Top 25 Best Places To Work In Hawaii Part 1

April, 2005

2. Booz Allen Hamilton

According to Booz Allen Hamilton Pacific Rim Principal Theodore “Ted” Peck, the company’s competitors watch to see who the international management consulting firm hires and who gets rejected. That’s because Booz hires true believers and invests a lot into employee training and assessment.

Peck says, “If we’ve hired somebody, it’s very difficult to get fired for performance. … If there are people that are having challenges, we will work very hard to save them.”

He speaks from experience. The partnership stood by Peck after he had a client tell them he was incompetent. “They hung with me and I got promoted within six months of that,” he says. “I got moved out of the management of that project. The project is still continuing. The firm has been successful. I’ve been successful. The client is continuing to be successful, because we really believe in people.”

Another principal, Jennifers Swindell, says Booz has helped her to grow professionally. She says, “It was a financial issue and the firm supported me and we were fine. It was the kind of thing where you don’t want to have it happen again, but they said, ‘Okay. We will get through this and we’ll fix it.'”

No. 2
Nonexempt Salary: $39,000
Exempt Salary: $80,000
401(k) Match: company contributes 10% of an employee’s salary
Starting Vacation Days: 10

However, there is one sure way to be shown the door. Says Peck: “If your peers don’t buy into you and what you are doing and how you are helping them, that’s how you get killed at Booz Allen. If people feel like you are just out for yourself, you’re not going to succeed.” Coworkers have input through an annual peer assessment, which typically involves about a dozen people.

Associate Curt Ruotola appreciates Booz Allen’s flexibility. By his accounting, he was able to make up about 12 days of work last year, allowing for family commitments, such as excursions with his preschool-age daughter, and days spent offsite as a Pacific Century Fellow. Says Ruotola: “[Booz Allen] was a great opportunity for me. It really allowed me to spread my wings a little farther and realize more of my personal and professional goals.”

The company has about 200 employees attached to its Pacific Rim region, which generated $36 million in sales last year. There are regular social events, often tied to fund-raising and community support, which is how Peck lost his 15-year-old moustache last year. When the staff exceeded the fund-raising goal he set for the Hawaii Foodbank, the office held an official shaving ceremony and Peck still sports a bare upper lip.

FUN FACT: Recipients of Booz Allen’s VIP Award, which recognizes those who best embody the firm’s values and spirit, receive an engraved silver-plated frame, a 35-mm camera and a choice between a cruise or a land-based vacation and two paid vacation days.

3. Easter Seals Hawaii

The parking at Easter Seals Hawaii’s Green Street headquarters is so tight that visitors often have to double and triple park. So Easter Seals’ president and CEO John Howell made an executive decision that he thought was quick, clear and benefited everyone: The parents of the disabled children and adults who were students at the organization’s school would be allowed to park in the disabled-designated parking spot, which often sits empty for most of the day.

However, minutes after Howell made this announcement, several staff members approached him and strenuously objected. He was undermining everything that the American for Disabilities Act stood for.

“They were objecting to the fact that these families didn’t have placards, even though most of them could easily qualify for one,” says Howell. “So I asked them to find a solution. And they did. They called the city and got the forms enabling parents to apply for placards themselves.”

Rank-and-file participation in decision making is not only appreciated by Howell and the rest of management, it’s expected. It’s also what employees such as Anastasia Keller-Collins like most about their jobs. The nonprofit service provider has challenges that change daily, so it needs employees who can think creatively and act independently.

“We are given free reign to provide the best service that we know how,” says Keller-Collins, who is the director of home and community-based services. “You see people getting better. When I put my head down at night, I know I made a difference in the world.”

No. 3
Nonexempt Salary: $22,000 
Exempt Salary: $49,000 
401(k) Match: 100% match up to 2 % of salary 
Starting Vacation Days: 10

“I encourage people to put it on the table and get things started,” adds Howell. “There is nothing more powerful than an employee who wants to kick it up a bit and make something happen.”

FUN FACT: At Easter Seals Hawaii transparency is the key. It’s apparent in everything from the organization’s glass office doors to its Web-posted financial reports.

