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Top Places to Work

Companies with standout worker development programs

Eduviges Diaz and Justina Duarte take English classes at Cambridge College, paid for by New Balance.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Eduviges Diaz and Justina Duarte take English classes at Cambridge College, paid for by New Balance.

Twice a week this fall, Eduviges Diaz has been attending an advanced English as a Second Language course in Lawrence, courtesy of her employer, New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc.

“I know in my work, if you understand English, you can get a better job,” said Diaz, 46, a native of the Dominican Republic and a mother of two who works as a factory utility worker at the New Balance plant in Lawrence. “I want to help my family with a better job and pay.”

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For New Balance, the main benefit of sending people like Diaz to an English course is to groom experienced, reliable workers who can later take on supervisory roles, interacting with both Spanish- and English-speaking employees on the factory floor.

Everyone wins under such arrangements — employees and employers alike. The following three companies were rated highly for corporate development programs:

New Balance

Boston-based New Balance has both hourly and salaried workers on its payroll, so it offers an array of corporate development programs.

Diaz and her factory colleague, Justina Duarte, 51, both would like to move up the ladder, so they’re taking advanced English courses at Cambridge College’s Merrimack Valley Regional Center to improve their language skills.

Like Diaz, Duarte is also a native of the Dominican Republic — and she thinks there will be benefits to improving her English beyond just work. “It’s important for my family,” said Duarte, who has four children, ages 14 through 20. “They speak better English than me, and sometimes I can’t understand them when they all speak English.”

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Other training and education opportunities include an eight-week program featuring one-on-one meetings with a personal coach who discusses topics such as how to change behaviors.

New Balance, which has 4,200 workers worldwide including about 1,200 in Massachusetts, also offers extensive in-house management courses for professionals, as well as tuition-reimbursement programs for those seeking MBAs and other graduate degrees.

“It’s built into our culture,” Carol O’Donnell, vice president of human resources at New Balance, said of providing education and training programs.

Enterprise Bank

Having worked part time at banks while in high school and college, Ryan Dunn was hesitant about committing to a full-time career in banking after graduating from Bowdoin College.

“I was really disillusioned with banking,” Dunn recalls of his various part-time jobs as a youth in Westford. “There didn’t seem to be any ladders up.”

Enterprise Bank offers workers flexibility.

Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff

Enterprise Bank offers workers flexibility.

But he was ultimately urged to give Lowell’s Enterprise Bank a try, convinced bank officials were sincere when they promised he could explore his career options through a first-year program that allowed college graduates to try out different jobs.

Fifteen years later, Dunn, 37, is still at Enterprise, serving as a regional commercial lending manager after years of extensive training and mentoring programs. “It’s literally a place where they grow individuals to achieve,” said Dunn.

Jack Clancy, the bank’s chief executive, said Dunn is one of many employees who have benefited from the commitment to recruiting, training, promoting, and retaining workers at the $1.6 billion asset bank.

“We’re striving for a caring culture, a fulfilling culture,” Clancy said of the career-development programs available to his bank’s 390 employees. “You have to work on it every day.”

Enterprise also offers a number of internal and external programs designed to help workers advance to supervisory, management, and top executive positions, said Clancy. The bank’s higher-education reimbursement plan pays $5,250 a year for workers seeking a bachelor’s degree and $7,500 for a graduate degree.

The ultimate goal? To develop highly skilled and satisfied employees. “It’s the best way to succeed and stay out of trouble,” said Clancy.

Allen & Gerritsen

Andrew Graff, chief executive of Boston advertising firm Allen & Gerritsen, knows he faces a difficult balancing act of establishing a corporate culture while encouraging workers to think differently within an industry that demands creative ideas.

“We’re not trying to make everyone think the same,” said Graff of his firm’s 126 employees. “We want them to find their own strengths and work with them.”

Allen & Gerritsen spends about $500,000 annually on various development offerings.

Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

Allen & Gerritsen spends about $500,000 annually on various development offerings.

To achieve that end, Allen & Gerritsen, which last year had $150 million in billings, recently teamed up with the Ad Club of Boston to develop the “High Performance Leadership in Action” program focusing on communication strategies, creative problem solving, “emotional intelligence,” and other topics.

In 2012, about 30 members of Allen & Gerritsen’s management team took part in the program, with a kick-off event at the Seaport Hotel’s test kitchen, where company leaders learned to work more closely together by cooking — and eating — a three-course meal.

Spending about $500,000 a year on various training programs, Allen & Gerritsen offers other development opportunities to employees, from website design courses to one-on-one mentoring sessions between employees.

Some of the sessions are conducted in-house; other times employees attend programs offered by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce or courses at local universities.

“I want people to love working here and feel that being here is the best career move they could have made,” Graff said. “It all goes to the fact that we’re a creative company and not a conformist company. “

Jay Fitzgerald can be reached at jayfitzmedia@gmail.com.

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