In February 2016, Virginia Business Magazine recognized Ingenicomm as one of Virginia’s best places to work in 2016. The recognition came as a result of a lengthy evaluation process, in which an independent research firm surveyed individual employees to measure employee engagement and satisfaction with employer benefits and workplace policies. Recently, WashingtonExec sat down with Amit Puri, President and CEO of Ingenicomm, to discuss the factors that make a company a great workplace.
WashingtonExec: What makes a company a great place to work?
Amit Puri: I usually frame being a great workplace in the form of three key elements.
First, a company needs a robust benefits architecture that is an amalgamation of direct compensation, fringe benefits, and unique perks. This might seem obvious, but some companies focus so much on intangibles like culture that they neglect the very basic things that employees look for in a workplace.
Second, a company needs a corporate structure that empowers individual employees and rewards drive, creativity, and innovation. Employees perform at their best when they feel that they’re valued and given opportunities to grow.
Third, a company needs a culture that transforms employees’ intrinsic motivations into a singular purpose – the set vision for the company. Being able to align employee’s individual motivations and ambitions with the shared purpose of the company is critical to keeping them happy and enabling the company to be successful.
At Ingenicomm, we do our best to marry benefits, organizational structure, and culture to create a successful environment in which employees can thrive.
WashingtonExec: How can a corporate structure empower employees?
Amit Puri: Ingenicomm is built around the concepts of participatory decision-making and shared responsibility. The organizational structure, corporate processes and procedures, and planning philosophy are designed to allow all members of the Ingenicomm team to play a valuable role in improving day-to-day operations and determining the future path of the company.
Ingenicomm utilizes a flat corporate structure where different employees act as leaders on individual projects, so that every employee has the opportunity to lead some projects while being a supporting part of a team on others. This gives employees the opportunity to grow their own careers, builds camaraderie among teammates, and gives each employee an appreciation for the work involved in leading a team. Our unique structure has given us an unparalleled flexibility in selecting the most effective team for each project, which contributes to consistently high morale among staff in all departments.
In addition, our strategic planning processes are designed to involve a majority of the company rather than only management personnel, with most personnel permitted and expected to take part in planning efforts. Each year, a majority of our employees gather for several days to review company performance and collaboratively develop the company’s plans for the following year. Most employees express great excitement about the opportunity to participate in high-level planning, since it gives them a chance to feel that they’re truly part of the company’s leadership and can help determine Ingenicomm’s course. Our inclusive planning process has generated numerous ideas for new market segments, products, and operational improvements throughout Ingenicomm’s history.
WashingtonExec: What about employee development?
Amit Puri: I believe in empowering employees through a variety of internal and external programs. Ingenicomm’s senior management is directly responsible for identifying high-potential individuals and guiding them towards suitable growth opportunities, which are recommended based on observations of an employee’s interests, strengths and weaknesses, and potential career aspirations. This targeted approach has led to a strong level of participation in employee growth and development activities across the company.
One of the key tools we use to enhance employee development and growth is targeted mentorship. High-potential employees are connected with one or more mentors selected from the company’s senior management team and pool of subject-matter experts. The specific choice of mentors depends on the employee’s areas of technical or functional interest and level of experience. The mentors are responsible for providing both technical and cultural guidance to the employee, helping them as their responsibilities grow and they take leadership roles on particular projects or corporate initiatives.
High-potential employees also receive more formal instruction through enrollment at executive training programs at some of the top business schools in the country. The ideas and insights these employees obtain through this training are brought back to the company, allowing the employees to take leading roles in Ingenicomm’s process of strategic planning and execution. Indeed, much of Ingenicomm’s success has been owed to employees’ ability to successfully adopt of such insights and apply them to our particular industry and environment.
WashingtonExec: So what makes Ingenicomm’s culture unique?
Amit Puri: The founders of Ingenicomm came from a shared background of supporting NASA and NOAA scientific and exploratory space missions, and our culture reflects that. Our company is deeply driven by a shared vision: to leverage advanced technologies to unleash innovation for the benefit of mankind. This was our common sense of purpose when we started the company, and has been embraced by every subsequent employee. The shared passion we all feel for this vision is one of the key reasons for our success, and a critical element in our collective strategic mindset.
Communicating our shared vision to the company’s various stakeholders is an ongoing process that we carry out through a number of different mechanisms. At the highest level, we capture the vision in our corporate vision and mission statements, which form the cornerstone of the corporate marketing materials that we provide to our customers and our employees. The vision and mission statements are a regular topic of discussion in corporate meetings at every level, and form the basis for our annual strategic discussions.
Everyone at Ingenicomm is ultimately there because of a shared passion for space exploration, which is often something they’ve embraced since childhood. The idea of Ingenicomm as a company which makes that exploration possible is a natural fit, and employees at every level in the company regularly demonstrate their own passion about what we’re doing and communicate that passion to each other and to the customers with whom they interact. The result is a virtuous cycle – a self-reinforcing cultural phenomenon that motivates employees and drives us as a company.
WashingtonExec: How do you keep that sense of camaraderie going as new people join the company?
Amit Puri: One key way to maintain company culture is periodic team and company events outside the workplace, which serve as a mechanism for ingraining shared cultural values among new employees and building camaraderie among members of various teams as well as geographically distributed company divisions and remote employees. In our case, these events have ranged from small social events at venues near Ingenicomm facilities to the celebration of Ingenicomm’s fifth anniversary, in which the entire company traveled to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands for a weekend of activities.
Our corporate culture is also reinforced through ubiquitous communication of cultural values, which occurs both via shared broadcast mechanisms, such as Ingenicomm’s monthly newsletter, as well as more personal communication between senior management and staff, between team leads or project managers and personnel working on a project, and between coworkers or team members working together. The pervasiveness of this reinforcement ensures that our cultural values are deeply ingrained in the entire workforce.
WashingtonExec: Any fun stories to share?
Amit Puri: We give our employees free rein to express their passion for our vision and culture, and the results can sometimes be quite surprising. For example, an off-the-cuff remark by a customer, who told one of our teams that they were “superheroes” for brilliantly supporting a critical mission operation, led to a group of employees coming together to design an actual superhero mascot for Ingenicomm and putting up posters of it around the office.
In a similar case, a group of Ingenicomm employees came together to design a corporate crest that represents our collective vision of Ingenicomm’s role in the industry and the world as a whole, and symbolizes the employees’ shared passion for Ingenicomm’s mission. There’s a trio of figures around the crest to represent both the triad of key markets that Ingenicomm supports – defense, civil space, and intelligence – and the shared values embraced by Ingenicomm employees; the resolve and discipline of the soldier, the passion for exploration and innovation of the astronaut, and the boldness of the soaring eagle represent key aspects of Ingenicomm’s unique posture as a company.