The Best and Brightest, a powerful community of the nation’s elite leaders who share ideas, practices and have proven they are employers of choice, hosted the first live awards ceremony in West Michigan since 2019 Tuesday at the Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville.
No one was happier about it than Best and Brightest Programs CEO Jennifer Kluge. She pointed out the West Michigan Best and Brightest program is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
“It’s appropriate that West Michigan was our first new region 20 years ago, and it’s our first live event since the pandemic. … I just want to soak it all in,” Kluge said. “It’s wonderful to be in a room full of leaders who think differently than others.”
Winning companies were assessed by an independent research firm, which reviewed a number of key measures relative to other nationally recognized winners.
Eleven elite winners were named in a variety of categories, and three companies were also crowned the “best of the best” small, medium and large businesses. Those winners included:
Best of the Best – Large Business
University of Michigan Health-West is an organization officials said is “driven by their values” including caring, innovation, inclusion, integrity and teamwork.
“We have a phenomenal team,” said Marla Cole, human resources director, employee engagement and talent. “This is indicative of what our whole team is accomplishing.”
Best of the Best – Medium Business
Brio Living Services continued to stay strong and offer programs such as tuition support, educational scholarships, mileage reimbursement, prescription discounts and over-the-counter medications at discounted rates.
“This means an awful lot,” said Angela Serpetti, Brio’s director of talent management and retention. “We definitely have done everything we can to recognize our hard-working front-line team members, and we appreciate the recognition.”
Best of the Best Small Business
Andy J. Egan Co. was recognized for dealing with “difficult challenges over the past two years.” Using “strategic execution and being intentional,” the company was able to keep all of its team members employed and had a zero turnover rate.
“It’s an honor,” Andy J. Egan Co. representative Jennifer Pearson said of the award. “Andy J. Egan Co is probably the best company to work for. They’re very family oriented.”
Other Elite category winners included:
Communication and Shared Vision
Community Initiatives and Corporate Responsibility
Compensation, Benefits and Employee Solutions
Consumers Credit Union
Creative Wellness and Wellbeing Solutions
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Employee Achievement and Recognition
Total Quality Logistics
Employee Education and Development
Hungerford Nichols CPAs + Advisors
Employment Enrichment, Engagement and Retention
Leadership, Strategy and Company Performance
Mercantile Bank of Michigan
Recruitment and Selection
MSU Federal Credit Union
“These companies have shown fortitude and have inspired others to make critical decisions for the betterment of their teams,” Kluge said. “They focus on the needs of their employees as a primary objective.”
The event also included a town hall-style discussion on retention, and an in-depth panel discussion on best practices.
Kluge moderated the town hall, which featured five experts in various areas, including:
- Mike Novakoski, president and CEO of EV Construction
- Caitlin Gardner, senior manager, public relations for SpartanNash
- TaRita Johnson, senior vice president, talent and diversity for The Right Place
- Janis Petrini, owner, Express Employment Professionals
- David Smith, vice president, compensation services, The Employers’ Association
The best practices discussion, led by Therese Smith, director of education and programs for the Best and Brightest Programs, focused on wellness and wellbeing, engaging hybrid work models, and diversity, equity and inclusion. It included:
- Silvia Dimma, chief human resources officer, MSU Federal Credit Union
- Gretchen Murphy, chief human resources officer, Service Express
- Shawn Premer, chief human resources officer, Consumers Credit Union