At Bryant & Stratton College, employees appreciate the free on-site child care, family-friendly bowling nights and flexible work schedules. But their favorite perk has got to be the casual summer dress code, which runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day on the Hampton and Virginia Beach campuses. Employees can't wait to trade their button-downs and pantsuits for polo shirts and capris.
"Sometimes when it turns warms before Memorial Day weekend, their emails start flying in," said Lee E. Hicklin, director of business development for Bryant & Stratton's Virginia campuses. The school also has a campus in Richmond, along with locations in New York, Ohio and Wisconsin.
"It's a big win with the associates," Director of Virginia Colleges Beth Murphy said of the summer dress code. "They do a big countdown."
And, yes, administrators really consider employees their associates. The college encourages them to share ideas and influence campus policies. For example, associates develop the college's annual institutional effectiveness plan, or IEP.
"It's kind of the road map for each location," Murphy said. "It is very important to us as an institution that it is driven from bottom-up versus top-down."
The college cares about workers and their families, said Eric A. Harrell, marketing and communications coordinator at the Virginia Beach campus. When Harrell suggested participating in an Alzheimer's walk - two of his relatives have the disease - his colleagues rallied in support.
"It was just a wonderful feeling," he said. "I felt my Bryant & Stratton family was doing something for my own family, and it just felt really good to see everyone volunteer and come together on one accord."
Whether it's an illness or a birth, that unity extends to a broad range of life events. When Murphy was promoted from dean of instruction nearly five years ago, she was nine months pregnant. After her maternity leave, she assimilated back into the office with a flexible schedule, which combined telecommuting from home and working on campus.
"We've had people who've gone through illnesses and maternity leaves, and the organization's just very supportive of helping people preserve their jobs through those situations," she said.
Harrell has also negotiated flexible hours. He works from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday.
"During the week I'm putting in late hours to accommodate the students," said Harrell, who also serves as senior bachelor's degree coordinator. "The flexible hours are a great incentive."
Chris Sawyer, director of the Hampton campus, which opened last September, attributes much of the positive atmosphere to Murphy and her team in Richmond.
"She cares about the associates, which trickles down to me and Lee, which trickles down to our staffs," Sawyer said. "This is a place that does care. If there's something wrong, you know, you go take care of your family."
Murphy admits it takes some getting used to.
"When you come to work for us, we want to know about your family; we want to 'hug' you," she said. "We really believe that we're one big family. As a newcomer, when I joined the organization 11 years ago, I was like, 'What are you all doing? I want to talk business; why do you want to talk about my kid?'
"But that's what makes us special. We really do get to know people as individuals. We have an appreciation for what goes on outside of their life at Bryant & Stratton. And we look to do things on the campus that promote that family environment." nib
- Teresa Talerico