Human Resources, Small Business & Startups, and Technology

Holland company sees excellent retention rates

It’s about a lot more than just the money.

February 26, 2016
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Worksighted
Worksighted has retained approximately 99 percent of the engineers it has hired over the past 15 years. Courtesy Worksighted

It seems like employees at Worksighted Inc. never want to leave.

The Holland-based managed service provider, which was founded in 2000 and has about 46 employees, recently reported it has maintained an approximately 99 percent retention rate for its engineers during the last 15 years. About three-quarters of the company are engineers.

Worksighted has a core group of employees who have been with the company since day one, said Mat Nguyen, co-founder and president at Worksighted.

Overall, it’s something special to have a group of employees who have been “through the good and bad times together,” he said, and who contribute to maintaining the culture that’s made Worksighted what it is.

“Our engineering staff has had three engineers leave from 2000 to 2015. The way we compute (the percentage) is by using the traditional annual retention rate and averaging it over those 15 years,” said Nguyen.

Worksighted isn’t a stranger to success. The company has been called one of West Michigan's fastest-growing IT service providers and was named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies for the past four years. It also recently made the Best and Brightest Companies to Work For national list.

But even for Worksighted, the high rate of employee retention is noteworthy, particularly in what’s generally considered a high-stress environment, Nguyen said.

The current talent shortage in the tech industry makes it even more impressive.

“Because it is a very hot industry right now, employees tend to jump ship a lot for things like training, certification and pay. In the managed service provider sector, we’re just in a space where people know they have opportunities … because of that talent shortage we’re experiencing right now,” he said.

The secret to success is the Worksighted culture of maintaining a work/life balance — not as opposite sides of a scale but as two themes that need to be integrated. Life comes first, work comes second, Nguyen said.

“It’s the little things,” said Mike Harris, Worksighted vice president and co-founder. “People come to Worksighted for the job, but they stay because they fall in love with the company.”

It starts with the hiring process. Worksighted looks for future thinkers who are into growth. Nguyen admits that while the lengthy hunting process to seek out the right employee sometimes may hurt the company, finding the right fit is still best in the long run.

Once a new employee is added, they quickly become part of the team. Throughout the year, a lot of things happen automatically but especially important is the sense of initiative and ownership in the company. It’s something that just comes naturally, Nguyen said.

When employees realize the amount of support they receive for their personal lives and how they are treated like family members, it makes them want to stay, he said.

“We’ve got a very team-based approach. Put your team first ahead of individual success. If there is an emergency at home, or my boy has a soccer game tonight, (I can ask), ‘Can I bail at 3 p.m.?’ and other people pick up the slack,” he said.

“Obviously, we’ve got to look at metrics and numbers, but we’re not time-sheet Nazis. As long as the work gets done and we take care of our customers, we give a lot of flexibility.”

Worksighted rewards its employees for what they do for the company, but it also likes to make random surprise gestures, as well — like the time it handed out $100 gift cards to Best Buy, for example.

“We had an all-staff meeting and passed out $100 gift cards to every single employee. There was a bus upstairs to Best Buy, and we spent an hour there, and the only rule was they had to get something for themselves,” said Nguyen. “It’s those little random things we do throughout the year. They’re not that structured, but they’re unique.”

Another key to employee retention is the Worksighted space. Just looking at its spacious design, Nguyen said, “you’d never think we were an IT company; you’d think we were a design firm.” Worksighted “bought into the Herman Miller living office” and designed its workspace with collaboration spaces, brainstorming rooms, white-boarding rooms and gaming areas.

Paid maternity and paternity leave also are important factors that attract and retain employees, Nguyen said. The Family and Medical Leave Act provides certain employees with 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave. Worksighted pays for eight of those weeks for maternity leave, and from two to three weeks of paternity leave. This benefit applies even to employees who have only been with the company for 24 hours, Nguyen said.

“I was a father three times, and obviously, as the owner of the business, I allowed myself some flexibility, and when I came back, I said, ‘Holy cow! I don’t know how I would’ve done this (without the time off),’” he said.

“And we’ve got a young workforce — people are starting to have kids — and having done it myself, I can appreciate what it means. So that’s something we do.”

Nguyen said he believes the most important thing that makes Worksighted employees want to stay is that it’s a place where there’s constant investment in the employee. Worksighted continually offers training and spends a lot of time getting its workers certified for special skills and keeping those certifications up to date.

Does money matter? Yes, Nguyen said, but retention is more than that. At the end of the day, it’s about treating your employees with as much respect and care as you do the product they help create.

“I will tell you right now, and people might disagree: I don’t think the money is that important. We obviously pay our employees well and our benefits package is higher than the regular benchmark, but I will tell you that, talking to some of my peers, we spend more than the average in training,” he said.

“Obviously, money is important, but they care about a lot more than that. They want to be in an environment where they can be impactful, where they can be treated with respect, where their voice matters, where there’s opportunity to grow and where it’s fun.

“All those things are responsible for 90 percent of the attraction, more so than what we pay these guys.”

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