Special thanks to 2021 ESOP Culture Committee President Chelsea Sporkia, and NWESI President Tom Prevish for their time in discussing the ESOP CC changes and goals from implementation to current standing.
We talk a lot about being an employee-owned firm, and why it makes us different from our competitors, why it makes our firm stronger, and how it continues to help us grow. Although we’ve been employee-owned for over 20 years, only the past three have seen the creation of our ESOP Culture Committee. Read on for our experiences, accomplishments, and growth areas in establishing an ESOP CC, and what we hope to pursue in the coming years.
What We’ve Accomplished
Over the past year, the culture committee has enacted new policies, had new members join, and broached even more new ideas to make our company better. These include:
- Increasing work schedule options for both remote and on-site work. This was enacted to ensure our work schedules continually meet our clients’ needs, while giving our employees the flexibility they want to feel productive and in-charge of their time and work/life balance.
- Floating holidays. NWESI previously had two pre-chosen floating holidays. They are now the employee’s choice.
- Donations: Our program was solidified to include a 3% sum to be distributed to several charities suggested by employees and voted upon by the culture committee. The policy also details our company charity match program.
The culture committee has continued to improve upon communicating important updates, ESOP education, and soliciting input. These have been accomplished via:
- Surveys: Annual surveys to poll employees on their satisfaction or ideas for improvement for company benefits, practices, sustainability, and other topics of interest.
- Third Thursday: NWESI has a once monthly half-hour company-wide meeting to communicate all-company and department updates. The ESOP has been active in using this time slot to share their progress in a more personal, direct way, rather than just giving an update through email.
Establishing our ESOP Culture Committee Mission and Value
When forming our culture committee three years ago, it was important that we have representation from each division and sector of our company. Although we are a smaller firm, we have four primary locations that all experience different work demands and pressures. Some of these differences are related to regional and client cultures, and some are related to the unique challenges faced by office workers compared to field personnel. Our actions to ensure accessibility and diverse perspectives include:
- Maintaining a small ESOP culture group <7.
- Have the committee consist of newer to mid-level employees to represent each division.
- We think it’s important for newer and mid-level professionals to have an active voice in NWESI’s growth and encourage career path thinking and investment. This also keeps our company initiatives from being held solely by managers or higher-level employees who typically have much different perspectives from those in the field.
- Encourage cross-division communication and collaboration by having at least one individual from each division/region or firm sector (admin, technical, business development) included in the group.
- Provide a space to employ active listening and collaboration skills in a low-pressure environment, with people you wouldn’t normally work with. This encourages ongoing investment in the firm as a whole, promotes team building, and leadership growth in taking charge of initiatives and changes.
ESOP CC Future Goals
Our Culture Committee has been through a few changes as it’s established the foundation for what it is, and what it wants to be in the future. Looking back at what we’ve accomplished and how we’ve set up our committee for 2022 has us excited about what’s next. In the coming years we want to:
- Attend more employee ownership conferences – and IN-PERSON!
- Meet with other employee-owned companies and develop stronger relationships with them to gain inspiration and ideas about our own ESOP and ways to make it better.
- Continue to meet with company culture and strategy professionals and gain insight and new skills for the current culture committee to practice.
2021 Company Vested Range (6+years is fully vested)