2014 Top Workplace Winners

By TC Brown
Photos by Tim Johnson

Learn about the culture and values exhibited by the top winner in each of three size categories, based on numbers of employees.

See the full list here.

#1 Large Employer

Worthington Industries


Founded: 1955
Ownership: Public
Sector: Metal products
U.S. headquarters: Columbus
Columbus: 1,350
Nationwide: 8,000 

Treating others as you would want to be treated guides work and employee benefits—leading to business success and employee loyalty.

Worthington Industries runs a highly complicated, successful steel manufacturing business while employing a simple equation – live and operate by the Golden Rule.

Company founder John H. McConnell established the ethical code that people are the most important asset from the early days of the company’s creation in 1955. It is a genuine strategy to navigate the busi- ness, and that credo – treat our employ- ees, customers, suppliers and shareholders as we would like to be treated – continues to be Worthington’s guiding principle.

The code is so relevant that the organi- zation issues employees a philosophy card attached to their company badges, and it posts the message throughout the facility as a daily reminder.

Paige Maxwell, who has been with the company for a little more than a year, finds it especially applicable because of her dual duties as a customer service representative and inside sales agent, responsible for taking and logging orders and handling any grumbling.

“We live that rule,” Maxwell says. “It’s a nice company to work for. You don’t just show up and work and clock out, you want to do well and at the end of the day we get rewarded for it.”

The company serves nearly 7,000 customers in industries that include: automotive; leisure and recreation; industrial gas; agriculture; construction; HVAC; lawn and garden; office equipment; and appliances. Headquartered in Columbus with 1,350 workers, the company has 83 facili- ties in 12 countries, with 8,000 people working in the United States and another 2,000 international workers.

The conditions and culture and her co-workers are just some of the positive elements of working for the company, Maxwell says.

“Worthington finds the right people to work for them and represent them. Everyone is working really hard from the plant up and everyone wants to do well,” Maxwell says. “It’s a positive company and it’s always growing. It would be hard for me to be somewhere where you are stuck in the same place over and over again.”

Worthington Industries is definitely not stuck.

In processing six million tons of steel last year, the company became the largest buyer of steel in the country behind automakers. And Worthington steel went into building more than nine million of the 15.8 million cars made in the United States.

With its eye to the Golden Rule maxim of treating employees well, the company instituted profit-sharing in 1966, and it switched all workers from hourly pay to salary. Worthington also offers its people an abundance of typical healthcare and other benefits, but it also includes areas not often covered at other organizations.

The company operates a full-service medical center and a pharmacy system available to its employees and their families across the country. In Columbus, the medical center is home to three full-time doctors, an on-site dietician and a physi- cal therapist.

Worthington instituted Healthy Choices Wellness Programs 11 years ago, and it operates an on-site fitness facility with a full-size basketball court, racquetball court, cardio and weight rooms, fitness classes and a full-time personal trainer.

One of the most popular activities at the company is an obstacle course survivor challenge between the Columbus facilities. Competing against co-workers promotes health and is a lot of fun to boot, Maxwell says. And there are the rewards.

“The top team or individual gets a $100 gift card and bragging rights,” she says.

And what if you need a quick trim during work? No problem, not with six Columbus-area, on-site barbershops that give haircuts for $8.

The company’s goal is to make the employee benefits equal to or superior to anyplace else, and health and wellness are critical components of that overall package, says Mark Russell, president and COO of Worthington Industries.

“Because we share profits we think everybody’s interests are pretty aligned; we all have a cut of the action,” Russell says. “We want to make sure they have world-class benefits. In exchange, we have higher expectations in terms of performance.”

While the company takes care of its own, the surrounding community is equally important, Russell says.

“We want to be good citizens within all of the communities in which we operate,” he says. “We realize the communities in which we operate are stakeholders just like our employees, shareholders, suppliers and customers. So we try to get involved and support good causes in these communities.”

Worthington Industries Foundation is the formal charitable arm of the company, supporting education, civic organizations, health and human services and arts and culture. In the past decade, the company has do- nated $11 million, with major gifts to the Columbus Zoo, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the Community Shelter Board, the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Mid-Ohio Foodbank, Junior Achievement and the YMCA.

But it’s not only the foundation that contributes, Russell says.

“All of our facilities are asked to and do get involved in their local communities,” he says. Through local councils, employees choose quarterly charities to support through food and money drives, monthly raffles and jeans days’ donations. And for the past nine years, employees have delivered daily lunches through the Meals on Wheels program.

Helping the less fortunate through charity work is another major plus for Maxwell. Among other events, she has volunteered to help with family dinners at the YMCA.

“I have everything I need or I can go out and get it, but it’s a wakeup call when you see someone else can’t do that,” she says.

These sort of events, along with social activities, help to complete the bigger picture of business success for Worthington Industries. It’s a gigantic company, but it’s made up from many parts in each division, Russell says.

“You want a sense of belonging and camaraderie and unity in all of these teams you are a part of,” he says.