Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Graham Co. employees never want to leave

Jennifer Coyle, account manager at The Graham Company, and Ryan Daniele, assistant account manager at The Graham Company, consult on a project together. (Colin Kerrigan / Philly.com)
Jennifer Coyle, account manager at The Graham Company, and Ryan Daniele, assistant account manager at The Graham Company, consult on a project together. (Colin Kerrigan / Philly.com) Gallery: Graham Co. employees never want to leave

How many people can say they never want to leave their job?

It's common, these days, for workers to bounce around jobs; after all, the quit rate is the highest it's been since 2008 during the recession. But for the employees at Graham Co. - the Philadelphia commercial insurance brokerage - things are done a little differently.

They want to stay.

In fact, 30 of the company's 158 employees have been there for more than 20 years.

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  • "I've seen these same people for 20 years," says Ann Hampson, executive assistant for the claims department. "They know my kids, my husband. It really does feel like a family atmosphere. My daughter's godmother works right behind me. My best friends are here; it's absolutely wonderful."

    The company, which manages insurance for business owners in high-risk industries such as construction and manufacturing, is this year's top workplace among medium-sized businesses in the Philadelphia region, based on surveys conducted by Workplace Dynamics, an Exton firm that polled workers about their companies for Philly.com's fifth annual Top Workplaces awards. This is Graham's second win in four years.

    Many employees credit the positive, close-knit work environment, the generous perks, and the gratitude shown by managers for their contributions. Workers say they feel like they are making a difference in clients' lives.

    Hampson, who will celebrate 25 years with the company in October, handles insurance claims.

    "We are the clients' middleman to make sure that they really don't have to do anything," Hampson said. "We make it really easy, and I absolutely love that."

    Hampson and five others will commemorate big work anniversaries this year.

    Lucille Carey, vice president of human resources, will mark 40 years with the company in April. She was the seventh employee hired by the company when she took a job as secretary for CEO William A. Graham IV.

    She said talented people are at the core of the company's mission, including attorneys, engineers and CPAs.

    "We get very involved, with coaching (employees), helping them and guiding them," she said. "I make sure people get treated with respect and dignity."

    Employees who hit longevity milestones get a special anniversary party. Other perks include tickets to sporting and entertainment events, 12 to 14 paid holidays annually, as well as champagne and balloons to celebrate promotions. A stunning view of Philadelphia City Hall from its offices on the 25th floor at One Penn Square West is a bonus.

    "I think it's important to recognize people that have done a good job for a long period of time," said Graham. "You want people to know how much they're needed and admired, and that's just another way of showing it."

    The perks are many, but then, so are the demands.

    Employees are on call 24/7, and are expected to travel at all hours in the event of an accident at a client's worksite.

    "They'll go out at 2 in the morning and they'll figure out exactly what caused the accident and how we can make sure our clients don't get sued," Graham said.

    It's not a job for everyone, said Graham, crediting the company's success to the quality of the people they hire.

    Prospective employees must pass several rounds of interviews and a visit to a psychologist for an evaluation of their personality and intelligence. Once hired, employees go through a 3-year training program.

    "Our main message is that we care about you personally and professionally," said Kenneth Ewell, president of the company. "In order to do both, you have to start with the right people, and we need to make sure we're hiring people who will thrive in our culture. We're not for everybody."

    Yet, Graham Co was named by the Central Penn Business Journal as the number-one place to work in Pennsylvania in 2013. Ewell called it "an overnight success, 30 years in the making." He will mark his 25th year at the company this year.

    One of the newer employees, safety consultant Alan Mar, cited those benefits and said joining the company a year ago was the best decision he has made for both himself and his family. Helping prevent workplace injuries is fulfilling, he said.

    The company culture is really what makes it stand out, Mar added.

    "That starts from Mr. Bill Graham on down," he said. "He has created a culture where it's family-oriented, and employees are number one and are treated with the utmost respect. I've seen that since day one."

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