The suggestion box isn't a prop for energy firm's employees.
When Audrey Thompson interviews job candidates at IGS Energy, she often struggles to communicate all the positives of working for the energy industry service provider.
The company's dedication to its core values—innovation, continuous improvement, exceptional customer experiences, camaraderie and integrity—really affect employees' day-to-day experiences, says Thompson, who serves as a branch coordinator for the company's home energy consultants.
“IGS has a very unique culture,” she says. “We are very, very passionate about our employees. That's one of the biggest things I use to recruit people.”
IGS Energy's commitment to its employees, as well as the community at large, helped the company earn the top spot on Columbus CEO's Top Workplaces list for large companies. Founded in 1989 by Marv White and his son, Scott, who now serves as president and CEO, the company has maintained a focus on taking care of its 700 employees and
1 million customers.
The company is all about innovation and getting better, Thompson says. Employees are encouraged to share ideas and thoughts with their team, supervisor or even top leaders, she says. The company even has an email address set up to accept them.
And IGS routinely acts on its employees' ideas, she adds. The iPad app that her team uses on a daily basis was made vastly more efficient a few years ago at the suggestion of a summer intern. “It's the bread and butter of our sales process,” Thompson says. “(The changes) made it a lot easier to use.”
The company's willingness to allow employees to try new things—and even make mistakes—is another example of its commitment to its core values, adds Jason Richards, an operations manager for the IGS Home Services branch.
It's exemplified in the amount of responsibility supervisors entrust to their employees, he says. “Being a part of this organization is really different than a lot of organizations. The leaders here do a great job of trusting the people that they work with, as well as support them.”
When the work environment is structured like that, employees can operate with confidence, which leads to all kinds of ideas and innovations, Richards says. “I feel like at this company we're not carrying around the extra baggage of insecurities or fear. If you make a mistake, you're rarely penalized,” he says. “You're coached, supported and given another chance.”
Richards says he experienced that supportive attitude first-hand when he invested in a marketing idea that flopped. While the project was reviewed and discussed, he never felt his job was in danger. The process made him a savvier marketer, a better boss and a loyal employee.
“When you feel completely supported by the person who leads your team, you're able to give the same support to the people you lead,” he says. “It's a waterfall effect.”
Thompson agrees. “We don't micromanage,” she says. “The goal is to empower employees. Give them the tools to do the job. If you make a mistake, that's OK.”
IGS offers a wide array of classes to help associates become better managers, improve their knowledge about the energy industry or enhance their technical skills, says Hannah Cappuzzello, the company's senior benefits specialist. In addition to ample opportunities for learning, the company also keeps associates informed about its goals and plans through regular meetings, an annual report and Workplace, an online portal similar to Facebook.
Keeping employees in the loop also helps build their trust and confidence, Thompson adds.
At IGS, the relationship between employee and supervisor is not the only important one, associates say. The company also tries to build camaraderie among employees and create connections with the community. Employees are encouraged to recognize one another's positive contributions by nominating them for monthly awards. The company's Spirit Team regularly organizes events like Halloween costume contests, Take Your Child to Work Day and other teambuilding opportunities. Team members also have numerous opportunities to bond while getting fit in the on-site gym or participating in community service.
All of these opportunities help create a welcoming culture that's readily apparent, says Cappuzzello. “It's amazing as soon as you walk in the door, you automatically feel it,” she says. And an upbeat workplace is good for employees and the company, she adds.
“If people are happy at work, they're going to be more productive. If employees felt like the culture was lacking, I don't think they would be as productive.”
In March, Thompson participated in the company's Impact Day, where employees are encouraged to spend their work day volunteering at charities they're passionate about.
“You know that you're working for people who will keep their promises,” she said. “It also makes people feel like they have a bigger purpose in coming to work—not just clocking in and clocking out every day.”
On Impact Day, Richards worked alongside CEO and President Scott White readying Flying Horse Farms for spring visitors. The chance to pitch in at the Mount Gilead camp for seriously ill children was awesome, Richards says.
“It was just really cool to do that and to be a part of an organization that supports that,” he says. “You are what you do—not what you say you do. Our executive team, they live it. It's not just lip service. It's actual service.”
Melissa Kossler Dutton is a freelance writer.