Blog Barista: John Leigh | Oct 1, 2018 | Culture | Brew time: 7 min

The journey to an engaged employee begins before they even become an employee. Like other companies, we create and post a job description that lists out a position’s responsibilities as well as the skill set required for performing the essential job functions. Each candidate that makes it past the initial resume screen completes a telephone interview which verifies employment history and technical competency. All standard practices.

Then, we get creative. Candidates that pass the phone interview move forward to an in-person interview, where we ask them to perform an exercise based on the position they are interviewing for (technical, project management, etc.). They present their solution to the interview team which consists of the hiring director and a peer group. Solutions are reviewed by the interview team and discussed with the candidate. The purpose of this exercise is to see the candidate’s thought process, how they react to feedback, and how well they work with a team to develop a joint solution to the problem. In simpler words, we are looking at how they engage with management and the peer group.

The bottom line is KL&A wants employees who are engaged. We want them to be engaged in their careers, engaged with their clients, their peers and their families. “Sounds nice,” you say, “but what do you mean by engaged?” It is hard to give a specific definition about what we mean specifically by the word “engaged.” So, it is easier to give you examples of how our current engaged team performs.

Engaged in Their Careers

The journey continues as employees partner with KL&A to seek opportunities for professional development. For example, we have 19 Certified Project Management Professionals (PMPs) and 29 Certified Scrum Masters/Product Owners who have completed external trainings to receive certifications that further enhanced their knowledge and skills. In addition, we currently have several employees working toward various Microsoft certifications which will in turn help KL&A become a Gold Partner.

More importantly, there are those employees with clearly defined career goals. These individuals ask for assignments that challenge their skills, seek mentors with experience and expertise in their areas of interest, and attend conferences that help them network with others and improve their knowledge.

Finally, we have those employees who are working toward various scholastic achievements. Whether it is to complete an undergraduate degree or an advanced degree, these individuals are working hard to further their career. This is especially exemplary because these efforts occur largely outside of work. Employees that place an emphasis on improvement and continuous learning not only enhances their skills but also KL&A’s ability to market them on client engagements.

Engaged in Company Success

All of our employees are expected to perform professionally, at a high-level. However, we have many professionals who exceed this high bar by completing work above their normal assignments. We have employees who offer to help with our proposal efforts which range from helping to write original content, developing the work plan, creating prototype designs to editing and reviewing the final output. These added efforts expand the capabilities of our marketing team and enhance the quality of our proposals.

We also have employees who participate on national committees that help establish the industry standards including: Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI) subworkgroups, HL7 standard boards, American Immunization Registry Association (AIRA) work groups, and many others. These efforts expose KL&A to new partners in the national arena. In addition, we have members of our staff who participate and present at national conferences. These efforts are often in concert with our clients which enhances our clients’ reputations as well as KL&A’s.

Finally, we have employees who are willing to go over and above to ensure that projects are completed professionally and to the satisfaction of our clients. There are instances where we have asked staff members to help get problem projects back on track. This sometimes involved working in addition to their current assignment. Involvement has ranged from assuming leadership on the project to mentoring staff behind the scenes. For these people, we are truly grateful.

Engaged with Our Clients

Most of our employees have direct interactions with our clients. This occurs from the initial design sessions when we work side by side to define and refine requirements through user acceptance testing to eliminate errors before migrating to production. We also support production operations which may entail dealing with interfacing systems and year-end processing. During these activities, we become partners with our clients and, in many cases, friends. We invite them to our celebrations; we get invited to their parties. Employees who have these interactions often become our leaders in developing ongoing client relations. We have clients who we have served for over 25 years, and we have staff members who have participated in these successful relationships for the same period.

Engaged in Our Community

KL&A strongly believes that our employees should be committed to giving back to the community that we share. As a result, the company has donated to over 30 charities during its history. Most of these charities are local and have been identified by our staff. While we have a process of staff donations for the ability to wear jeans on Friday’s, which has raised over $3,500 for these charities, we have some employees who contribute both money and time. For instance, we have our JDRF walkers and our staff members who have swam over 10k to raise funds for a summer camp for children with special needs.

Again, these efforts often require time spent after work. But we believe that it improves us as individuals and contributes to our growth.

Engaged with Their Peers

I started this post speaking about our interview process in which we evaluate how the new staff member will interact with his or her peers. This process will continue throughout their employment via code reviews, project standups and peer reviews. The company also offers many opportunities for our staff to interact in an informal setting. Examples include:

  • “Knowledge Share” workshops–where the staff picks a topic and a presenter leads a working session for the staff attendees.
  • Internal interest groups–includes book clubs, bible study, workout classes in which employees with like interests come together to interact with each other.
  • External fun groups–includes kickball teams, basketball teams, and running clubs in which employees participate in outside activities involving other organizations. These are funded by KL&A but are voluntary to the staff.
  • KL&A events–KL&A-sponsored events in which the employees can bring family members. These events include Lugnut baseball games, summer picnics, and the annual Christmas party.

These events are all optional; however, we have found that employees who participate in these events have better working relationships with their peers.

Engaged Employees Impact

I do believe that having an engaged staff is the single, largest reason for our success. What are some of the metrics demonstrating the benefits?

  • Outstanding growth–Went from 33 employees to 107 employees in the last five years. Revenues grew from $7.98 million to $16.3 million.
  • Low employee-turnover–Average quarterly turnover rate over the last three and a half years is 1.6% versus 13.3% for the industry. We still have employee number 1.
  • High client retention–We have a 98% repeat business rate with our clients. Several clients have been repeating partners for most of the company’s history.

The journey to having engaged employees is never complete. It requires an ongoing commitment from both the employee and the company. The other KL&A partners and I want to thank all of our staff who continue to be engaged. We are truly blessed!

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