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Korrie Wenzel

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Celebrating the best workplaces in the area

Employees of Prairie Business and its affiliated publication, the Grand Forks Herald, spent a Sunday afternoon in April at the Empire Arts Center, a renovated historic theater in downtown Grand Forks, N.D. Spouses, plus-ones and friends were invited. Specialty pizzas were the main course, followed by a private showing of the movie “All the President’s Men.”

A few weeks ago, it was a night of bowling. And we recently debuted Waffle Wednesdays, incorporating an employee’s suggestion and offering a company-sponsored breakfast on hump day.

It’s all part of our company’s efforts to create a collaborative and trusting environment while making work fun and fulfilling.

What does your company do to promote culture? And is your company truly a great place to work?

If so, perhaps it is included on this year’s Prairie Business 50 Best Places to Work list, published in the magazine’s September edition. The local winners are listed in today’s Herald. 

It’s an annual recognition for the businesses in the Dakotas and Minnesota that go above and beyond normal efforts to create culture in the workplace. This year, we received more than 1,400 nominations from the people who work to make these places great.

It's not just about movies, waffles and games. Many companies in the region have created culture via worker programs like paternity leave, employee ownership opportunities and the like.

We don’t rank the winners of our 50 Best – we simply print the list in no particular order. However, it’s difficult to look past the number of nominations received this year by some businesses in the region.

For example, Gate City Bank received 185 nominations.

According to one employee, Gate City offers “a strong culture for giving back to the community, customers and team members by providing a paid volunteer time matching program, generous health benefits, employee loan program, PTO time, paid paternity and maternity leave, incentives for team members and much more.”

First International Bank had 113 nominations.

“Culture has been a big focus in the last 18 months as management looks to find the right cultural aspects to promote and build its employee base and add new clientele to its operations,” one nominator told us.

And at Border States Electric, which had 112 nominations, one employee told us that “it is truly the American dream, working for the company you own and seeing your hard work and effort result in success that is shared amongst all your co-workers.”

But really, does culture matter?

Absolutely. As unemployment dips ever lower in the region – North Dakota’s unemployment rate is 2.7 percent this summer – it creates problems for companies to fill positions.

A study done by the Center for American Progress notes that staff turnover comes with significant costs. The subsequent recruiting and training of a new employee can total as much as 16 to 21 percent of a departed employee’s salary, the study suggests. And what about the loss of productivity during the dark time? 

So as ridiculous as Waffle Wednesday may sound, spending a few dollars on such events – considered workplace frivolities not so long ago – is actually quite worth it. Gaining a reputation as a great place to work certainly doesn’t hurt, and that’s where Prairie Business comes in. As we get out and visit with companies throughout the year, our people make notes on businesses that we see as some of the great places to work. 

Is your company not on the list this year? Reach out to any Prairie Business employee to see what you can do next year to earn a spot among our 50 Best Places to Work.

Korrie Wenzel has been publisher of Prairie Business since 2014.