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Great Places to Work

Right now, lots of us are happy just to get a paycheck that doesn’t bounce. But there are dozens of companies in Minnesota that offer employees something more, from generous retirement plans and cool office environs to subsidized child-care and no-cost health care. Here, 48 companies that treat their employees like customers.

Great Places to Work
Photo by Darrell Eager

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You knew times were tough when Google axed the free snack bars. But with the economy in a nosedive and retail sales slumping faster than a frat boy post-bender, companies are making cutbacks. The perks of the 1990s—trips to Fiji for mail-room clerks, laptops for mascots—are long gone. ¶ Business ain’t bad all over, though. Looking for rays of hope amid a gloomy forecast, Minnesota Monthly asked consultants, academics, and workplace experts to name companies that offer benefits that are unique or above-average or astonishingly generous. Then we called up the companies to verify the rumors. What we discovered surprised us. Small and big, these employers cared about their employees—and they made efforts to keep them humming and happy. Don’t believe such places exist? Take a look. Maybe it’s time to dust off that resumé.


SALA Architects

44 Minnesota employees
If you haven’t seen an increasingly bigger chunk of your paycheck going to health care in recent years you’re either: (1) among the 7 percent of Minnesotans who don’t actually have any health insurance, or (2) you work at SALA Architects, a small Twin Cities–based home-design firm that covers 100 percent of health-care premiums for employees. Of course, offering complete medical and dental care is expensive, says SALA principal Katherine Hillbrand, but managers believe it pays off in worker loyalty. “When it comes down to why people work here, I think that’s one of the reasons,” Hillbrand says. “It’s a draw and it helps us keep steady employment.”

The firm doesn’t pick up the cost of putting family members on the plan, but they’re eligible if an employee wants to add them and premiums can be paid pre-tax. “I have no complaints about the coverage we have,” says Ann Hauer, a designer with the firm’s Stillwater office who enrolled her son in the plan. Though she only works 30 hours a week, she still gets the same coverage available to full-time employees at SALA. “A few years ago, I had hip surgery and everything was covered,” Hauer recalls. “I can’t imagine having big premiums and huge deductibles.”

Mystic Lake Casino Hotel

Prior Lake
4,000 Minnesota employees
Unlimited care. No copays. Access to four different clinics owned by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux. All tallied, it’s a good bet that Mystic Lake workers and their families have access to one of the best, most-affordable health-care plans in Minnesota.

General Mills

Golden Valley
5,400 Minnesota employees
Employees at headquarters have access to an on-site health clinic that provides no-cost same-day appointments for flu shots, lab work, x-rays, dermatology services, physical therapy, eyeglass services, and more.


Hennepin County

8,000 Minnesota employees
The county developed the HealthWorks program to emphasize employee wellness. There are seminars and classes about everything from smoking cessation to laughter yoga. “It’s a continuum of health,” says Jill Hamilton, the HealthWorks’ director. At the Government Center in Minneapolis, there is an on-site clinic that offers free services; and employees have access to flu shots and screenings for blood glucose, bone density, and body composition. To encourage employees to fit exercise into their lives, there is a reimbursement plan known as “Trade Time for Fitness.” It allows workers to use the monetary equivalent of unused sick days to be reimbursed up to $1,500 per year for health-club memberships and pay for fitness-equipment purchases. Over the last three years, Bob Smutka, a senior human-resources representative, has used the program to buy a bicycle, weights, a Bowflex machine, and a bike trainer that allows him to use his cycle indoors. “I’m more active now,” he says, adding that he’s lost 20 percent of his body  weight since buying the equipment.

“It gets you started exercising and then you build from there.”

Carlson Companies

4,500 Minnesota employees
At any Minute Clinics (including the one at Carlson Companies’ headquarters), employee copays for services are just $5. An internal “BeWell” website publicizes such programs as yoga at the office, and the company recently began offering an online tool for managing personal health records.

Dakota Electric Association

214 Minnesota employees
The company offers generous health-club reimbursements, brown-bag lunches on topics such as “emotional intelligence,” and an annual health fair with free melanoma and cholesterol screenings. A “Biggest Loser” club encouraged employees to lose a combined 1,820 pounds over three years.