4. Old Lahaina Luau/Aloha Mixed Plate

The grounds of the Old Lahaina Luau and its neighboring sister restaurant, Aloha Mixed Plate, feels more like a college campus than a thriving local business. On any given day, the place is abuzz with the scurry of attractive 20-somethings serving up traditional Hawaiian foods, shaking their assets onstage at the nightly luau and having an all around good time. The collegiate atmosphere is quite fitting, actually, for the long-time Maui establishment, which stresses a commitment to the continual training and education of its employees.

Every year, employees of the Old Lahaina Luau/Aloha Mixed Plate each receive an average of 175 hours of training – the most training hours of any company on this year’s list. The training comes in many forms, from watching the company’s custom orientation DVD, to college courses pertaining to one’s job, to the occasional one-shot opportunity. For example, managers attended the Disney Management Training program that Disney held on Maui last December. At the core of its training, however, is Old Lahaina’s “cultural awareness programs,” a series of ongoing events designed to develop a sense of cultural pride and historical knowledge in the company’s 204 employees.

No. 4
Nonexempt Salary: $41,000 
Exempt Salary: $89,000 
401(k) Match: 100% match up to 4% of salary. Employee can contribute up to 25% 
Starting Vacation Days: 5

Cultural activities are chosen by Hui Hoaloha (the company’s equivalent of a student council) and are varied in scope. So far, employees have gone on cultural hikes, learned the history of the site they occupy and worked in taro fields at Kahakaloa. And later this year, the company will take a handful of employees to Kahoolawe to help with the island’s cleanup effort.

But, as we all know, learning isn’t the only reason students go to college, and it sure isn’t the only reason employees stick with Old Lahaina. The company boasts unusually high average salaries for a service-industry employer: $41,000 for nonexempt and $89,000 for exempt staff. It also provides a generous 100 percent (up to 4 percent of an employee’s salary) 401(k) match. And at the end of the year, all employees get a DVD highlighting various company events throughout the year … a virtual yearbook, if you will.

FUN FACT: In 2004, for the third consecutive year, the company held its “Hoaloha Idol” singing contest at the company Christmas party. The winner, Mahiehie Pokipala, walked away with $1,000 and a round-trip ticket to the West Coast.

5. Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea

“It’s amazing how far a Krispy Kreme doughnut or a Spam musubi will get you,” says Larry Nishikawa, director of human resources at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea.

Several times a year, Nishikawa and other members of the hotel’s management team hand out the snacks to employees during shift changes. On appreciation day, they’ll dress up in black ties and serve their staff a fancy meal such as prime rib. During the busy periods in the winter and the spring, a massage therapist is stationed in the staff cafeteria to help exhausted employees wind down.

Taking care of high-end hotel guests, who are accustomed to good service, is a demanding job. So at the Four Seasons, management takes particular care in taking care of their employees.

No. 5
Nonexempt Salary: $32,000 
Exempt Salary: $55,000 
401(k) Match: No matching. Employee can contribute up to 3% of salary. *profit sharing 
Starting Vacation Days: 10

“Basically, the Four Seasons makes its employees feel special and cared for,” says Dawna Rae Davis, an accounts receivable clerk at the hotel. “They treat us like we’re the guests.”

Not only does the Four Seasons treat its employees like guests, the company also looks to them as partners. Each job applicant goes through four interviews and eventually meets with the general manager. Once hired, staff are asked to read the employee handbook and sign a contract. The company promises to treat its staff with dignity and respect and, in turn, the employee will agree to provide the highest level of service to the hotel’s guests.

“It goes against conventional wisdom to draw up a contract, because you can get sued if you don’t hold up your end of the deal,” says Nishikawa. “But that’s the way we choose to do business here at the Four Seasons.”

FUN FACT: The way to an employee’s heart may be through the stomach. The Four Season’s Ohana Café is an employee cafeteria whose kitchen and menu are independent of the hotel’s other eateries. Hot entrées, sandwiches, salad bar and desserts are provided at no charge. The Ohana Café’s annual operating budget runs in the neighborhood of $1 million.

