Location: Nashville
Assets: $5.8 billion
No. of employees: 775
President and CEO: Terry Turner
Pinnacle, No. 2 in the overall ranking, is No. 1 in the category for banks with $3 billion to $10 billion of assets.

Six months of meetings and phone calls finally convinced David Dooley to join Pinnacle Financial Partners in 2009.

He had to wait three months longer for his orientation. The Nashville company holds sessions for new employees on a quarterly basis, and he had just missed the last one.

It was worth the wait.

"I remember sitting there in that orientation and thinking, 'This place just keeps getting better and better and better,'" says Dooley, a senior vice president and financial adviser who works out of a Pinnacle office in Knoxville, Tenn. He was particularly impressed that the bank's president and CEO, Terry Turner, spent the whole day with new employees.

Dooley had not been looking for a job when Pinnacle came courting — he had been at his previous job for more than three decades. But he was the type of banker Pinnacle seeks to attract.

"We are trying to hire happy and successful people, which sounds a little trite, but the truth is, that is what we are trying to do," says Turner. The bank also tends to hire only people with at least 10 years of experience.

Like Dooley, those people rarely say "yes" during the first phone call. One recruit took eight years to persuade, Turner says. "It's a prolonged recruitment process."

But it's a process that has helped make Pinnacle one of the best places to work among banks of its size. Since its founding in 2000, Pinnacle has grown to 775 employees. They staff more than 30 branches around Tennessee, and enjoy benefits ranging from a bankwide bonus program to an annual anniversary party at the Ryman Auditorium, a prominent country music venue in Nashville.

After he was hired, Dooley wondered whether the anniversary event, held in late October, would serve primarily as a spotlight on the company's top executives. "I kept thinking, 'Where's the hook? They got you down here. Where's the hook?' There was never a hook," Dooley said. "It was a party. That's all it was."

Over the past year, Pinnacle has focused on shining a bigger spotlight on employees. Recently, for example, it produced and distributed videos showcasing the daily work of employees, such as the IT staff, whose contributions can be hard to measure.

The featured employees enjoy the attention, Turner says. So do other employees, who like seeing their colleagues recognized.

"Everybody wants to feel like they're making a difference," Turner says. "So we are pretty intentional about trying to find ways to make sure they can feel that and understand that we do appreciate their contributions."

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