Robert W. Baird & Co
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What They Do
Manage and oversee more than $100 billion in assets for individuals, businesses, institutions and municipalities.
Headquarters: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Annual Revenues: $961 Million.
What Makes Robert W. Baird & Co. Great
There's a scene in the Mel Brooks movie "Spaceballs" — a "Star Wars" parody — when Rick Moranis' character, Dark Helmet, asks, "How many assholes we got on this ship anyhow?" Almost everyone raises their hand. He then mutters, "I knew it. I'm surrounded by assholes."
He should have gotten a job at Robert W. Baird & Co. instead.
The financial services firm has what it calls its "no assholes policy" in place, which is a hiring strategy the company uses to keep jerks away.
Financial companies are often known for their intense, cutthroat work environments, but employees at Baird say theirs is different. In fact, many feel like part of a family where everyone shares similar goals, such as taking care of clients and each other and giving back to the community.
"The values that permeate the corporate culture and employee base at Baird are rare in this day and age," one employee says. "The folks here truly care about each other, about the clients and about doing things the right way — all the time."
As soon as new hires join the Baird family, they are welcomed with a bouquet of flowers sent to their home. One employee says this gesture "sets a tone that you are starting on a new adventure with someplace different, and not just another corporation." On the first day of work, new employees learn about “The Baird Difference,” a deep dive into the culture, history and business practices of the 94-year-old firm. This onboarding process seems to work, as 97 percent of employees say they are made to feel welcome when they join the company.
Support for employees continues beyond the initial orientation. Once acclimated to Baird, employees are encouraged to participate in formal or informal mentoring within their departments or through its associate resource groups. Senior leaders also offer group mentoring in which they give personal insights on career development, balance and professional growth.
Twenty-one percent of Baird employees work hourly, and the firm strives to make all employees feel like part of the family. Nearly 60 percent of Baird's 2,704 employees are shareholders, and nearly 80 percent of the company is owned by employees who aren't part of the firm's senior management.
Each January, Baird holds an Associate Appreciation Day to recognize and thank employees for being a key part of the firm's success. After employees receive their bonuses and enjoy a breakfast celebration with senior managers, the offices close early so workers can spend time with their families and friends. Employees also enjoy family-friendly events like Baird Night at the Zoo. Appreciation and support isn't just rolled out for special occasions: nearly nine out of ten Baird employees report that their managers appreciate hard work and help people balance work and personal lives. Ninety-seven percent say Baird is a friendly place to work.
Many other financial firms struggled during the financial downturn, but Baird has operated at a profit for the past 133 quarters, sharing this success with those less fortunate. Ninety-six percent of employees say they feel good about how they contribute to the community.
The firm organizes an annual Baird Gives Back Week, creating opportunities for associates to volunteer with colleagues and family members during regular working hours without using paid time off. In Milwaukee, where Baird is headquartered, the firm helped establish a chapter of Schools That Can in 2011. Under the program, Baird took the lead on developing a tutoring pilot program, providing 33 tutors from Baird, and a team of Baird volunteers created marketing kits for participating companies. The company also provides loaned executives each year to the United Way and United Performing Arts Fund campaigns, giving employees an opportunity to work for several months for these organizations while their salaries and benefits are covered by Baird.
More than three-quarters of Baird's staff say that managers consistently avoid the pitfalls of favoritism, yet some suggest this is an area that could be improved further, citing perceived differences in treatment according to staff roles or the need for more clarity in promotions decisions. Still, nearly 90 percent report they are treated as full members of the organization, regardless of their positions.
Taking everything into account, more than nine out of 10 employees see themselves working at Baird for the long haul. "What other firm would pay for you to volunteer and make a difference in the community? What other firm would host events, such as Baird Night at the Zoo, to build long-lasting relationships?" one employee asks. "It truly is the place I want to work the rest of my life."
Dark Helmet will be emailing his resume soon.
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