Great Places to Work

There are hundreds of good companies in Connecticut, but here are 20 that offer more to their employees than just a paycheck.

 

Illustration by Adam Doyle

When last we took on this task in 2010, we profiled 23 great places to work. To augment that group, we have come up with 20 new businesses and organizations that we believe to be good employers.

No workplace is perfect—it is still work, after all—and there may be some people who roll their eyes when they see their employer listed here. But overall, the employees at these places agree that going to work every day is a positive and satisfying experience.

In our research, common themes appeared, among them that bottom-line success often goes hand-in-hand with employees who feel that they are valued and appreciated. Beyond great benefits and competitive compensation, many of these organizations also offer a positive work-life balance as well as a working environment characterized by open communication, cooperation and a willingness to give employees space to handle their responsibilities on their own terms.
 

Our selection process
In researching this year’s list, we’ve learned what makes a “great” workplace that is very subjective—where one person will rave about the size of their paycheck, another loves having on-site day care, while another appreciates to be able to work from home.

We came up with this list independently—unlike similar articles you may have seen in other publications, there were no fees required to be considered. We sought suggestions via this magazine, our website and social-media outlets, talked to employment professionals and researched top companies in the region. We then investigated each workplace in depth before including it here. We only considered businesses with 50 or more employees.
 

Connecticut Magazine's 2012 Great Places to Work

A/Z Corporation
North Stonington & Hartford • a-zcorp.com
Connecticut employees: 327
Business: Construction, operation and maintenance services
Why is it a great place to work? A/Z was founded in 1968 by Ed Lorenz, and what started out as a small family business has grown into a larger—but still family—business: Ed’s son Perry now runs the enterprise, and he’s one of multiple second-generation employees (as well as numerous siblings) who enjoy a close, stable and team-first atmosphere where there are opportunities to work up through the ranks. When possible, construction weeks are flexed into four 10-hour days (to save commuting costs), and there’s recognition for length of service, achievement of safety incentives and job performance, including a paid trip for the “employee of the year.” A/Z also has an apprenticeship program, offers training for industry-related areas, and, like any good family, celebrates birthdays (on a monthly basis) with cake.   

Boehringer Ingelheim
Ridgefield and Southbury • boehringer-ingelheim.com
Connecticut employees: 2,500
Business: Pharmaceuticals
Why is it a great place to work? Boehrin-ger Ingelheim’s corporate mantra is “value through innovation,” and it’s clear that the company values its employees highly—Boehringer Ingelheim has been recognized as a top employer for scientists, working mothers, female executives and for the diversity of its work force. The “Workplace of the Future” initiative features state-of-the-art technological centers, flextime, telecommuting and work spaces designed to encourage collaboration; construction is under way on two new research-and-development facilities on the company’s scenic 300-acre Ridgefield campus. Also on campus: a children’s learning center, company store, credit union, dry cleaners and a fitness center. An annual health fair emphasizes employee wellness, while The Boehringer-Ingelheim Cares Foundation supports employee volunteer efforts on behalf of local charities as well as science-, technology- and engineering-education programs across the state.

Connolly
Wilton • connolly.com
Connecticut employees: 150
Business: Recovery auditing services
Why is it a great place to work? As a service company, Connolly is wholly dependent upon the efforts of its employees for its continued success, and thus strives to keep them happy. With revenue growing 80 percent over the past five years and employee retention at 95 percent, the strategy is working. Connolly is situated in an airy, bright office in a manicured corporate park with gardens, tennis and basketball courts, a horseshoe pit and summer concerts. Employees enjoy an on-site gym, wellness programs and family events such as a visit from Santa and a Halloween parade. In addition, the company stresses training and strong interoffice communication, including a free lunch every Thursday to encourage networking. The “Connolly Cares” program provides opportunities to give back to the community and support various charitable causes.

