According to Fortune magazine, one of them is Veterans United Home Loans.
With offices and employees in 36 states, Veterans United — one of the largest employers in Columbia — was recently named to Fortune’s 100 best companies to work for the sixth straight year.
This recognition comes down to the company keeping up with its values, Vice President of People Services Augie Nielson said. The company not only finds ways to celebrate its wins, but employee individual successes as well, he added.
“Managers have discretion to celebrate wins in any number of ways,” Nielson said. “We have specific programs that we have in place that could be department-specific. This award we see as a (whole) team win.”
Veterans United through its core values wants employees to be passionate and have fun, deliver results with integrity and enhance lives every day. Veterans United is a U.S. Veterans Administration-approved mortgage lender, but it is not endorsed by that or other governmental agencies.
A company-wide celebration was held Friday for all employees.
Despite many staff members working from home this past year, Veterans United actually was able to bring in more employees and there still are openings available.
“It’s been one of the more challenging years business-wise, but we did well and our employees are a testament to that,” Nielson said. “We had our ups and downs, but I think our employees adapted pretty well and we adapted as a company and learned a lot.”
Veterans United added 1,500 jobs to its roster in the last year, according to a news release. There still are hundreds more to fill.
A positive atmosphere
The work atmosphere at Veterans United comes down to its employees, Nielson said.
“It is all about employee engagement. How they engage with the culture of (Veterans United),” he said. “It’s affirming — I suppose — in some ways that we are doing the right things.”
When Kate Elliott graduated from the University of Missouri six years ago with a degree in health sciences, she was searching high and low for a job. She found one at Veterans United.
Elliott works at the Lenexa, Kansas, office as a loan coordinator. The position is similar to an intermediary for a borrower and a loan officer. She tracks down all the documentation needed to complete a loan application.
“This is just a really great environment,” she said about Veterans United corporate culture.
Elliott worked for an insurance provider prior to joining Veterans United and only got to know a handful of people in that position, she said. Within the first year of working for Veterans United, she had a chance to know everyone in the closing department, which is around 200 people.
“(It was) just because of the environment and how you can talk to people,” she said. “I think that was the biggest sell for me. I was working but I was still surrounded by my friends.”
There also is flexibility in your position, said Elliott, who is getting married in June. Short-notice time-off requests were always honored by her supervisor.
“There is always someone to cover your work if you’re gone, so you don’t feel like you have a lot of weight on your shoulders,” Elliott said.
Part of keeping a positive atmosphere in the workplace is having people who focus on employee morale, such as Ellen Nimmo, who is a faith and community specialist out of the Columbia office. Her position focuses on employee morale from a faith perspective. There are other similar work groups within the company, but without the faith backing.
“We want to see people flourish and however that works for them,” Nimmo said. “Faith is certainly part of the way we view the world, and we think that can be a powerful tool to find purpose and meaning.”
Nimmo and her team meet one-on-one with employees, facilitate small groups, host faith forums, lead worship nights and host service trips during non-pandemic years.
Other events have included things like a fireside retreat.
“(It was) a space to kind of examine and reflect on what the last year has brought and give them some space and time to look at that,” she said.
Nimmo joined Veterans United nine years ago in the post-closing department before eventually transitioning to her employee relations position.
“I was definitely a skeptical employee,” she said about when she first started. “I kind of came in with my arms crossed going, ‘Convince me,’ and definitely over time they convinced me.”
No job or employer will ever be perfect, but employees try hard to work together well, she added.
“There is a lot of freedom and not a lot of policy, which can be difficult to navigate,” Nimmo said. “For me, personally, it’s been so rewarding. There are always opportunities for growth inside and outside of work.
“It has given me a whole broader view of life.”
Transitioning back to in-person work
Staff are slowly starting to return to offices due in part to vaccine access — at least in Columbia.
Guidance is followed from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as local health orders, Nielson said.
“We had loans online Oregon some clinics employees could attend to get vaccinated,” he said. “It’s great seeing people (again). It’s great to have that interaction and not wait on the video delay for a person to smile back.”
Employees like Nimmo are already back in the office.
They were together Thursday during a socially distanced, outdoor gathering celebrating their ability to work together in-person once again.
“We were able to connect, and some people, because we have grown so much in the past year, we had not even met,” Nimmo said. “It was great to put some faces to the names.”