At Southern Management Corp., "We all work together a lot as a team, and that makes a big difference," said Bonnie Queen, director of the people team for the apartment and commercial property management company, which ranked in the top 10 among mid-sized employers on Workplace Dynamics' Baltimore survey.

"Everybody's opinion counts. We ask for feedback and make sure we follow up," Queen said. Employees "know that they play a role in how we operate our business. We've involved everybody at every level to contribute to developing strategy, mission and values and to establish goals."

The company, which has grown from six employees to more than 1,600 since opening in 1965, operates without multiple layers of management and is divided into teams, allowing for input from of its workers. That structure has helped keep employee turnover low and empowers employees to work out problems with customers and residents, Queen said..

Southern Management also encourages its workers to get involved in the communities where it has apartment buildings, hotels or other commercial businesses, helping to spruce up schools or mentor students, for instance. Employees are recognized for their volunteer involvement during a company awards banquet. Southern, which offers training to all employees through a corporate university, also is known for promoting from within.

"Most team members are hired at entry level, and they grow within the organization," said Queen, who said she started in leasing and moved up to head human resources. "Everyone has that opportunity if they want to pursue it."

WorkplaceDynamics' Claffey said companies that want to become healthier as an organization must first measure their "health," often by surveying employees. Results can be eye-openers for managers, he said.

If companies score poorly on questions related to "meaningfulness" of work, for instance, "they need to figure out why they are there," he said. "People are not motivated by [a company mission] of purely making money and will struggle to get out of bed in the morning and go to work … if there is no meaning."

Above all, Claffey said, "senior leadership has to take responsibility and accountability for the organizational health of the company. If they don't do that … it will fail."

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