“Corporate culture” is one of those buzz-phrases that is bandied about as businesses attempt to keep employees happy while still turning a profit.
But how does one cultivate a workplace that attracts and retains talent? Is it free gourmet cafeterias like Google? Maybe the much-lauded beer bashes Apple throws for its employees? What about bean bag chairs or standing desks?
According to Tom Keogh, founder and CEO of Corps Solutions in Stafford, the answer is simple and doesn’t require gimmicks: treat your employees well.
Keogh’s company was named one of Inc. Magazine’s top 50 Best Workplaces for 2017, the publication’s second-annual ranking of the best private companies in the United States to work for.
The company was one of 50 profiled in Inc.’s June issue. An expanded list online names the 200 best workplaces in America, which includes Fredericksburg government contractors RPI Group and IST Research.
All three have certain things in common: comprehensive benefits, flexible work schedules and support for staff through training and incentives.
Corps Solutions has provided training and education services to the Department of Defense—primarily the Marine Corps—and United States National Security clients since 2009.
The magazine profile reads: “Our CEO sets a goal to engage with every individual ... We have faith in our recruiting practices and trust our employees, which allow everyone to work under ‘big-kid rules.’ We give our employees space to work within their own means so long as the mission is completed.”
The profile also notes the company’s incentive programs and Keogh’s handwritten notes of gratitude to employees.
With more than 180 employees at locations across the U.S. and Japan and 2016 revenue in the $20 million to $50 million range, the company is by no means small. But Keogh takes the time to get to know each employee and find a way to support their needs.
He has a personal goal of keeping his company’s family feel through never growing it past the point where he can write handwritten notes to everyone on special occasions.
Inc.’s Best Workplaces celebrates companies that strive to build vibrant and engaging cultures. More than 1,600 companies applied this year. Along with Quantum Workplace, an employee-feedback software company, Inc. assessed applicants by sending out confidential employee surveys.
The findings show that best workplaces have a few key traits in common. All the top companies had a set of baseline employee benefits. Health insurance, dental insurance and retirement plans are a given. Employers are also innovating with benefits like longer maternity leave, paternity leave, innovative health and wellness initiatives and flexible scheduling.
In fact, 86 percent of the top companies offered flexible work arrangements. 48 percent offered tuition reimbursement and many worked together on volunteer projects and reported having ethical employee code books.
IST Research, based in Fredericksburg, offers software and support for organizations dealing with Ebola outbreaks, insurgency activities and human trafficking operations.
Along with employees feeling like they do important work, they are allowed to live and work where they choose.
And Fredericksburg’s RPI Group offers national security, cybersecurity and training services to the Defense Department and other government clients. The company prides itself on its family culture. A personal approach to employees, wide-ranging benefits and a focus on training elevated RPI to the top 200.
Bowen Richwine, director for business management at Corps Solutions, became one of the company’s first employees after he retired from the Marine Corps.
He said back then it was hard to think of himself as a businessman, but the company provided the proper training and made sure he was in the right job for his talents.
This year, on Feb. 12—his birthday—he received a note from Keogh that read, “Thanks. I couldn’t do this without you.”
“There’s a lot of autonomy,” he said. “You work the hours you want to work and if you need to take a day, you take it.”
He said that trust goes a long way to making employees content in their work. The company hires primarily retired and former military personnel, so he said they are already mission-driven and believe in the work Corps Solutions does.
“We feel valued and supported because we are trusted absolutely to get the work done,” he said.
He credits Keogh’s leadership style with the company’s success. He said engaging employees through bi-annual meetings to ask what else the company can do to support workers goes a long way.
“Tom’s the kind of person who would rather do the right thing than the wrong thing and make a buck,” he said.
He said there are small programs that also make a difference, like having the office volunteer together and taking recommendations from employees about which charitable organizations the business should support.
Keogh noticed there was a need for education and training support when was an active-duty Marine. He set up company immediately after retiring from the Marine Corps in 2009.
“Our strategy is to hire good people and take care of them,” he said. “Then, they’ll take care of military folks they train and their example creates the company’s good reputation. That results in new contracts and renewed contracts.”
He said he tries to lead by example, showing that he also prioritizes a work-life balance.
He said by prioritizing employee satisfaction and treating the client— in his case the military— well by providing a good value, profit follows.
“This is the best accolade we’ve received in the eight years Corps Solutions has been in business,” he said. “It is what employees feel about this company, and that’s what is most important.”
Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976