The perennial Top Workplaces honoree hires employees who match its unique culture.

The associates staffing the front desk have an important role to play at IGS Energy. Dubbed the “Owners of First Impressions,” the women work to make sure visitors to the Dublin natural gas and electric supplier feel welcomed.

When a job candidate is expected at the company, front desk personnel greet him or her by name, says Shannon Schilling, director of human resources. They will offer the visitors a drink and try to engage them in small talk. They do whatever they can to provide the candidate with a great first impression, Schilling says.

But the exchange goes both ways. Schilling and her team routinely seek out the opinions of the “Owners of First Impressions” as management considers which candidates to hire.Supervisors would think twice about hiring a person who did not respond to the greeters' conversation attempts or left an empty cup or other trash in the waiting room. “Someone who did not treat the person at our front desk well, we might say ‘let's spend more time with the candidate,' ” in order to determine if the person is a good fit for the IGS culture. At least one candidate was passed over, in part, because of the way the person treated the front desk associates, she says.

Creating and maintaining a work culture that is positive, engaging and focused on giving back to the community is a big priority at the company, which repeats as the large-employer winner in Columbus CEO's Top Workplaces survey this year. The company offers an excellent benefits package, has an onsite fitness center and shuts down for a day of service every year. The company routinely supports the American Heart Association, Junior Achievement of Central Ohio, Mid-Ohio Foodbank and other charities.

In order to achieve top-notch culture, a would-be associate's ability to embrace the company's values is a prime consideration during the hiring process, Schilling says. “Many times if we have a less experienced candidate and a more experienced candidate, culture fit wins,” she says. “Our culture is something that is sacred to us. That person who we decide will become a part of IGS will become a part of our family.”

The attention to culture comes from the top. By focusing on “purpose over profits, we have created a unique culture,” says Scott White, president and CEO of IGS Energy. “Our employees often tell me how much they value working for IGS, and how they appreciate all it has to offer them personally and professionally. It's been my goal all along to grow the company, yet maintain our family-owned culture, and it makes me very proud that we have accomplished this goal.”

The interview process includes many questions designed to gauge a candidate's personality and determine if IGS's core values of integrity, continuous improvement, exceptional customer experiences, camaraderie and innovation speak to them, Schilling says.Some of her favorites include: What was the most embarrassing moment in your career? What was your biggest failure? What kinds of people annoy you the most and how do you deal with them?

The result is a company that functions like a family, she says. If a colleague is enduring a hardship like an illness or a death in the family, the whole building rallies. “People naturally respond the way a family would,” she says. “Flowers are sent. Meals are organized. Gift cards are purchased. Whatever we can do to make their lives easier.”

The other way that IGS acts as a family is its focus on activities, adds Kerri Ward, director of corporate brand and communications. “Our culture wouldn't be right if we didn't know how to have fun, so our employee-driven Spirit Team inspires the IGS value of camaraderie through a variety of events,” she says.

The Spirit team organizes activities like Halloween costume contests, Take Your Child to Work day, a talent show and others to help build the culture, Schilling says. Individual departments also participate in team-building events during the year and IGS even offers free popcorn every day after 2 p.m.

“We have fun together as a family,” Schilling says. “Our Spirit Team keeps our spirit alive with a full calendar of events.”

Melissa Kossler Dutton is a freelance writer.

Q&A:

The Social Queen Bee: Teresa Ralston, Manager, Corporate Sponsorships and Events

Tell us about the most recent social event you organized at work?

Our annual Sales Forum is an event for 500-plus employees that offers our sales associates the opportunity to learn, motivate, grow and celebrate their success with each other. It's my favorite event because over the past four years, this particular event has been indicative of the growth of IGS. We bring our sales teams together to help build camaraderie and offer sales training. This is a fun event, as we always plan a few surprise elements into each day like scavenger hunts that require people to break dance. There's also always an evening celebration that has been known to include our very own CEO, Scott White, in a drum battle on stage.

Do your bosses give you a lot of encouragement to plan fun events for the company?

At IGS, our events are incredible because our leadership cares enough to show our employees how special they are. I have a tremendous amount of support from my boss and many of my coworkers who offer to participate in the planning and executing of each event in order to make each experience special.

Why are work-related social events important?

Social events are a great way to support company culture because when people come together for something different than the day-to-day routine, it can have such a positive impact on relationships.

I am quick to tell everyone that I have the best job at IGS. When it comes down to it, my job is all about creating experiences and building relationships.

If you had an unlimited budget, what event would you organize for your workplace?

I would organize an event that would celebrate our executive leadership at IGS. It would have to be a surprise party because they are such amazingly humble people and would not like the spotlight—but they all deserve it. Our employees are grateful to them for so many things. I'd love to plan an event where we could recognize and thank them for all they've done for us. And who knows we might even bring in surprise sky divers ... oh, wait we did that already during our 2016 summer employee event.