Crystal Rock
Watertown, Stamford & Groton • crystalrock.com
Connecticut employees: 150
Business: Water, coffee and business supplies
Why is it a great place to work? Since its founding in 1914 by Henry Baker, Crystal Rock has operated by the motto, “Little Things Matter.” That still extends to the way the Baker family—Henry’s grandson Peter is CEO—handles its employees. Beyond standard benefits, the company provides “little things” like flu shots, annual safety and sales- recognition awards (with items like gift cards and show tickets in addition to financial compensation) and “appreciation weeks” featuring free lunches and chair massages. Paid work time is also allotted to employees for community-service activities. When the company moved to Watertown in 1988, employees chipped in for a flagpole and dedicated it to the Baker family in appreciation for decades of support, a sentiment that continues today.

Curtis Packaging
Sandy Hook • curtispackaging.com
Connecticut employees: 150
Business: Packaging services
Why is it a great place to work? Although the business of Curtis Packaging is concerned with aesthetically pleasing exterior appearances, it’s the employee-friendly atmosphere inside the 150,000-square-foot facility in Sandy Hook—which includes a ’50s-style “Curtis Diner” break room—that has helped to drive the family-owned company’s success. The average employee tenure is 15 years (with many who’ve been there twice as long), and members of the Curtis workforce enjoy events like an annual picnic, ice cream sundae days, employee-anniversary celebrations and holiday parties. Wellness is heavily promoted with opportunities such as annual flu shots and a “Biggest Loser” weight-loss program. The company also provides training and regularly rewards employee service.
 

 

Datto
Wilton & Norwalk • dattobackup.com
Connecticut employees: 112
Business: Computer backup, recovery and security services
Why is it a great place to work? As the fastest-growing U.S. company in computer backup and security services (as ranked by Inc. magazine), Datto is a technological enterprise fueled by an innovative work environment where creativity and out-of-the-box thinking is strongly encouraged. A sense of community is also fostered with regular catered “Free Lunch Fridays,” golf outings, a company-sanctioned fantasy football league, movie nights at the office and other events, such as when CEO Austin McChord invited the entire staff to opening night of The Dark Knight Rises at the Maritime Aquarium’s IMAX theater. Despite Datto’s rapid growth, fewer than 10 employees have left since 2008, a testament to the company’s dynamic-yet-fun atmosphere.

Financial Accounting Foundation
Norwalk • accountingfoundation.org
Connecticut employees: 150
Business: Accounting standards
Why is it a great place to work? As the organization devoted to setting national accounting and reporting standards, Financial Accounting Foundation is all about numbers, so try these: FAF has a 90 percent employee retention rate with an average employment length of 11.39 years; 22 employees have been there at least 25 years. In addition to a flexible work schedule, benefits include medical, dental, vision and life insurance, plus a 403(b) tax-sheltered retirement plan. An annual health fair featuring flu shots, chair massages and acupuncture helps promote wellness, as does a $30 monthly reimbursement toward a fitness-center membership. Plus, there are company sports teams (volleyball, softball, crew, etc.), annual recognition dinners and an active public-outreach program. It all adds up!

GE Capital
Stamford, Danbury, Norwalk and other locations • gecapital.com
Connecticut employees: 3,300
Business: Financial and banking services
Why is it a great place to work? As one of the largest financial-services companies in the world, GE Capital has offices around the globe, but there are common  benefits that employees enjoy—most offices offer on-site cafeterias and gyms as well as nurses and health-care facilities. The company has been recognized by Working Mother magazine for offering nursing rooms for mothers; dads and adoptive parents (who are partially reimbursed for adoption costs) can take compensated leave, while maternity leave is eight fully paid weeks. Worldwide, GE Capital invests $1 billion annually on employee training and education, and provides regular wellness opportunities with medical and nutritional experts.

Higher One
New Haven • higherone.com
Connecticut employees: 260
Business: Higher education business services
Why is it a great place to work? At Higher One, employees avoid the 9-to-5 grind because there are no set office hours. That’s right—unless employees are needed specifically by a customer or for a meeting, they are free to set their own schedule, provided they complete their work, of course. Employees can work from home or in the office, although many happily opt for the latter—Higher One recently moved into the renovated Winchester Arms Factory in New Haven, an open office space that features an on-site fitness center, a barista (free coffee, espresso, etc.) and a state-of-the-art café where a complimentary healthy lunch is served every day on a top-floor patio overlooking the city. Managers also share information in weekly breakfast and afternoon snack meetings. The Higher One CARES program encourages workers to volunteer in the community, providing one paid “Day of Service” a year.

