Top Workplaces make sure their managers are empowered to bring out the best in the employees they supervise.

The executive team at Navigator Management Partners holds weekly office hours where associates are invited in to ask questions, make suggestions or talk about the business.

Company leaders started the practice because they want to stay connected with employees as the company grows, says Clare Vetrick, vice president of human resources and administration at the Columbus management and technology consulting firm. The practice demonstrates the commitment the company has to developing good relationships between associates and their bosses, she says.

Having a boss who cares is an important characteristic of a Top Workplace, according to a survey conducted by WorkplaceDynamics for Columbus CEO. Sixty percent of workers at central Ohio's Top Workplaces said it is important for a manager to care about their concerns. Fifty-six percent of respondents praised managers who make it easier for them to do their job well. A similar number valued mangers who help them learn and grow.

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Since many employees of Navigator Management Partners work offsite, the company looks for ways to connect with them, Vetrick says. The company offers Nav 101, a class for new hires that introduces them to the company and its culture. The consulting firm also puts effort into identifying what each employee's "navigator experience" should look like. Managers are trained to find out what excites their employees and "throw gasoline on that," Vetrick says. "We want to align people with their passions. Put the right people in the right roles," she says.

When Kim Dressel came to work at the company, she told Vetrick about her passion for giving back to the community. Dressel, who had not been working full-time prior to starting at Navigator, was a regular volunteer for a number of organizations. Vetrick, her supervisor, felt it was important that Dressel be able to continue some of the work. She agreed to allow Dressel, who serves as the company's director of community contributions, to leave work for several hours each week to volunteer at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. Dressel is grateful to be able to continue to work in the nonprofit world, Vetrick says.

"She never thought she would find a job in corporate America that would allow her to have a role in both worlds," she says.

Managers at VSP Vision Care try to connect with their employees by creating "an environment where talent and ability are recognized and rewarded," saysBradGarrison, director of VSPOne Optical Technology Center in Columbus. The company wants employees to understand that their boss wants to help them achieve career successes and personal growth, he says.

"We place a very high level of focus on internal talent development," he says. "As a rapidly growing business, we have found the best way to achieve sustainable growth is to empower employees to take on additional operational and leadership opportunities."

VSP tries to promote "learning agility" among its employees, adds George Kademenos, senior human resources business partner for VSP Vision Care.

"Employees are offered special projects, shadow assignments, skill development opportunities and formal classroom and e-learning training opportunities," he says. "VSP also conducts employee engagement surveys annually in order to address any issues or concerns that employees have regarding their work satisfaction."