Why creating a community-oriented business culture is a great investment


Las Vegans have proven time and again that they are caring people — especially in the workplace.

That’s important, because consumer surveys nationwide consistently show that people increasingly care about companies that care about people. So a word to the wise for those looking for an advantage in the marketplace: People want to do business with, and work for, companies that care.

Indeed, People magazine’s recent Companies That Care list highlighted firms that have succeeded in business while also demonstrating respect, compassion and concern for their employees, their communities and the environment. The companies chosen stood out by building a culture of caring, commitment and extraordinary generosity toward their employees and their larger communities. Rankings also took into account employees’ personal stories about the difference their workplaces have made in their lives and the places they call home, and the generosity of those companies’ benefits, financial donations and volunteerism.

By any standard, then, Las Vegas’ business community reflects the best that our nation has to offer.

Creating Culture

“Beyond pay and benefits, employees want to work for an employer that genuinely cares about them as individuals,” said Patrick Hicks, the founding shareholder of national employment law firm Littler Mendelson PC’s Nevada offices. “Likewise, a community will embrace employers that give back to those who have helped the company succeed.”

Buy-in to such a belief system “starts at the top,” Hicks suggested. “If a company’s leaders live up to its stated principles, it is much more likely that those positive behaviors and actions will be repeated by others throughout the organization.”

“The culture we create in our company environment is paramount,” said Leslie Parraguirre, founder of the Las Vegas-based interior design firm Colours Inc. “Women and mothers work here. We at Colours vow to not only continue to be supportive of our new parents but also help with the daughters and sons with aging parents. It does take a village.”

A company that cares is one that not only includes respect and community in its core values “but demonstrates that consistently,” said Jill Bell, executive vice president and human resources director at Nevada State Bank. “It is through management’s interactions with colleagues, colleagues’ interactions with the community and with one another that you see the core values come alive.”

For Nevada State Bank, it means providing a Colleague Emergency Fund to assist them in times of need. “It’s sending flowers when a colleague has lost a loved one,” Bell said. “It’s ensuring we have created a culture of caring at our bank that extends beyond the doors of our branches and into the communities we serve.”

In today’s economy, Bell said, there are many opportunities for employment, “but working at a company that you know truly cares about your well-being and that of your family and the community in which you live ensures your commitment and engagement in that company’s success. When you’re able to tell your friends, family and community where you work and say it with pride, your company has successfully created a company that cares.”

Marisa Palomo, director of human resources at the Penta Building Group, said that for her company, caring means carving out the time in a busy deadline-driven environment to be truly familiar and aware of its employees and the world that surrounds and impacts them.

“We emphasize to our managers, from our executives on down the line, that a project isn’t successful if we haven’t developed, recognized and grown the employees that worked on it,” Palomo said. “This takes a certain discipline during projects that are fast-paced and full of pressure to meet financial, schedule and other business metrics and spend time getting to know what motivates, inspires and impacts each employee.”

Penta regularly dedicates time for lunches, events and even at the beginning of meetings to get to know what is going on in its people’s daily lives, both personal and professional.

“Our performance reviews include candid conversations about how their personal motivators tie in to their professional goals,” Palomo said.

Vital Connection

Southwest Medical Associates has embedded that vital connection between the organization and the communities it serves through 12 Employee Community Councils across the organization, comprising every employee — almost 2,000 in total. The ECCs provide leadership experience, visibility and networking opportunities for employees. More important, the ECCs strengthen a sense of social responsibility. Members of each ECC can identify charities that merit support and then support them regionally, via their council, or organization-wide.

“Southwest Medical believes that an engaged and active workforce is necessary to ensure the community’s health and vitality,” said Toni Corbin, vice president of operations. “It has an organization-wide response to ongoing social issues, not simply with corporate giving but with the ‘sweat equity’ of all its employees, from executive leadership to front-line personnel.”

Case in point: CodeGreen is Caesars Entertainment’s company-wide environmental strategy. “It’s how we work to reduce our overall resource usage and take aggressive and proactive measures to preserve our environment,” said Gwen Migita, vice president of sustainability and corporate citizenship. “From the beginning, employees have driven our efforts.”

CodeGreen at Home encourages employees to spread the environmental consciousness learned at work to their homes and communities. In return, employees receive Total Return credits, which are redeemable for travel, events and merchandise. Since its inception, the program has awarded approximately $180,000 in Total Return credits to employees for sharing CodeGreen At Home projects.

Nathan Adelson Hospice’s mission is simple, said Rosamari McNulty, vice president of employee and volunteer solutions: “No one should end the journey of life alone, afraid or in pain. This could not be achieved without a highly motivated workforce that buys into that mission.”

Being an organization that cares, she said, is “a key aspect of productivity. It makes sense that the enthusiasm and interest that fully engaged employees bring to their work each day would be directly tied to both a more unified workplace culture and the extra efforts, better ideas and innovations that make organizations thrive.”

The hospice understands that people can experience personal concerns and situations that may affect their job performance, McNulty said.

“When this happens, it is important to have resources available that can assist in finding solutions to these concerns,” she said

As such, the hospice offers its employees a comprehensive program called the Life Connection. It is offered at no charge, is available to employees and their household members, and provides professional counseling, telephonic consultations, training and online resources to assist with the normal stressors of daily living.

There are as many ways for companies to care as there are things to care about. Colours’ Parraguirre offered several suggestions: “New babies of employees can come to the workplace for six months, and all school holidays off for staff — so no day care.”

Another initiative involves doing pro bono work for organizations like the Agassi Foundation and Child Haven, with which Parraguirre has worked for 11 and seven years, respectively, and Opportunity Village. “We just started working with the Denim Drive with Reno Rodeo, purchasing clothing for foster children in 14 Nevada counties,” she said.

It cannot be repeated enough that being a company that cares “isn’t always good for the bottom line,” Palomo added. “If the decision to care is measured by the bottom line, the most impactful actions of caring might not ever happen. This is where genuine caring is sometimes lost in the business world. I do think, as it relates to the bottom line of the company over several years, that it creates an army of employees who work to increase success of the company through high levels of productivity, efficiency and collaboration, which is good for the bottom line in the long run.”