Top of the Hill

A culture of respect and appreciation reaps rewards beyond measure

Staffing Industry Analysts’ lists — such as the Largest US staffing firms, Largest Global Staffing Firms or the Fastest-Growing US Staffing Firms — are all lists to which many staffing companies aspire. Indeed, Boston-based Beacon Hill Staffing Group is on all three of those lists. But the one that means the most to CEO Andrew Wang is the Best Staffing Firms to Work For because it validates Beacon Hill’s philosophy: creating an environment to enable the employees’ success.

Having worked for companies that were all about building the machine — growth, profits, margins — Wang wanted to foster an environment in which people could thrive and subsequently reap the same results. And while “people first” might seem trite because it’s an oft-cited mantra, his employees’ happiness is the underlying reason for every decision leadership has made since day one.

It’s about creating opportunities for and investing in those in the organization, he says, because “once we are lucky enough to have someone who is good enough to be on our team, how do we create an environment for them to succeed, to achieve what they want — so they will want to stay?”

Land of Opportunity

So, Beacon Hill strives to give employees opportunities, and then once they deliver, asks where they want to go next. “It’s not an entitlement. It’s earned,” explains Andre Campagna, a senior managing consultant for BH Legal. This makes it a draw for the self-driven and entrepreneurial. Once you have taken that first opportunity and have proven yourself, there are no limits. Campagna has stayed for 17 years because of that culture. Initially joining as a recruiter placing legal support, when he wanted to transition to focus on attorney and executive search, that was available to him.

And that is an aspect of the company that drew Maricela Ostrand, division director of BH Pharma, Beacon Hill Staffing Group’s pharmaceutical business. Previously an individual contributor in a sales capacity at another staffing firm, she came to Beacon Hill three and a half years ago when the company was looking to build a pharmaceutical group. She saw the opportunity to build something new, to shape a new division from the ground up, and took it.

Beacon Hill’s leadership philosophy also is about embracing differences. For example, part of giving the opportunities is getting out of the way — not defining how the job gets done. There’s no cookie-cutter approach, Ostrand says. Leadership recognizes that what may work for one person — be it in sales or recruiting — may not work for the next, so rather than mandating a set of procedures, management welcomes diversity in general work routines as well as problem-solving. Betsy Walton, division director with BH Legal, concurs, explaining that the company encourages employees to work as though “we are running our own business, to develop our own business strategies, to be unique within our markets.” That culture of trust in employees’ differing methods is unusual, Walton and Ostrand say.

Environment to Succeed

In addition, BH leadership strives to maintain and foster that cultural significance in everything they do.

Initiatives such as location-based team events have helped build a level of trust across the board, not just between management and employees. Each quarter, all employees in each geographic area gather for a fun activity. These mandated events can be anything from attending a sport event to artistic workshops like ceramics or painting. But they must take place, Wang explains. And the benefits are telling. While, of course, they tend to be on the fun side, they are a networking opportunity the employees may not otherwise get. Focused on specific business lines, staff may not interact on a daily basis. The events bridge that gap, providing that personal connection necessary to build trust, so when a client has a need outside one group’s focus, they know their colleagues in the other business lines will deliver exceptional service to that client as well.

That type of initiative also contributes to the company’s ability to maintain a smaller feel despite its growth. Campagna says the company doesn’t really feel any bigger than when he started, and chuckled at “mega” size designation used for the Best Staffing Firms to Work For contest.

Also contributing to the smaller company feel is accessibility to leadership. The fact is, if any employee has hit a wall, they know they can send a text to Wang and be on the phone with him within a day.

With 650 employees, such a thing can’t be an everyday occurrence, but knowing the option is there underscores the company’s efforts in developing and maintaining the culture. Shannon Weaver, a senior regional director for BH Technologies, explains that accessibility could be for something as simple as helping with recruiting. If she really needed help sealing the deal with a candidate, she could get Wang or another executive on the phone with that candidate, she says. Or someone can bounce ideas off him in trying to win a client.

Keeping that avenue of access open is something Wang is happy to do, because it gets back to his core motivation: helping those he’s lucky enough to have achieve success.

Two-Way Street

The company also hasn’t abandoned the belief that it is lucky to have great people, and works to acknowledge that.

One way is by rewarding individual performance. There’s the President’s Club, which entails a trip to Palm Beach, Fla., for top sales and recruiting staff; there’s also the Top of the Hill. For this event, both President’s Club members as well as other top performers are treated to a $1,000 shopping spree.

But the talk of the water cooler is the annual holiday party. In December, all employees plus a guest are brought to Boston for a three-day affair. While there are department meetings that occur during this time, with the holiday party and awards banquet, the entire event is much-anticipated; employees talk about it for months in advance.

And then there’s the specific acknowledgment of longevity. For each significant milestone anniversary, employees receive money — but they must use it toward a trip. With 17 years under his belt, Campagna has taken a couple of such trips. For his 10-year anniversary, he, his husband and a few family members spent the Christmas holiday in Saint Martin. This is the company’s way of acknowledging that the years of his life he’s chosen to give to the company are valued.

All that appreciation is reciprocated. Wang likens the employment relationship to a marriage. There is “give and get.” If the company gets more out of the arrangement than the employee, it’s not a good fit. Likewise if the employee gets more. But when it’s a good fit, when both parties gain, the sky is the limit.