Mayo Clinic

32,000 Minnesota employees
To provide better care for patients, Mayo Clinic employees are encouraged to take care of themselves. The philosophy becomes reality at the 115,000-square-foot Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center, which opened in 2007. Employees, retirees, and immediate family can join for $25 a month. If an employee uses the gym at least 15 times during three months, the fee is reduced.

In Rochester, 44 percent of the 32,000 employees belong to the club. The facility includes a women-only studio, an indoor track, and a demonstration kitchen for healthy-cooking instruction. Caer Vitek, an education coordinator at Mayo, has been a member for three years. “If I couldn’t get in a workout, there’s no way I could do a desk job,” she says.


197 Minnesota employees
Recently relocated to a new space, the company has a free in-house fitness facility, with a locker room and sweeping views of downtown Minneapolis from the 23rd floor of the AT&T Building. A personal trainer keeps an office on the premises, too.

ING Direct

St. Cloud
525 Minnesota employees
For $10 a month, employees can join Energy Zone. Open 24 hours a day, the facility has a variety of workout equipment, a meditation room and studios for yoga and Pilates classes. There’s also an on-site registered nurse and a six-month wellness plan that tracks overall health.

Comments may be edited for length, clarity, or appropriateness.

Old to new | New to old
Dec 19, 2008 11:37 am
 Posted by  Ohtheirony

Poor timing, don't you think? This article appears at Minnesota companies are shedding jobs. "my bad," Minnesota Monthly.

Jan 8, 2009 10:49 am
 Posted by  gshetzer

Mystic Lake may be a 'great' place to work for healthcare but for health it is one of the worst. They still allow smoking almost everywhere in the casino, exposing both guests and employees to the dangers of second hand smoke. Blackjack dealers especially are inundated with smoke constantly from players sitting just three feet away. Many dealers have high blood pressure and breathing problems directly associated with this smoke.

Feb 13, 2009 09:23 am
 Posted by  Unforgettable

Mystic Lake Casino is not a good place to work. I worked there for over 10 years and was let go when I was on a medical leave of absence. The clinics that are there were just put in place about 2 years ago. The doctors that are in these clinics are not really doctors. They are Physicians assistants. They are not there looking out for the employee's health. They are there for the companies benefit. Come on, they get paid to make sure an employee is able to work even if you have a serious health problem. The older you get and the longer you are employed there, the more likely you are to get let go because you start costing them money. They will search for ways to get rid of someone. Articles like this should be investigated more thoroughly before being published. On paper anything can sound good. You should talk to the people that are really involved.

Mar 9, 2009 02:19 am
 Posted by  Sure

I love DQ,it's very delicious.I want to know all the things about DQ .

Jun 17, 2009 06:28 am
 Posted by  chris

Hi,my name is Chris,I have been an employee (shift leader)at my local DQ for over 7 years now and i have to say that it is one of the best jobs i have ever had. I have 3 kids of my own and they all love it too. I have meet some really great people working here,the kids are really hard working and the enviroment is always fun for them too.Everyone that comes in is almost an everyday costomer(which means we are doing something right).I would like to think that we make really good products also.We take PRIDE in our work at our DQ. Thanks sincerely,a long tome worker.

Sep 1, 2009 06:02 pm
 Posted by  Tim

To "Unforgetable"- I can't believe that you are that ignorant to call PAs "not really Doctors" as if they took some untrained individual off the street, and to complain about a no-cost health care related benefit that is provided to the employees. "They get paid to make sure an employee is able to work even if you have a serious health problem"??!!. I guess the use of the verb "worked" in your second sentence means you were let go... go figure.

To "Ohtheirony"- Not everyone has lost their job, and this article is an excellent research tool for those that are looking for work if they have ;)


A currently unemployed Human Resources Professional who lost his job due to an acquisition of the company for which he worked.

Dec 4, 2010 04:56 pm
 Posted by  Plain Jane

Mystic Lake - Worse place I have ever worked in my life - ah....why don't you ask the real employees next time and not the PR person for the companies. I would dig sewers before going back there.

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