How One Award-Winning Employer Keeps its High-Stakes Workplace "Full of Fun"

Police departments and military personnel count on Tactical Electronics' equipment to help defuse bombs and retrieve video in other potentially deadly situations. The people who create that technically sophisticated gear do so with the knowledge that what they build absolutely cannot fail once it's in the field. That makes it all the more impressive that this small employer at the top of Great Rated's list of the best workplaces in manufacturing supports an environment one employee describes as "full of fun."

In fact, 98 percent of the employees we surveyed agreed with that sentiment, thanks in part to the company's video games, shuffle board table and free after-work beers. Says another team member: "There is a concerted effort within the management of the company to ensure the work environment is one that does not just feel like another job. There is a goal within the company to make this a fun place to work, where each person makes an impact, so that people enjoy coming in and are not dreading it."

Headquartered in a suburb of Tulsa, Okla., Tactical Electronics started in a garage 15 years ago. It's won more than $20 million in contracts from the federal government alone in that time, expanding its business into training centers and ever-innovative products like cameras that can be worn by military canines. During that growth, employees say its founders maintained a keen interest in team members' well-being and the relationships formed among co-workers at the company's four locations.

Like Hilcorp – leader of the People's Picks list of the best large manufacturing and production companies to work for – Tactical Electronics shares its success through profit sharing. The company also helps encourage pride and teamwork through a crowded and creative social calendar. How creative? Past get-togethers have encompassed trampoline dodgeball, regular barbecue cook-offs, go-kart races and an entire week dedicated to "April Foolishness." People feel free to laugh at one another when employees of the month win bobble heads in their likeness, and one well-received prank even involved filling an office with straw and live chickens.

These might not be the type of activities that defense contracting and manufacturing jobs call to mind. Nonetheless, Tactical Electronics proves that it's possible to maintain a sociable and happy workforce even in a demanding environment.

"This is not just a company. This is a family," says one employee. "The friendships and bonds that are made at Tactical Electronics are like no other place I have ever seen. The executive leadership, the owner in particular, is the most genuinely caring, pro-employee group you can get."

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