WHEN YOU TAKE CARE of your people, they will take care of your customers. By creating a great workplace culture around a core ideology that everyone buys into, people feel like they’re part of something and that their work is meaningful. For Exigent, the byproducts of that culture are happy employees, an extremely low turnover rate, and more satisfied customers, which all translates to the bottom line.
Our journey began in 2008, when we recognized we had some unhealthy employee-employer relationships and an employment model that was unsustainable. Our solution to holding onto skilled staff had been to keep throwing more money at them; they weren’t with us for the right reasons.
We decided to remake our culture, which involved tough choices and letting some people go. Everyone who made the cut worked together to draw up our core values. Our goal was to create a company that people wanted to work at, and would have to think long and hard about leaving if another offer came along. And while we offer competitive salaries, we didn’t want money to be the first and only motivation.
Led by our Senior Vice President of Operations Gerald Busardo, we first committed to a “culture first” hiring process. Rather than a particular skill set or certification, the soft skills and persona—attitude, belief system, and values—had to come first. We utilized the DISC (dominance, influence, steadiness, conscientiousness) personal assessment tool from Personality Profile Solutions as part of our interview process.
We also created career paths, and provided a benefits package that’s competitive with the IBMs and Microsofts of the world, including a work-at-home option. We think it lends itself to people feeling like, “I could go work for a Cisco or a Microsoft, but I don’t have to. I have all those benefits here.”
A Force Multiplier
A great culture also requires nurturing. We use the Officevibe employee engagement platform to continually take the pulse of the culture, morale, and attitude of our employees. On a frequent basis we ask questions such as: Do you feel that your work is meaningful? Do you feel that you are recognized for your accomplishments? These are metrics that tell us how employees feel about where they work, and if something dips, like work-life balance, we address it.
We also have a morale committee that plans monthly fun events outside of work, like laser tag and rock climbing. If one of our nonprofit clients has a fundraising event we’ll participate in that too. These activities foster an environment that’s very familial and leads to great relationships.
In addition, we have a goodwill committee that reflects our No. 1 (and my favorite) core value of charity and goodwill. Our employees have told us that when we do good as a company it makes them feel good. So at least once a month we do something in the community. We tell our employees that if it matters to them, it matters to us. If an employee is passionate about a particular cause, such as homelessness, we latch on to that. We want this company to be a force multiplier for good.
Photography: Greg Leshé