6. Maryl Group Inc.

Many (if not all) of the Best Places to Work claim their employees are like one big, happy family. But employees of development and construction firm Maryl Group Inc. insist its familial environment is more than just a figure of speech. “A lot of companies talk about having an ohana spirit, but at Maryl, we truly do. And it’s because we’re owned by this husband-and-wife team, Mark and Cheryl Richards, who are, in a lot of ways, like mom and dad to the Maryl family,” says nine-year Maryl veteran and senior project marketing manager Jim Allison. “They’re very hands on and open with us, and our weekly development meetings with them feel more like Sunday evening dinners with the parents.”

As doting parents often do, the Richards take good care of their staff. Employee benefits include 100 percent coverage of health, dental, vision, short- and long-term disability care, life insurance, flexible spending and dependent care. The company also offers educational assistance for college and other training courses, based on grades. And, in 2003, the company began an employee stock-option program, appropriating roughly $607,000 in company stock in its first year. Its 2005 projections for the ESOP are in the neighborhood of $645,000.

No. 6
Nonexempt Salary: $33,000 
Exempt Salary: $93,000 
401(k) Match: No matching. Employee can contribute. * profit sharing 
Starting Vacation Days: 10

Aside from competitive benefits and a generous stock-option program, the company (which has offices on Oahu and the Big Island) also flies all of its foremen and salaried employees, along with their families, out to Kona twice a year for Maryl’s company picnic and its year-end employee appreciation party. As if that wasn’t enough, “mom and dad” will often cover the car rental and hotel costs, as well.

“Mark and Cheryl are really good people, with good attitudes. They’re the main ingredients in making this company a good place to work,” says 13-year Maryl veteran and Superintendent Craig Powell, one of the company’s first hires. “Before I came to work here, my longest employment at any company was three years, then I’d move on. Now, I plan on retiring with Maryl.”

FUN FACT: Every Thanksgiving, Mark and Cheryl buy Safeway gift certificates for everyone in the company to purchase ingredients for their Turkey Day feasts.

7. Marriott International Pacific Islands

When coworkers at Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club began to be deployed to fight in Iraq, Israel Qalo felt moved to support them somehow. So Qalo founded the Military Appreciation Program (MAP) and collected nonperishable items from throughout the company to send to the troops in Iraq. Marriott supports the program by paying the postage for the boxes of supplies every month.

“That’s pretty radical,” observes Qalo, the effervescent native Fijian, who showed up for his interview in traditional Fijian garb he dons as the Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club’s resort ambassador. “It’s the best place, bar none, to work with and work for.”

No. 7
Nonexempt Salary: N/A 
Exempt Salary: N/A 
401(k) Match: 100% match up to 3% of salary; 50% match up to next 3% of salary. Employee can contribute up to 10% of salary 
Starting Vacation Days: 17

Cari Maruyama, who does payroll at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa, agrees. She got her start in human resources after working at the hotel as a dispatcher for the bell and valet department. She says, “That’s the wonderful thing about Mariott; they give you opportunity. Even though I had no experience with human resources, they gave me a chance, because what they said is that they felt that I had a good attitude so I could learn. It’s wonderful. They’re all about training and promoting from within.”

According to Mari Olson, Marriott’s director of human resources for the Pacific Islands and Japan, the experiences of the company’s employee associates are as important as the customers’ experiences. “You know, Marriott’s philosophy has always been take care of the associates and they’ll take care of the customers, so it’s a very ingrained piece and we do things consistently to try to raise the level of the experience.”

Marriott makes sure of positive experiences for the more than 5,000 employees in the region through an average of 40 hours of training a year for employees, discounted dry cleaning that associates can drop off and pick up at the bell stand and an associate room rate at Marriott properties worldwide, which ranges from $49 to $84 a night.

FUN FACT: Marriott associates participate in the Reciprocal Hotel Program, which allows them to stay at hotels outside of the Marriott group at an average rate of $50 a night.

8. Outrigger Hotels and Resorts

Outrigger Hotels and Resorts has always been family owned and oriented, since its founding by the Kelley family in 1947. It even branded a line of hotels Ohana (family). However, you could say a cultural transformation occurred in 1994, when the late George Kanahele went to work with Outrigger’s newly formed Hookele Department to find ways to integrate Hawaiian culture with the way the hotel chain did business.