Honeywell Life Safety
Northford • honeywell.com
Connecticut employees: 600
Business: Personal protective equipment
Why is it a great place to work? Honeywell Life Safety has made it its business to protect consumers for decades, an extension of a proud, vibrant company culture revolving around manufacturing products here in Connecticut that help save lives. Each summer, employees are treated to a day of appreciation, featuring various food and ice cream trucks; the annual holiday luncheon features awards and prizes for individual and team recognition, as well as employment milestones (average employee tenure is better than a decade). HLS workers are also encouraged to support the community—collecting donations and raising funds for various organizations and volunteering for community events, such as the Fantasy of Lights at New Haven’s Lighthouse Park. HLS workers also recently rallied to renovate a local homeless shelter.
 

 

Indeed
Stamford • indeed.com
Connecticut employees: 200
Business: Online employment site
Why is it a great place to work? Some might say it’s ironic that the No. 1 employment website in the world—reaching into more than 50 countries with over 70 million visitors and 1.5 billion job searches per month—is also a great place itself to work, but that’s “Indeed” the case. The company’s Stamford office is a bright, open space that overlooks a rooftop garden (as well as downtown); those who are health-conscious can work at standing desks, and the more active employees can join company softball, soccer or volleyball teams. In addition to excellent benefits (including a 401k match and free health screenings), there’s a fun, collegial atmosphere with regular happy hours, free monthly lunches and Friday breakfasts. Indeed also participates in a student-mentoring program with the Stamford Public Education Foundation, where employee volunteers regularly meet with and provide guidance to area students.

Kaman
Bloomfield, Middletown, Windsor & five other locations • kaman.com
Connecticut employees: 1,212
Business: Aerospace and aviation technology
Why is it a great place to work? Kaman is the classic example of a desirable workplace because of its decades of success and continued growth, i.e., stability—the average employee tenure here is almost 14 years. In addition to a collaborative environment with opportunities to participate in numerous projects, Kaman workers enjoy access to medical, dental and life insurance, health-care and dependent-care flexible spending accounts, a 401k retirement savings program, an employee stock-purchase plan, and 100 percent tuition reimbursement for undergraduate and graduate studies. The company is also very active in local communities, strongly supporting education and civic programs such as arts councils, Boy and Girl Scouts, food pantries and more.

Lawrence + Memorial Hospital
New London • lmhospital.org
Connecticut employees: 3,000
Business: Medical services
Why is it a great place to work? L+M has been providing medical care to Southeastern Connecticut for a century—and while other organizations might come to take their employees for granted over such a stretch, that’s not the case here. In additon to flextime and telecommuting (where possible), plus medical, dental and vision plans, benefits include medical and dependent care flex spending accounts, income protection plans, 401k retirement savings with employer match and educational assistance. L+M is also heavily involved with community outreach and service, including educational programs, health promotion and other efforts. And when work becomes too stressful, employees can get a healthy dose of R & R at the L+M’s private beach in New London.

Masonicare
Wallingford, Newtown and other locations statewide • masonicare.org
Connecticut employees: 2,460
Business: Healthcare and retirement living facilities
Why is it a great place to work? It makes sense that an organization dedicated to attending to the needs of others would also properly take care of its own employees. Pro-rated benefits are available to anyone who works 24 hours a week or more (schedules are flexible), and there are regular employee-appreciation events including picnics and holiday meals—at Thanksgiving, everyone receives a grocery gift card. Masonicare’s Wallingford headquarters has a bistro, gift shop, convenience store, chapel and a nationally accredited child-care center, with discounted rates for children of employees. Employees also receive free flu shots and discounted tickets to area amusement parks, and are eligible for up to 80 percent tuition reimbursement. If they use Masonicare’s primary-care physicians, there’s no co-pay.

