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Even during a pandemic, who are the Richmond region’s best employers?

Even during a pandemic, who are the Richmond region’s best employers?

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The U.S. unemployment rate this year soared from a half-century low in February to a 90-year peak in April. The economy has recovered slightly more than half of the jobs wiped out earlier this year, but layoffs in the Richmond region and elsewhere remain elevated.

Many employees are working from home these days. And those team-building, social gatherings or volunteer activities have been suspended or curtailed — or often held via a Zoom conference meeting.

What a difference a year makes.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed lives of workers and of the workplace.

What does it means to be a good employer during a pandemic? Which companies have adapted and are looking out for their workers? Who has a boss who treats employees with respect and keeps them connected?

Workers increasingly are seeking employers who make them feel appreciated, according to officials with Energage, the suburban Philadelphia-based employee research and consulting firm. Employees want businesses that are headed in the right direction and they want their jobs to be part of something meaningful.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch is searching to find the best places to work in the region for its eighth annual Top Workplaces program. The results are based solely on employee feedback.

The newspaper again has partnered with Energage to determine the region’s best places to work based on employee survey feedback. The employee research firm has conducted these types of surveys for dozens of newspapers across the country.

The Times-Dispatch’s annual employer recognition program is now accepting nominations.

Any Richmond-area organization — business, nonprofit or government — with 35 or more employees is eligible to participate.

Nominations may be made at www.Richmond.com/Top-Workplaces or (804) 977-9367. The deadline is Dec. 11.

Anyone can nominate a business. There is no charge for companies to participate.

Eighty companies in the Richmond region were recognized this year as Top Workplaces businesses. Earlier this month, the coveted top rankings of first-, second- and third-place in each of four size categories — mega, large, midsize and small — were revealed to 12 of those businesses.

In the 2020 program, automotive retailer CarMax ranked first in the mega-size category for the seventh consecutive year — the only business receiving the top designation all seven years in any category.

Real estate firm Long & Foster was the top-ranked company in the large category for a second consecutive year; wholesale beer distributor Premium of Virginia Richmond was the top business in the midsize category; and electronic vendor payment process provider Paymerang ranked first for the small category.

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Workplaces are evaluated by their employees using a short 24-question survey.

Last fall, Energage invited 843 employers in the region to participate, and 114 organizations agreed to do so. Those businesses employ 35,990 people locally.

Of those employees who received questionnaires, 15,084 responded, either on paper or online.

Energage sends the 24-question confidential survey between October through February to employees of companies that agree to participate in the program. The questionnaire covers seven areas, including where the company is headed, its values and cooperation, and where employees feel that they are appreciated and their work is meaningful.

Energage then determines who makes the list based on those surveys.

The company’s research over the years repeatedly shows that companies receiving a Top Workplaces designation are intentional about creating a great culture where employees can thrive and collaborate, are highly motivated, and find meaning in their work.

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The Times-Dispatch will honor the Top Workplaces companies at an awards program in the spring. The employers also will be recognized in a Top Workplaces special section.

Employers will be recognized based on company size: mega (900-plus employees); large (400-899); midsize (125 to 399); and small (124 or fewer).

Of the 80 businesses in the 2020 program, four companies were in the mega category, eight businesses were in the large category, 28 were in the midsize category, and 40 were in the small category.

Eleven of the 80 businesses have been on the Top Workplaces list each year for seven years, while two employers have been on the list for six consecutive years, four businesses for five straight years, seven companies for four consecutive years, 10 workplaces for three straight years and 12 for two years.

Twenty-two employers are newcomers to the list this year.

Gregory J. Gilligan has been business editor at the Richmond Times-Dispatch for the past decade. He can be reached at ggilligan@timesdispatch.com or (804) 649-6379.

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