by Sarah J.F. Braley and Lisa A. Grimaldi | April 01, 2016
MeetGreen's annual retreat (pictured), in Netarts Bay, Ore., culminated with a group selfie on a cliff.
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Many factors go into a great workplace. One common thread is an employee-first philosophy, which ultimately translates to prideful efforts and pleased customers. This year, for our fifth annual examination of the best places to work in the meetings industry, M&C has selected two planning firms, a hotel company, an airline and a convention center.

To determine what places to feature this year, our editors combed Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For 2016, job website's Best Places to Work 2016 and similar rankings. We also reached out to industry sources to learn about smaller organizations that wouldn't appear on such compilations.

Here's what makes these five honorees true standouts in our industry.

Planning meetings with the care of our home planet always in mind, this small Portland, Ore., firm holds its employees' well being in equally high esteem.

"Never before have I had a team or worked with a group of people who are just happy to be together and happy to be doing this work," says founder Nancy J. Zavada, CMP, proudly speaking of her staff of 13.

At any given time, five to seven people are in the Portland office, a cozy 100-year-old Craftsman bungalow with a covered front porch sporting rocking chairs, a nice yard, a koi pond and a friendly old black Labrador retriever. In the summer, the conference room table (with hard-wired Internet) is moved onto the porch for meetings or an outdoor workspace.

Others work in home offices in New York City; Pittsburgh; Vancouver, B.C.; and Washington, D.C. "While we might not be in the same office, we have a strong company culture and have developed virtual systems to work seamlessly together," notes Zavada.

Each Monday, MeetGreen holds a full staff meeting using Zoom, team software offering cloud video conferencing, simple online meetings and group messaging. A central communications wiki is a repository for project information, schedules, ideas and more. Twice a year, the whole group gets together face-to-face for strategic planning, collaboration and just to enjoy each other's company.

MeetGreen staffers practice on
land before hitting the water
for a group outing.
 While recognizing the limitations of a small firm, Zavada does what she can to offer her employees perks and help the community. Birthdays are paid holidays, for example, while Martin Luther King Jr. Day is devoted to volunteer efforts for charitable causes.

"One of the best benefits we all agree on is the flexibility to work virtually, during the hours that are best for the project and for family/life commitments," Zavada says.

Staff members are encouraged to further their education, whether taking college classes or striving to earn professional designations like the Certified Meeting Professional. MeetGreen covers the costs for industry-related programs and college courses that directly relate to an employee's position.

As the company's mission is to help organizations hold more sustainable meetings, MeetGreen's staff practices what it preaches in its charity work. Throughout the year, employees plant trees; volunteer at Portland's Rebuilding Center, where construction materials are resold to reduce waste and build the local community; and donate to the Oregon Food Bank. They also support efforts such as Clean the World, which recycles hotel soap and other personal cleaning products; women's shelters; an anti-bullying organization, and more.

"At our holiday party last year, we all went out to lunch, and then went to Schoolhouse Supplies to sort donations," says Zavada, referring to the organization that runs a free store for teachers, stocked with items donated by the community.

"There's no infighting here, there's no backstabbing," Zavada adds. "We genuinely like each other. People go to each other instead of coming to me if they need something. It's so gratifying to have a company like this. We have this team, and I wouldn't trade one of them for anyone in the world."