OpenSky
Tolland • openskycorp.com
Connecticut employees: 125
Business: Information technology consulting services
Why is it a great place to work? Employees say that what they like about OpenSky is that it’s not “a normal work environment”—and that’s a good thing. In addition to telecommuting and flextime, OpenSky offers a very down-to-earth, trusting and open atmosphere with a “flat” hierarchy, which means employees are given autonomy to creatively solve problems and share opinions, all while knowing that it’s “okay to fail.” In addition to top-notch benefits, employees are regularly recognized for length of service and job performance, and get together for special events and fun, competitive activities like company-sponsored WhirlyBall nights (think bumper cars meet lacrosse), bowling and rock climbing. OpenSky also has an on-site gym, and all employees get free lunches, coffee and snacks.
 

 

Priceline.com
Norwalk • priceline.com
Connecticut employees: 359
Business: Travel website
Why is it a great place to work? It sounds like a deal brokered by Priceline.com’s famed TV pitchman, the Negotiator: In addition to flextime, telecommuting and generous standard benefits (medical, dental, vision, 401k, life insurance, etc.), Priceline.com associates get tuition reimbursement, transportation reimbursement for those who use mass transit, shuttle service from local train stations, special travel discounts—employees are eligible to enroll as fully accredited travel agents—and access to an on-site gym (at reduced rates). An employee charity committee oversees numerous community-service efforts, and there are plenty of special events, including a summer picnic, a family Halloween event, a holiday party and ice cream socials. Oh, and don’t forget the free candy trolley that rolls up and down the halls—definitely a sweet deal.

Primacy
Farmington • theprimacy.com
Connecticut employees: 75
Business: Digital business services
Why is it a great place to work? Primacy may have changed its name from Acsys Interactive in August, but the digital marketing agency’s strong commitment to its workforce is still the same. The company recently upgraded its headquarters to a state-of-the-art green facility that features open and bright office space. In addition to competitive compensation and benefits, Primacy offers flextime and remote-working arrangements as well as a full-time trainer who heads up a significant wellness program that includes lunch time fitness classes and an on-site gymnasium. Nutritional breakfasts and lunches are also provided. The “keep ’em healthy, keep’ em happy” approach and a close-knit, creative atmosphere works: Primacy enjoys a 97 percent employee retention rate.

Proton Onsite
Wallingford • protononsite.com
Connecticut employees: 72
Business: Hydrogen and nitrogen gas-generation systems
Why is it a great place to work? Proton Onsite may be one of the fastest-growing gas-generation companies in the nation, but its commitment to employees isn’t just a lot of hot air. The company treats its workers to regular events like cookouts, brunches and holiday parties, and to special surprises such as a popcorn machine for a day or an ice cream truck at lunch. Exemplary work is recognized with gift cards and other items, and long-term-service awards range from apparel to dinner or a show and overnight accommodations. Proton Onsite also cultivates employees for the future, sponsoring a college scholarship program of up to $100,000 for high school seniors who plan to pursue a university degree in science and technology.

U.S. Coast Guard Academy
New London • uscga.edu
Connecticut employees: 250
Business: Military service academy
Why is it a great place to work? The Coast Guard’s motto is semper paratus—“always ready”—and to that end Coast Guard cadets are rigorously challenged, both mentally and physically.
In addition to working on the academy’s idyllic campus overlooking the Thames River, civilians employed here have access to the same quality facilities used to mold cadets, as well as other campus amenities such as a bowling alley, eateries, pool and the Coast Guard Exchange. Lunch periods can be extended to engage in physical-fitness activities, including use of the athletic facilities. Employees also have access to the academy’s enviable child-development center, which recently earned accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Many employees also participate in the Partners in Education program, visiting local schools to tutor students.

Valassis
Windsor & Shelton • valassis.com
Connecticut employees: 462
Business: Media and marketing services
Why is it a great place to work? Like it does for consumers with its Red Plum coupon service, Valassis provides great deals to its employees. In addition to a first-rate benefits package—medical, dental, vision, 401k, profit-sharing, etc.—the company offers discounts on everything from products and services to events, movies and day trips, plus provides life-planning and counseling resources. Associates also receive a $100 gift certificate when they get married, new car seats after giving birth (or adopting) and care packages for when children enter college or join the military. The perks are appreciated: the average employment tenure is 11 years, and there are four Valassis associates who have been with the company for more than 42 years. Who can put a price on that?
 

Great Places to Work

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