Mars, Incorporated

What They Do

Make pet food, chocolate, gum, confections, food, drinks and other products.

Headquarters: McLean, Virginia
Founded: 1911

FORTUNE's 100 Best Companies to Work for ® 2014

What Makes Mars, Incorporated Great

Working at Mars, Incorporated, has a certain Willy Wonka appeal, complete with bragging rights and chocolate bars. Not everybody can say they make something as fun as candy, one employee says. "There is a sense of pride that I feel when I see someone eating a Snickers, M&M's, Dove, etc."

While Mars may be best known for its sweets, the company’s employees – or associates, as they are called here – also make pet care products, food, drinks, and Wrigley chewing gum, and run a Symbioscience business.

Unlike the eccentric and demanding candy factory owner in Roald Dahl’s famous book, though, associates say the McLean, Virginia, company takes good care of them and encourages work-life balance, even for production and other hourly workers that comprise close to 36 percent of its workforce. Half of Mars’ U.S. employees have flexible work schedules, and everyone starts with three weeks of paid vacation during their first year on the job. In fact, 92 percent of associates say they're able to take time off when they need it.

Employees see flexible schedules and their ability to take time as needed as part of a larger, people-centric focus. "Associates are not just nameless, faceless resources,” one worker says. “They are unique, thinking, driving forces, and each one is important to the success of the business."

Inside Story

Even though the $33 billion in company is one of the country’s largest privately held businesses and runs 83 U.S. plants and offices, employees say the family-owned enterprise retains a sense of fun and treats them as valuable members of the team. "The small headquarters and operationally de-centralized way of working give lots of responsibility and make you feel like it's your own business," one associate says. On a lighter note, the company also shows its team spirit by providing ice cream bars for people to enjoy hot summer days. Whatever the reason, 93 percent of them say they're proud to tell others where they work. Notably, this positivity isn’t limited to a select few at headquarters: 85 percent of associates working in their manufacturing plants say that the company is a great workplace.

Most Mars facilities have employee event committees that plan activities. An associate group at a Wrigley plant in Chicago has sponsored summer ice cream socials, school supply drives and Hispanic heritage events. Departments at a Hackettstown, New Jersey, plant compete in a volleyball tournament and tug-of-war as part of a summer celebration. One department at the same facility holds monthly potluck luncheons where people swap recipes and socialize. Associates throughout the company dress up on Halloween to vie for best costume awards, and paint pumpkins and host trick-or-treating for their children, and in the pet care division, for their pets too.

Employees in entry-level positions through C-suite jobs maintain an open-door policy so they can interact or problem-solve more freely, part of Mars’ commitment to collaboration and mutual respect. "The open office policy is awesome," one associate says. "It shows that management gets the same treatment as the lowest employees. It really makes me feel like management is in the trenches with me instead of watching from a mountaintop."

A few people say they’d like to see managers do a better job of treating all workers equally. In all, 67 percent say managers avoid playing favorites, and 70 percent say promotions go to those who best deserve them and that people avoid politicking and backstabbing to get things done. When asked how to improve the company, one employee says management needs to "support everyone's development. Don't play favorites." However, in other important ways, employees say the company demonstrates its commitment to fairness: 80 percent of staff across the organization feel associates are consistently paid fairly for the work they do. Considering the company overall, 92 percent still say Mars is a friendly place to work and that they feel good about the ways the way the organization works together to contribute to the community. One way is through a Sustainable Cocoa Initiative, which helps cocoa farmers around the world earn a living wage and secure their farms' futures. Mars also runs charitable foundations, including the Wrigley Company Foundation, which works to improve oral health, environmental stewardship and healthy communities. Since 1987, the foundation has donated more than $50 million to charitable groups around the world. Another is the Pedigree Foundation, which since 2008 has awarded more than $3 million in grants to thousands of U.S. animals shelters and rescue groups. As one pet division associate put it, "We have the opportunity to create events, activities, processes and products every day to make the world a better place for pets through our passion for pets. It doesn't get much better than that!"

Employees throughout the business say they respect one another and appreciate the company's fun, team-driven culture. One associate summarizes Mars as an “excellent environment where we're surrounded by talented people. I'm proud to work for Mars."

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