At JBG Cos., opportunities abound for workers who prove themselves


From left, Lauren Jezienicki,Brian Gould Tiffany Butcher and Bailey Hopple are JBG Cos. employees who pushed for changes to the company’s policies regarding maternity leave and work/life balance. (Jeffrey MacMillan/For The Washington Post)

In recent years, JBG Cos. noticed a demographic shift in its workforce: Many more of its employees are new parents and are eager for benefits that help support work-life balance.

So when a group of employees floated the idea of rethinking the maternity leave policy and expanding its offerings for working families, the real estate development company told them to gin up a proposal.

What they ended up with was a generous policy that gives women 12 weeks of paid maternity leave.

“Apart from the finances of it, it’s just this underlying feel that JBG is concerned about retaining and supporting the families in the office,” said Lauren Jezienicki, a vice president whose baby was born one month after the new policy was implemented.

The staffers’ proposal included other family-oriented resources and events that the Chevy Chase-based company also approved. The Lion’s Pride Group is a committee that plans kid-friendly activities hosted by JBG. In May, the group coordinated a picnic for employees and their kids at the National Zoo. Last fall, they held a Halloween bash in which children trick-or-treated around the office and got to enjoy a performance by a magician. They’ve also set up a parent-coaching system, in which employees who are parents of older children can buddy up with a parent of younger children to give them advice and wisdom.

Leslie Ludwig, a partner, said it’s typical of JBG culture that these ideas came from a group of rank-and-file staffers, because the company has an open-door policy about everything from strategy to benefits.

“If you can add value to the discussion, you’re invited to the table,” Ludwig said.

This idea was echoed by several JBG employees, who said they feel empowered by the fact that workers at all levels of the company are encouraged to voice their ideas to the top leaders.

“You’re rewarded based on merit, and it’s not just about seniority,” said George Xanders, an associate. “So if you can prove that you’re good at what you do, you’re given tons of opportunities.”

Greg Trimmer is a partner at the company who rose through the ranks at JBG after starting there shortly after college. Now that he’s in a leadership role, when any employee stumbles on a problem, he encourages them to “put your money where your mouth is.”

“I say, ‘Jump on it. Come up with a solution,’ ” Trimmer said.

Jezienicki said she likes that the vibe at JBG is equal parts collegiality and ambition.

“If it wasn’t challenging and if it wasn’t intense sometimes, it would be boring,” Jezienicki said.

To reward employees for their hard work, JBG offers free breakfast every morning. On Fridays before holiday weekends, the office closes at 2 p.m. so workers can get more time with their families.

JBG is the real estate developer and property manager behind major Washington area projects such as the transformation and renovation of L’Enfant Plaza, which re-opened this summer. The company is also building a mixed-use development in Rockville called Galvan at Twinbrook and is co-developer on the renovation of the historic Wardman Tower in the District.

It wasn’t too long ago that business wasn’t as robust for JBG and the real estate industry overall. The Great Recession was felt especially deeply in this sector, and it resulted in JBG having the first layoffs in its history.

But Ludwig said the key to keeping workers from panicking was communicating frequently and being open with them about what was going on.

As the economy has improved, the company has staffed up again, and now counts more employees than it did before the downturn.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economics news.
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