarters: Oklahoma City
Employees: 5,437
100 Best Companies Rank: 56
Great Rated! review

An explosion of productivity from North American oil and gas wells has Devon Energy, an oil giant, passing handsome rewards to employees. At the driller’s headquarters, a 50-story tower in downtown Oklahoma City, Okla., there is an onsite medical clinic, a subsidized cafeteria, a car wash— and even a gelato shop. When the building’s fitness center became too crowded during the lunchtime rush, the company opened a second one. Devon also offers classroom courses, e-learning in partnership with Cornell University, and “guidance resources,” a support hotline for employees and their family members. “The company is rooted in the community and people who work here take pride in the Devon name,” says one worker. “We all feel like we are a part of something big and we are making a difference in our community and the local economy.”

4. Arthrex

Revenue: $1.5 billion
Headquarters: Naples, Fla.
Employees: 3,000
Great Rated! review

This surgical products maker strives to keep its workers healthy. The company offers an appealing health package, covering 100% of employees’ monthly medical and dental premiums (and half that for dependents). Arthrex also reimburses gym memberships, provides on-site medical facilities, and caters free lunches under the supervision of an executive chef. When workers meet their 5-year milestone, they are eligible for a paid vacation and 40 hours of extra paid time off. Some choose to spend it at Arthrex founder and president Reinhold Schmieding’s ranch in Montana, which he makes available for employees and their families as a getaway. “There is a true sense of collaboration and team spirit in order to get things done,” says one worker. “People that work here are genuinely happy to come to work and be supportive of one another.”

5. W. L. Gore & Associates

Revenue: $3091.66 million
Headquarters: Newark, Del.
Employees: 10,337
100 Best Companies Rank: 22
Great Rated! review

This diverse materials-based company has a flat organizational structure, with leaders instead of managers or supervisors. Every employee is paired with a sponsor who serves as an advocate and coach. W. L. Gore pays 85% of health care costs for both employees and dependents, and offers a day of paid time off for volunteer work. A bountiful stock ownership plan enables its associates to receive a 12%-of-pay contribution after a year of service with the company. “People are encouraged to find their sweet spot within the company,” says one associate. “Associates are encouraged to use their strengths and interests to develop a plan of improvement that will forward the company and the individual.”

6. EOG Resources

Revenue: $144.9 billion
Headquarters: Houston
Employees: 2,806
100 Best Companies Rank: 97
Great Rated! review

Workers at this oil exploration company enjoy ample benefits. EOG Resources matches up to 6% of employees’ 401(k) contributions, fully covers their health plans (80% for dependents), and offers them its stock shares at a 15% discount. The company also promotes well-being with fitness expense reimbursements up to $300 per year, vehicle discounts at participating dealers, and a rotational program for engineers to experience different parts of the business. “Management here gives workers the opportunity to develop their own work flow in order to match their operational needs,” says one employee. “While this sometimes creates conflicts when trying to standardize items for data collection, it allows all parties to develop an efficient model with minimal bureaucratic holdups, which in turn increases turnaround time during operations.”

7. JM Family Enterprises

Revenue: $12.5 billion
Headquarters: Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Employees: 3,880
100 Best Companies Rank: 37
Great Rated! review

This automotive distributor and retailer keeps its employees driven with excellent perks. Workers earn an incentive bonus tied to the company’s profits at the end of each year. Other awards include $75 gift cards, spot bonus checks up to $1,500 and paid trips to resort destinations—sometimes involving the company's private jets. Says one employee: "There is a wonderful culture here and a 'big picture' mindset with associates who want to retire with the company."

8. Mars

Revenue: $33 billion
Headquarters: McLean, Va.
Employees: 75,000
100 Best Companies Rank: 76
Great Rated! review

Employees say life at the foods and pet care giant is a sweet deal. Headquarters has an on-site occupational health and wellness facilities, an open office environment featuring collaborative “pods” rather than cubicles, and walking trails outside. Employees are welcome to bring their dogs to work. Mars matches up to 6% of an employee’s 401(k) contribution and covers 87% of their health plans (83% for dependents). Associates can also enroll for classes at Mars University, an internal program for continued education. “My team is like my family,” says one associate. “We work together as a high collaborative team and we communicate very well.”

9. Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories

Headquarters: Pullman, Wash.
Employees: 3,774
Great Rated! review

This electrical equipment maker powers its workforce with rewards. An employee-owned company, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories provides its workers with a monthly $80 educational allowance and let’s each of them decide where to donate $100 for science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related education annually. When employees are hired, they enroll in a 1-year-long “becoming an SEL-owner” program that orients them to the company’s products, culture and expectations. “"SEL is a great place to work because we as a company take care of each other,” one worker says. “We have great benefits, they pay well and we have great resources right at our finger tips.”

