Category Archives: Eric Overton

Benefits of being a ‘Best Company to Work For’

Eric Overton, President and CEO of Sparling Electrical Engineers, the largest specialty electrical engineering firm in the country headquartered in Seattle. I asked Eric what does Sparling do to be selected and recognized as being a ‘Best Company to Work For’, and what benefits does his organization realize from this effort? Read on for Eric’s response.
Sparling being rated as a best company to work for is a recruiting edge as potential recruits want to work at companies that are progressive, have happy employees, opportunities and so on. I think it demonstrates that a company is progressive and cares about its people.I believe my employees find Sparling a great workplace for many reasons. We offer a great environment that supports collaboration, team work, progressive office space design, the firm’s graphic image and brand is all over the offices, we utilize technology a lot as a part of our culture. We offer very competitive benefits and compensation, based on performance based incentives and we are delivering. We aspire to be a fun place to work, a very strong culture of open communications, risk taking is celebrating when the focus is on innovation or client satisfaction.

As CEO I preach honest, open and transparent communications. We publish our KPI’s monthly in a dashboard environment so everyone can see firm performance, right down to each design studio and practice area of the firm, and we talk about it regularly. We do a lot of the same things other companies do, hold quarterly company update meetings and serve food and drinks, we engage in outside activities and encourage our staff to get involved. We have a very strong Corporate Social Responsibility program and actually pay every employee an extra day of leave when they go volunteer at a charity. We make our CSR program a big deal because I realize that people really desire to give back, not just monetarily but with their time. Our younger staff don’t always have the money but they have the desire to contribute and have the time to give, the young Gen Y’s want to change the world, money isn’t as important in many ways.

In the end, we do what we say. We are a business centered practice and we return firm profits to our staff in the form of performance bonuses, leadership bonuses for our shareholders (when we do really well) pay a dividend to our shareholders and fund our 401K, annually. We have done this for 25+ years and I am committed to this as part of our commitment to our staff. We watch our business very closely.

Sometimes I think it isn’t that difficult, but it is hard work. One of the very unique benefits of our culture and being a Best Company is that it attracts great talent, Sparling is considered one of the premier engineering and consulting firms to work for on the West Coast, and we attract talent from all across the US and even abroad. I guess it works.

Increased employee engagement a key to improved team performance

One of the keys to the improved performance of the Mariners that Jack shared is the focus on building a roster of engaged team members.  Engaged employees are those that exert discretionary effort, are enthusiastic about their jobs, and their intend to stay with the organization.   
An increasing number of business leaders that I work with are taking note of employee engagement because of the growing evidence that an engaged workforce shapes more traditional business outcomes like retention, client satisfaction, sales, costs, and profit. 
In a three year study involving the winners of Best Companies To Work For initiatives across the United States, we assessed the impact of high engagement on business success. Among winning companies:
• 87% reported increases in sales
• 86% reported an increased market share
• 57% reported improving employee turnover
• 90% reported higher stock prices (among publicly traded companies)
Leaders of some of the Best Companies to Work For in Washington shared ideas on how they improve their team’s performance at our recent CEOtoCEO Breakfast.  Best Workplace CEOs participating at the breakfast include Mike Mayes of Mayes Testing, Tim Gibbons of Pharmacy One Source,  Jeff Lyon of GVA Kidder Matthews, Eric Overton of Sparling, Brian Paulen of the Madrona Solutions Group and Richard Law of Allysis.
I welcome your thoughts and questions on employee engagement.