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5 A.L. companies named Best Places to Work

Seventeen companies, including five from Albert Lea, were recognized last week as the Best Places to Work in southeast Minnesota.

The Albert Lea businesses recognized were Albert Lea Electric Co., Albert Lea Seed House, Alliance Benefit Group, Freeborn Lumber Co. and Innovance Inc.

Albert Lea Electric, Albert Lea Seed House and Freeborn Lumber were part of the small employer category with less than 75 employees, and Alliance Benefit was in the mid-size employer category with between 76 and 150 employees. Innovance was in the large employer category with over 150 employees.

The Best Places to Work awards program is a commissioned study by Workforce Development Inc. The purpose of the program is to recognize some of the best employers in the local area and to provide vital information to companies about the practices they use to attract and retain employees.

Each participating company was required to complete a 40-question survey that allowed their employment practices to be analyzed by Florida-based consulting firm Personnel Dynamics Consulting. Each company that participated received a 20-page report detailing the information on their company and the results of the survey.

The data was measured on parameters such as turnover, rate of growth, promotion rates,

employee evaluations and feedback, percentage of employees injured, diversity of management, benefits offered, training expenditures, paid days off and increase in pay.

This was the seventh year for the program.

According to Workforce Development Inc., the Albert Lea companies stood out because of the following:

• Albert Lea Electric has 26 employees and has 96 percent of its employees enrolled in the health insurance plan, with 100 percent enrolled in the life insurance and short-term disability plans.

• Albert Lea Seed House has 30 employees and has a growth rate of 6.5 percent, compared to the survey average of 2.5 percent. The company provides three paid days of vacation for every employee to volunteer in the community, and provide fresh fruit and other healthy snacks in the break room.

• Freeborn Lumber, with 23 employees, had almost 92 percent of its employees attend a training session in the last year and has 100 percent of its employees in a voluntary retirement program. It also provides financial planning sessions for its employees, along with pizza or sub sandwich lunch days and potluck lunches.

• Alliance Benefit Group has 134 employees and spent an average of $680 per employee on training and development. It has a 9.7 percent turnover rate, compared to the survey average of 19.4 percent and a 4 percent growth rate.

After the first week of employment, new employees and the entire department are treated for lunch. There is an annual employee appreciation week with food every day and prizes. Employees were offered Fitbits at a discount of 60 percent.

• Innovance, with 346 employees, spent an average of $847 per employee on training and development and has 100 percent of its employees involved in a stock ownership program.

The company teamed up to build a beginner and intermediate training for unskilled operators and has a paid time-off donation program. Employees can participate in various committees.