In 1982, recent college graduate Doug Ross set out to mak his first sales calls for the staffing company that had hired him. Ross had no idea the country was in one of the worst economic slides since the Great Depression. But ignorance was bliss. Ross worked hard and did well, bad economy and all.
So when things went south in 2008, Ross remembered his first year in the business and took a deep breath.
He then set a goal for Synergis, the information technology staffing and workforce management solutions company he founded with his wife, Cindy Ross, “not to lose anybody,” he recalls.
Not only did the company not lay off any of its 20 full-time staff, it didn’t cut compensation or benefits either. “People see that we have a strong commitment to them,” says Ross, president and co-founder of Synergis.
Synergis employees have rewarded its management for its efforts by voting it Atlanta’s No. 1 Best Place To Work for 2010 in the small employer category.
When the Rosses founded their company in 1997, they decided to avoid mistakes made by their former employers.
“We’re essentially in the people business but the larger companies tend to be interested in market share and the bottom line,” Ross says. “They made little investment in the people. We thought that was ironic and the wrong path.”
Ross is not the first to lead by the motto that taking care of one’s employees means employees take care of the customers and the bottom line takes care of itself, but according to Synergis employee feedback, Ross isn’t merely spewing talking points.
Ross contends that creating a best place to work isn’t all that difficult. You give employees tools to do their jobs and eliminate obstacles, he explains. Then you give them the freedom and flexibility to get their jobs done within the clearly defined core principles and framework of the company.
“I do not know of any other company that gives back as much to their employees as this company,” said a longtime employee in a survey conducted as part of the Best Places To Work program. The employee remembers receiving a gift basket from management his first day on the job, and over the years has been provided, he says, with “any tool necessary to be productive.”
It’s not all about being provided with the latest and greatest technology and ergonomic chairs. Employees are thankful for the occasional Atlanta Braves and Falcons tickets, concert tickets, movie passes, gift certificates, and, in the case of an employee celebrating his 10th year with the company, a watch he describes as “over the top.”
While recognition is nice, Ross also wants Synergis’ employees to be proud of the organization they represent and to feel “that they’re making a contribution,” he says. To that end, he’s designated 10 percent of the company’s earnings be earmarked for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, TechBridge and the American Cancer Society.
The company recently launched a sabbatical program for longtime employees. Every five years logged at Synergis earns employees an extra month off.
“It’s a tough business,” Ross says. “It can be stressful.”
While he’s offering Synergis’ veteran employees a unique opportunity to recharge, he’s also encouraging long-term retention.
His efforts are working. “I absolutely love my job,” said a Synergis employee in the Best Places To Work survey. “I brag to my friends about how great a job it is.”
Going forward, it looks like there will be several more Synergis employees sporting “over the top” watches.