Building strength in oddly normal times

You wouldn’t call an economy normal in a year where the nation and state saw a shrinking goods and services pie, but the unemployment rate fell from 5.3% to 3.7% and the budget government posted a surplus of $4.4 billion.

That’s the conundrum the winners of Hearst Connecticut Media’s Best Workplaces, and the rest of us, will face in 2022. Overall, for the winning companies, business is holding up pretty well. , they tell us. Many are growing, perhaps nervously – and if and only if they can find employees.

This is the universal challenge in 2022.
Splash car wash
, founded in Greenwich in 1981 and now headquartered in Milford, has grown aggressively, now with 19 locations in Connecticut and more than 50 including neighboring states. Splash is the #1 Best Workplace winner among midsize employers (150-499) for the second year in a row, having finished in the top three four times previously.

No, it’s not the boom of the 90s or early 2000s, but it’s certainly not a recession despite national warnings and lousy global growth reports. Bad things don’t happen, Mark Curtis, founder and CEO of Splash, tells me.

So it’s like, uh, normal? Not exactly. Most winning workplaces are working overtime to attract and retain employees as they go from strength to strength after two disrupted years.

It is even true at
Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp
., a newcomer to the Hearst Connecticut list, debuting in the top spot of the region’s small employers. Fairway expects to see a sharp decline in total mortgages taken out in 2022 as interest rates rise to curb inflation. But, said regional manager Justin Egan, who is in the Fairfield office, “We have a lot of vacancies in Connecticut,” Egan told our reporter Paul Schott. We are always looking to grow and open new offices.

Speaking of real estate,
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Properties in New England
maintained its No. 1 position among large employers for the fifth consecutive year. They’ve seen a boom in home sales that may be cooling off, but CEO Candace Adams isn’t finding many agents jumping ship.

“If they’re younger you can go for the money, but most agents will go for the culture and where they feel they have flexibility – that there’s inclusion, which we have, the diversity, the understanding of the needs,” Adams told our rep Alex Soule.

Companies should always pay attention to these kinds of cultural issues and the giant hedge fund
Bridgewater Associates,
winner in the category of large employers, two new co-CEOs spend a lot of time cultivating the famous culture of “radical transparency”. These CEOs, Nir Bar Dea, the former deputy managing director, and Mark Bertolini, who was CEO of Aetna before the CVS merger, win the award for best leadership among large employers in their first year on the job.

The other two winners of the Best Leadership award are both founders and longtime CEOs in highly regulated industries well represented in Hearst’s top workplaces. This is Paul Blanco at
Barnum Financial Group
based in Shelton, and Christopher Pankratz at the Masters in Home Care, with offices in Rocky Hill and Hamden.

“We are very focused on creating a great life for our people,” Blanco said in a kind of general statement to Luther Turmelle, which covers the waterfront: difficult aspects such as salary, workload and the benefits as well as the culture, which is so important — and which makes the winners of the Top Workplaces prevail.

This year’s list includes 14 first-time winners, including a housing authority, a global supplier of recycled materials, a biotech company, a public policy advocacy group and a retailer – ALDI. The only one who remains faithful to the origin,
ICON International Inc
., the corporate barter company, has been a winner all 12 years.

If your business is on the list here, congratulations. If your employer isn’t on the list and should be, get a head start on 2022 by clicking www.topworkplaces.com/nominate/hearstct.

Dan Haar ([email protected]) is associate editor and columnist at Hearst Connecticut Media and editor of Top Workplaces.

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