Human Resources and Hookipa (hospitality) Consultant Kaipo Ho was a member of the Hookele Department. Their goal was to create the company’s enduring Ke Ano Waa process, or the “Outrigger Way.”

No. 8
Nonexempt Salary: $26,000 
Exempt Salary: $52,000 
401(k) Match: 50% match up to 2% of salary (maximum $1,000 per year) Starting Vacation Days: 10

Ho says, “Today Ke Ano Waa is the name of our Outrigger culture and it speaks to our values and it speaks to our mission statement … Our culture is: Yes, we are a business, but we no longer think of ourselves as a kind of ‘heads and beds’ operation, but more as a hospitality organization. When you have that kind of mindset, the theory is that people just have to take pride.”

Then, there’s the food. “I think everyone will agree the lunch program is pretty damn good,” says Ho. “The company pays $3 per employee for an employee meal and we get some pretty good meals. You know, real local kine food.” Fitting for a very Hawaiian hospitality company.

FUN FACT: At the company’s flagship Outrigger Reef Hotel, there is a morning exercise program twice a week for the housekeeping staff. All staff are welcome to join in.

9. Oceanit

Oceanit is responsible for some of the most advanced technologies and cutting-edge science to come out of the state. But for such a high-tech company, Oceanit employs some fairly rudimentary practices to keep its employees happy. On the last Wednesday of every month, for example, the staff joins together for hosted afternoon snacks, such as ice cream, pies or manapuas. Then throughout the year, staffers also hand out pogs (yes, pogs) to one another for a job well done. A pog plaque is constructed for the person who’s earned the most pogs at the end of the year. Oceanit Marketing Manager Ian Kitajima calls it the company’s version of the People’s Choice Award.

Because it’s a creative company, Oceanit hosts a “No Limits” quarterly speaker series, in which people who have taken great risks in their careers or personal lives are invited to share their inspirational stories with Oceanit employees. Former No Limit speakers include former chairman of Silicon Valley Bank John Dean and the inventor of the heart pacemaker, Earl Bakken. The program, along with Oceanit’s paid time-off benefit, is tailored to the company’s youthful staff. At an average of 39 years old, not a lot of employees uAtilized their sick leave, so management did away with sick days, replacing them with paid time off, or personal holidays.

No. 9
Nonexempt Salary: $25,000 
Exempt Salary: $50,000 
401(k) Match: 100% match up to $600 
Starting Vacation Days: 10

Perhaps the smartest thing though, that the company did away with, was office politics. “At Oceanit, we don’t have the stereotypical office politics, where someone’s trying to take someone else’s job, or people are backstabbing one another,” says Kitajima. “The management team works really hard not to create divisiveness, and the employees really appreciate that.” Ah, the simple pleasures.

FUN FACT: Oceanit’s I.T. department provides free support for employees’ home and personal computers.

10. Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hawaii

Marion Sato has been working at the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hawaii for 31 years. But her long tenure doesn’t qualify her as one of the hotel’s old-timers, not even close.

“We still may have some people who helped open the property more than 40 years ago,” says Sato, who has been the 331-room hotel’s concierge for the past 20 years. “And there are still quite a few people who have more than 35 years of service. I’m certainly not unique.”

This intense loyalty might be attributed to the allegiance the company, which took over ownership of the property in 1995, has shown to its staff. According to Michelle Rusconi, director of learning and development, following the post-Sept. 11 travel slump and the SARS crisis shortly thereafter, the Mandarin Oriental didn’t lay off a single employee chain wide, even though occupancy rates fell off the table.

No. 10
Nonexempt Salary: $17,000 
Exempt Salary: $42,100 
401(k) Match: $50 % match up to 3 % of salary 
Starting Vacation Days: 0

In addition, the company also offers employees plenty of opportunities to travel and work at properties throughout the multinational hotel chain. Sato recently attended a company conference in Hong Kong and Rusconi has helped with the openings of new Mandarin hotels in both New York and London.

But while exotic locales in Asia and Europe are fun to visit, Sato and Rusconi wouldn’t want to work there. “There is no amount of money, no benefits that could top the bond I have with our staff and our guests,” says Rusconi.

