When Girl Scouts of Nassau County was named by AARP to be one of the 50 Best Places to Work in the United States,it merely confirmed what I’ve known for some time—that there is something very special about this place, and I count myself lucky to work here. But what is it that sets us apart from so many other (the 50 choices came from companies big and small, for-profit, and not-for-profit)?
Well, for one thing, there is an incredible team work ethic. [Note: I didn’t say ‘teamwork.’ There’s a difference.] It’s not just that people can play nice together when they work on a project. That’s a given. Staff here sees the entire corporate structure as a team, employees and volunteers alike.
But day to day, what is it like to work here? After all, no place is perfect, people get in a snit with one another sometimes, and there are other kinks too, but still . . .
First (and perhaps most important) is the balancing act where management achieves a sort of equilibrium between the
needs of the organization and the well-being of the employees. There is shared reward and sacrifice, and because of an “open book” management style, everyone feels an investment and engagement in our shared future.
There are also some concrete benefits and attributes, some large and some small, but all adding up to why I think we won that award (and others):
- The Leadership Team comprises not just the directors, but representatives from each department and every level of the organization, creating rich participation and discussion that otherwise would not happen;
- There is an Idea Group whose responsibility it is to generate a positive work environment. This has resulted in on-site car detailing; an annual barbecue; an international celebration of food at Thanksgiving time; a Welcome Wagon for new staff; on-site pick-up and delivery of dry cleaning; rainy day board games; baby picture contests; recipe sharing; book exchange, etc.
- There is a commitment to wellness promotion for staff: Yoga is offered in ten week sessions; Weight Watchers at Work has been offered on site a number of times; there is a fitness incentive that rewards gym attendance; we have a Healthy Living initiative to coincide with our program focus for the girls this year—a nutritionist will offer advice and help once a week, and our Intranet now has a special section focusing on healthy living tips; free flu shots are offered when possible, and walking clubs are promoted.
- GSNC staff serve as role models for community service- We have started a recycling program; staff is given a day off for certain volunteer commitments; we have annual food collection programs, clothing drives, and holiday collections for the needy; we promote ride-sharing and car-pooling.
- Finally, we offer a match to 403(b) contributions, discounts on entertainment offerings, membership in two credit unions, group discounts for auto and homeowner insurance, “cafeteria” flexible spending accounts, lunchtime seminars, 10% family discount at assisted living facilities, very generous leave time (including sick leave to care for family members and emergency leave for bereavement), and free life insurance and long term disability.
Susan Caruso is Director of Human Resources at Girl Scouts of Nassau County. Under her leadership Girl Scouts of Nassau County has been named of One of Fifty Best Places to Work by AARP, as well as receiving the Alfred P. Sloane Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility and the Long Island Family Friendly Employer Award. She has previously taught health sciences as a high school teacher and college professor, and in 1981 co-founded a non-profit organization that was a resource clearinghouse and training center for professionals who worked with families (the Center for Family Resources). Susan can be reached at email@example.com.