2014 BEST Place to Work: George Petersen Insurance Agency
Author: Beth Galleto
May, 2014 Issue
“When it was announced that we were awarded BEST Place to Work, our employees said, ‘We knew that.’” —Jeanne Fisher
“When it was announced that we were awarded BEST Place to Work, our employees said, ‘We knew that,’” comments Jeanne Fisher, human resources director at George Petersen Insurance Agency. Through her work, she comes in contact with all employees and hears about things that matter to them. “One thing I hear over and over is, ‘It’s a company with heart. It’s genuine and caring.’
“It’s not in a phony or condescending way. The partners know employees’ kids’ names and are genuinely interested and delighted to hear about them,” she says. Employees get a lot of encouragement in the form of small gifts such as flowers on Valentine’s Day and barbecues in the summer. “On a hot day, they may bring in a box of popsicles. They don’t make a big deal about it, they just do it,” she says.
The flip side of this caring attitude is a lack of micromanagement. “If an employee is struggling, he or she can always reach a partner or owner-manager, but the general attitude from above is ‘Do your work. We trust you. We’re not always looking over your shoulder,’” Fisher explains. The confidence placed in them inspires employees to do their best for their clients.
Employees are advanced from within and provided with the tools and education needed to do their jobs. “Just because someone starts in the mailroom doesn’t mean that’s where they’re going to stay,” says Fisher. The most common job opening at George Petersen is for a receptionist, she says. “It’s not that we’re hard on receptionists, it’s because we tend to move them up. If they do a good job, we move them to a more responsible position.” But they aren’t pushed up unless they want to be, she adds. If someone loves being a receptionist, they can stay and do the job they like. Because employees enjoy their work and feel valued, they rarely leave the company.
New employees at George Petersen have a short waiting period for job benefits, but the employee benefits are generous, Fisher says. As an insurance brokerage, the company is able to choose good benefit plans for its own employees as well as for clients.
Employees are encouraged to participate in volunteer work in the community, and the partners and owners volunteer together with them in such projects as sorting vegetables at Redwood Empire Food Bank. Employees are also encouraged to bring their ideas for causes in which the company can participate. “If a cause is close to their heart, they can bring it to the committee. Their input is valued,” says Fisher.
All these things apply to all of Petersen’s 10 locations, Fisher says, from the largest to the smallest. The partners make a point of visiting the smaller branches so employees there feel included.
“I’m always so impressed when we receive these awards,” Fisher says. “I’m so glad what I see internally is recognized externally—to see the partners and owners recognized for the efforts they make.”
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