FUN FACT: If Kahala Mandarin Oriental emp-loyees are caught in the act of doing something that is especially polite or productive, they’ll receive a positive citation. The yellow tickets can be redeemed for such goodies as gift certificates and movie passes.

Most Annual Training Per Employee
Annual Training Hours
1. Old Lahaina Luau/Aloha Mixed Plate
2. Edward Jones
3. Na Hoku
4. Kahala Mandarin Oriental

11. Altres Inc.

About 11 years ago, Shani Silva came in for a job interview with Altres Inc. The folks at the company were giving her a tour of the offices when she happened to meet Altres Chief Executive Officer Baron Guss, who asked her to come in and sit down for a chat. Silva knew he was a busy man, with a multimillion dollar company, which also had offices in Califonia at that time, so she was duly impressed with Guss’ personal management style.

Silva, the manager of the industrial division of Altres Staffing, says, “You don’t feel like it’s a corporate structure. You really feel like it’s a family-run, small mom-and-pop business.” Perhaps that feeling has to do with the many ways the company shows appreciation for its employees. On a recent Friday, a crew from Jamba Juice was brought in to stir up smoothies for everyone. There are company-wide birthday and anniversary celebrations each month, which can be as varied as a breakfast or an ice cream sundae party, where the executives do the scooping.

Individual employees receive a handwritten card from the owners on anniversaries and each employee receives a box of chocolates on his or her birthday.

No. 11
Nonexempt Salary: $31,000 
Exempt Salary: $52,000 
401(k) Match: 100 % match up to 4 % of salary 
Starting Vacation Days: 0

Silva says Altres is also very understanding when it comes to leaves of absences due to illness or family emergencies. “They have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening,” she says, “We all have obligations other than work and they realize that. They realize that family is very important and your job is, too, and we’re going to try and make both work.”

Altres Benefits Manager Maria-Jose Lima says she appreciates Altres’s community involvement and the friendly competition among departments, which heats up for food drives and holiday decorating contests. What touched her the most was seeing how many employees and their families donate during periodic blood drives at Altres for the Hawaii Blood Bank. She credits founder Bill Guss with injecting aloha and a family feeling into the company.

Says Lima: “You feel like you fit and there’s an understanding and a support.”

FUN FACT: When Altres built its new Kapiolani Boulevard headquarters three years ago, it was purposely designed with an outdoor lanai area, with café tables and umbrellas, which functions as both an alternative business meeting space and a party area for barbeques and potlucks.

12. HMSA

The participation rate in HMSA’s annual survey of its 1,400 employees has climbed steadily for the past three years, reaching a high of nearly 80 percent in 2004. “I think it’s so high because people see that the process actually works,” says HMSA’s recruitment and organization effectiveness manager, Raquel Hicks Craven. “We give our feedback and then they follow up on stuff.”

HMSA’s leadership has committed to sharing the results of the survey with its employees. In fact, each department head was to do a written action plan to address pertinent survey results and turn that plan in to a senior officer, who in turn reports to the COO. Craven says that, as a result of one survey, meetings in her human resources department became more structured and productive.

The survey isn’t the only means that employees have of achieving change. Donna Hu has been with HMSA for 20 years and currently works as a business analyst. A couple of years ago, her doctor mentioned that, when he called HMSA’s provider service line for doctors, he got a voice mail, with no date stamp, that did not offer much in the way of direction or help. When Hu investigated, she also found the recording to be lacking. She talked to the appropriate people and got them to add the date and additional phone numbers and options to the message. She had the satisfaction of telling her doctor the changes had been made. Says Hu: “After 20 years, to still be able to say, ‘Yeah, we deliver.’ That’s pretty cool.”

No. 12
Nonexempt Salary: $28,000 
Exempt Salary: $61,000 
401(k) Match: 100 % match up to 6 % of salary
Starting Vacation Days: 5

FUN FACT: There is a special room called Mom’s Place in the HMSA Center, where nursing moms may express milk. Mom’s Place is equipped with a high-end electronic pump, a refrigerator and a sink, complete with a boiling-hot water tap. Moms simply sign up for a curtained area and bring their own pump attachments.

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