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From giant freshwater fish that seem fit for science fiction to a cloud structure you can climb, the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum offers programs and exhibits that work to educate and engage visitors of all ages. Along with the community as a whole, the museum works to have a positive impact on its employees.

This year, The Discovery was named one of the five Best Places to Work in Northern Nevada. According to the Northern Nevada Human Resources Association, which hosts the Best Places to Work awards, the winners are determined by outside analysis of confidential employee questionnaires from companies throughout the region.

Shattering the stereotypes

“The ability to benchmark ourselves with other companies in Northern Nevada has helped us learn how to become an even better workplace. I also believe that this helped shatter a stereotype that haunts so many great nonprofits in our community,” said Mat Sinclair, the museum’s executive director. “It’s often assumed that we pay poorly and work people too hard. This award dispels these rumors and celebrates that a well-run nonprofit is just as competitive and successful as a for-profit entity.”

He added that creating an award-winning work environment is an intentional process. As part of that process, Sinclair said The Discovery relies on factors that range from quality training, employee recognition and healthy compensation to daily inspiration, experimentation and flexibility.

“One of the things we value most at The Discovery is our flexibility — we’re not just talking about work schedules,” said Sinclair. “We have a very dynamic and flexible workforce, which means people can ‘work out of class’ and contribute to the museum in roles and functions that may not be entirely within the purview of their job description.”

Training for work that matters

As for the museum’s employee training program, called The Discovery Academy, Sinclair said these in-house education and development classes are voluntary and are offered on paid time, with a focus on subjects that span the spectrum from leadership and team building to customer service.

On top of the opportunity to get paid to develop their skill sets, employees at The Discovery also have the power to award one another for individual achievements through a program called Happy Hours.

“No, we don’t drink on the job — this is a program where employees can give each other an hour of paid time off when they witness them doing something extraordinary,” said Sinclair. “We work hard to recognize and celebrate our collective success.”

In addition to its emphasis on treating employees well and providing plenty of incentives to succeed, Sinclair said the actual work being done at The Discovery plays a big role in making this museum one of Northern Nevada’s Best Places to Work.

“We often talk about being in the ‘ah-ha’ business, or creating that moment when a visitor, regardless of age, suddenly understands a new concept or idea,” said Sinclair. “We truly get to inspire people every day, and there aren’t too many jobs or careers where you get to say that about your work.”

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