It had not yet been 24 hours since the acquisition of Forgentum, Inc. and Jeff Handy of Fulcrum, spent his morning with us discussing his passion for employee engagement. What we found to be most impactful was Jeff’s emphasis on the importance of having an employee engagement plan, just like one would create a communication, budget, or strategic plan. Learn how he has successfully implemented such a plan and his number one best piece of advice. Read below for the full interview!
Helios HR: Congratulations on your recent acquisition of Forgentum, Inc! How is the transition going?
Jeff Handy: It’s going very well so far. It was an acquisition of 50 employees and added about 70 billable positions in the healthcare industry for us. Forgentum had similar values, employee communication methodologies, types of events for the employees and benefits, so overall we feel very good about it being the right fit.
Helios: That’s wonderful to hear! With that being said, Jeff, what part about your job makes you most excited?
Jeff: For me, it is employee engagement because it is the center of everything the company does. A lot of companies spend time on communication plans, budget plans and strategic plans, but very few put together an employee engagement plan. We take the time to think about how we’re going to go about employee engagement.
It includes things like reviewing our new hire orientation program, (which actually they were featured in a local newspaper for having one of the best). We bring every new employee to the corporate headquarters to spend time with both the leadership and the individual teams that will support them. We have multiple, multiple layers of engagement. We have leadership retreats, when once a year we bring 12-15% of our employee population in to talk about what’s keeping them up awake at night, what challenges are our clients facing and what their view is of the corporation such as what we are doing well and how we can improve. We have mentorship programs, site visits, newsletters, quarterly all hands, one on ones, as well as other ways of interacting with the employees. I think that’s really the core of who we are.
Helios: Wow, that’s great! It sounds like you have a remarkable culture there. Can you tell us a little more about that and how you keep everyone engaged with your vision?
Jeff: In terms of culture, we have layered engagement. We really believe engagement versus communication. Engagement creates experiences and that’s what we are trying to do. This isn’t just a job or workplace; it is a part of these individual’s purpose. Therefore we must be purposeful in how we are meeting their expectations and not just providing a menu or an opportunity at a particular point in their career.
We want to give our employees an experience where they will remember and enjoy their time with us. Their career is important to both them and their families, so we are careful to integrate not just them, but also their families into our culture. Many of our events include families; whether it be a spouse or significant other, or including their entire family. We have events throughout the year specifically for each facet and aspect of the employee experience. The heart and soul of our culture is to try to create an experience for them.
Obviously our employees are here for a specific career, skill, or contribution and they are trying to advance themselves. Everyone is doing that at every company. At Fulcrum, we are trying to take it to the next level where it’s not just about that part of your time you spend at work, but what is that purpose at work and how do we improve their ability to achieve it.
Helios: It sounds like you have it all figured out. Do you have a top challenge today? And if so, how do you address it?
Jeff: The number one challenge that we are having is the market impact. It is particularly difficult for our staff. We are seeing compensation adjustments and short term contracts, which creates change in terms of having to change projects, programs and work on new things. So the market impact is hitting pretty hard.
Our ability to address it first and foremost, is to keep them informed. We provide high level information such as providing market assessments as part as our quarterly all hands. I’ll share as much as we know at both the micro and macro level of what’s going on in the market and how it might impact them. We also share what we are doing in terms of our corporate strategy to address the market shift and minimize the impact on each of us.
Lastly, when you’re going through a tough shift in the market, it’s important to determine very quickly where you want to invest. Our strategy was not where do we cut, but where do we want to invest. A couple of years ago when we saw a shift in the marketplace coming, we started looking at our workforce for different types of skills and training and investing in them so that we could be prepared for what the market was going to bring. One of the great things at Fulcrum is that in my tenure there, we’ve never turned down a single training request. We are pretty smart about how we invest, but we are also cognizant on the importance of doing it especially during difficult times. Whenever we are faced with a challenge, our approach is to inform, have a strategy and then invest in it to try to solve it.
Helios: That’s a wise approach as I’m sure many government contractors face similar challenges. So tell us, what is the best piece of advice anyone’s ever told you?
Jeff: The best piece of advice I have ever heard is: when someone presents an observation to you or a perspective that’s in conflict with your position, try to embrace the idea versus the natural urge to defend your perspective. Specifically try to listen and put your emotion aside to look at their perspective. Try to experience what they are talking about. That’s much harder than transmitting or giving advice because it requires you to listen and understand. The short version is when you’re in disagreement with someone, stop and listen for why not what you think.