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What are workers looking for? It’s a question employers asked all 2021, as the workforce saw a mass exodus now dubbed the Great Resignation. One organization which seems to have its finger on the pulse of workers’ new and evolving needs is Worcester’s Young Professional Women’s Association.
YPWA President Alexis Griswold said burnout and isolation from the coronavirus pandemic has left most young professionals looking for a sense of community.
“Working from home can get really lonely,” said Griswold. “People are turning to other places to start building the community that work possibly helped them form before.”
Founded more than 10 years ago, community is the framework for pretty much everything YPWA does. Though the group doesn’t have a physical headquarters, members congregate around the city of Worcester to share support. While professional development is key to its mission, Griswold said the group has other priorities as well.
“We're trying to find a balance between promoting a community where people can be social and be themselves and maybe make some professional connections, but hopefully make some good friends,” she said.
While YPWA has been able to gather back in restaurants this summer and fall, its members were mainly online for the earlier part of the year, adding greater challenges to their community-building efforts.
“At the beginning of the year, we had to be really creative about how our community was going to pivot to be able to support the world that we were all living in,” Griswold said.
Online programming has included panelists, career development events, and more socially-oriented virtual get-togethers. YPWA ended up hosting 15 events, including its first-ever Headshot Happy Hour during which 30 individuals received complimentary professional headshots.
YPWA’s focus on offering social support for young professionals seems to be working. The organization’s membership grew 40% from May to December, said Griswold, who has been with the organization for almost five years.
In its group events, the association aims to engage the Worcester community and support local businesses.
“As we're looking ahead into the new year, we're definitely trying to prioritize identifying the new businesses in our community to partner with them to bring our community to them,” said Griswold.
Coming up, YPWA has a virtual cookie-decorating event, trivia night, and Galentine’s Day planned.
-- Story written by Katherine Hamilton
* denotes repeat winner
Best Health Insurance Provider
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts*
Location: Boston, www.bluecrossma.org
Additional offices: Worcester, Quincy, Hingham
Top executive: President & CEO Andrew Dreyfus
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is the state’s largest health plan, striving for quality, equitable, and affordable health care with an unparalleled consumer experience. In 2021, as part of the company's plan to be a leader in addressing health inequities and racial justice, Blue Cross became the first plan in market to collect comprehensive member race and ethnicity data and announced it would be the first plan to incorporate equity measures into its payment models.
Notable runners-up: Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Fallon Health
Best Professional Training Company
Location: Westborough, MindsetGo.com
Top executive: Mark Altman, speaker, trainer & coach
MindsetGo differentiates itself by helping participants convert knowledge to action, focusing on habit change, attitude, and mindset. In 2021, the firm helped companies with their two core problems: remote leadership and change management. MindsetGo shifted its emphasis to supporting C-suite executives in their ability to communicate effectively and transparently, have difficult but critical conversations, and use emotional intelligence to stay resilient during the COVID crisis.
Best College for Business Education
Location: Dudley, www.nichols.edu
Top executive: President Glenn Sulmasy
Nichols sets graduates up for success with distinctive professional development, experiential learning opportunities, an engaged alumni network, and a supportive campus community. In 2021, the college installed its eighth president in Glenn Sulmasy, launched a new tech partnership, added six degree concentrations, and completed a record $66-million fundraising campaign.
Notable runners-up: Assumption University, Worcester State University
Best Financial Planning/Investment Services Firm
Provo Wealth Management Group*
Location: Shrewsbury, www.ProvoWealth.com
Top executive: President & CEO Christopher Provo
Celebrating its 30th year in business this year, Provo has built relationships with clients based on trust, seeing itself as a dynamic problem solver and critical thinker to clients’ concerns. The industry and the company faced a number of challenges as a result of the pandemic, but Provo has remained steady through top-notch customer service.
Notable runners-up: Fidelity Investments, Carr Financial Group
Best Employee Benefits Consultant
Location: Marlborough, www.sullivan-benefits.com
Top executive: President & Owner Chrystine Heier
Sullivan Benefits’ highly engaged team helps each client maximize every dollar they spend on employee benefits, in order to project and engage clients’ most valuable asset – their employees. In 2021, Sullivan moved its office to a new location more reflective of its culture and operations, and introduced new tools, resources, and technology to support evolving legislative compliance, administration, and employee communication needs in the ongoing COVID pandemic.
Best Staffing Agency
The DAVIS Cos.*
Location: Marlborough, www.daviscos.com
Top executive: President Brendon Davis
DAVIS prides itself on a company culture giving its people an opportunity to be the best versions of themselves. Last year, after a down year in 2020, DAVIS hit a new company record for revenue, increasing 50% and getting within site of the biggest staffing companies in the U.S., which have at least $100-million in revenue.
Notable runners-up: Masis Staffing Solutions, Franklin Professional Associates, Savvy Staffing Solutions
Best Luxury Automobile Dealership
Wagner Mercedes-Benz of Shrewsbury*
Location: Shrewsbury, www.wagnermercedesofshrewsbury.com
Top executive: Owner Mark Wagner
Since Ronald Wagner opened Wagner Motor Sales in Boylston in 1964, the auto dealerships run by his family have long emphasized The Wagner Way, where staff focus on friendliness and expertise in order to help customers find the vehicle best suiting their needs. Wagner’s community support includes local youth groups and sports teams, scout groups, schools and community events, along with veterans nonprofits like Project New Hope.
Notable runners-up: BMW of Shrewsbury, Lexus of Northborough
Best Exercise Facility/Fitness Center
Location: Worcester, www.worcesterfitness.com
Top executive: Owner & President Tim MacDonald
Worcester Fitness is a family-owned, team-oriented company offering a one-of-a-kind fitness experience for all ages. In 2021, the center had had a record breaking year in its swim department, more than doubling its annual revenue.
Notable runners-up: Planet Fitness, True North Personal Training