10. Chesapeake Energy

Earth-moving machinery builds up a berm around a Chesapeake Energy storage tank.

Revenue: $17.5 billion
Headquarters: Oklahoma City
Employees: 5,480
100 Best Companies Rank: 51
Great Rated! review

This natural gas producer provides its workers with a slew of great resources. The company matches up to a whopping 15% of employees’ salaries as contribution to their 401(k) plans via company stock that vests after 5 years. Safe drivers who use company cars are rewarded up to $750 annually for their clean records. Despite a shake-up involving layoffs and a service group spin-off in 2013, 90% of employees say they're proud to work at Chesapeake and more than 87% of employees say that it's still a great place to work. Part of the reason? Movie nights at the corporate campus, a day care for employees’ kids aged 6 weeks to pre-kindergarten, and new mothers get free health consultations. “Chesapeake has repeatedly demonstrated its trust in me by offering me opportunities that stretch my ability and challenge my experience,” says one worker. “These opportunities have afforded me far greater success in my professional life than I could have ever imagined before starting work with this company.”

11. Tactical Electronics

Headquarters: Broken Arrow, Okla.
Employees: 65
Great Rated! review

Recognition at this defense contractor boosts employee morale. Workers can nominate colleagues as “employee of the month,” a title that comes with prizes like personalized bobble-head dolls and eligibility to be considered for “employee of the year,” the winner of which receives a paid vacation for two to anywhere. Each year during the company’s “April foolishness week,” workers compete in scavenger hunts, prank wars, spelling bees, trampoline dodgeball and other activities, to win a paid lunch at a restaurant of the team’s choosing, too. In addition to the company paying for 95% of employees’ health care premiums (and 75% for dependents), its office is stocked with games. Says one engineer: "TE has the reputation of treating all employees like family.”

12. Field Fastener Supply Company

Revenue: $40 million
Headquarters: Machesney Park, Ill.
Employees: 85
Great Rated! review

This distribution and warehousing company, which sells fastening supplies like nuts, bolts, and gaskets, keeps its community of workers tight with a variety of perks. The company provides free snacks and drinks and a bustling game room that includes video games, Ping-Pong, and bean bag toss. It also offers 90% paid health coverage for employees (and 65% for dependents). Everyone at the company participates in the United Way charity. "Flexibility, family-oriented, we are the true meaning of the word 'team,’” says one employee.

13. FONA International

Revenue: $78 million
Headquarters: Geneva, Ill.
Employees: 225
Great Rated! review

Taste maker FONA International, which creates flavors for other food and beverage companies, offers an appetizing array of benefits for its workers. The company helps its employees keep mentally and physically fit with free yoga and exercise classes and a learning center open to community groups at its headquarters. Workers regularly bond over free monthly meals, family picnic outings and birthday lunches. On-site access to dry cleaning, car washes and a summer hours program that lets employees work a little extra through the week to take a half-day Friday are just some of the company’s perks. “The continuing education programs are great,” says one flavorist. “We often get sent to industry conferences and other events that are great for networking and on-the-job training.”

14. Clif Bar & Co.

Clif Bar & Company Owners, Co-CVOs, and husband and wife team, Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford just hanging out on the climbing wall.

Headquarters: Emeryville, Calif.
Employees: 396
Best Medium-Size Companies Rank: 12
Great Rated! review

Energy bar maker Clif Bar & Co. maintains an energized workforce by supporting healthy offerings such as skiing, rafting and bike-riding trips (as well as a program offering a $500 incentive to purchase a commuter bicycle). The Bay Area-based headquarters has an onsite day-care, organic café, gym and showers with towel service. Employees receive stock options and up to a 5% match of compensation to their 401(k) plans. "An amazingly supportive workplace,” says one worker. “Senior members of the organization are very approachable, making it feel like we are truly all in this together."

15. American Transmission

Revenue: $626.3 million
Headquarters: Waukesha, Wisc.
Employees: 621
Best Medium-Size Companies Rank: 23
Great Rated! review

This Midwestern power grid operator offers a generous amount of time off—15 paid days of sick and personal time each year plus at least 20 paid days of holiday and vacation (with the opportunity to buy five more vacation days)—not to mention, flexible scheduling arrangements. In some cases, highly experienced new hires can get up to four weeks of vacation time from the get-go. With financial incentive programs that doled out $6.6 million to its staff in 2013 for meeting goals, 97% of the workforce says it takes great pride in the company. “When things start to go wrong, my coworkers pitch in to help,” says one employee.

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