Are you looking to improve your company’s culture or employee wellbeing program? Our client Argus Consulting may provide some inspiration for you.
Argus Consulting is a growing, employee-owned 76-person firm that specializes in petroleum facilities and systems that receive, store, distribute, dispense and transport fuel. Their primary clients are airlines, airports, the military and rail systems. Argus is based in Kansas City and has offices in Phoenix, Atlanta, New York, Miami, Chicago, Houston and Jackson, Miss.
The new Vice President of Human Resources, Wendee Woodson, recently spoke with us about her plans for building on the firm’s already-strong employee-ownership culture and strengthening engagement in whole-person wellbeing initiatives.
“Argus leadership truly cares for the health and wellbeing of their employees and their families,” she said. “We’re all in this together to better each other’s lives on many levels. Argus is more than just a place to work.”
The culture is based on the company’s core values, which leaders demonstrate by example: Integrity, Competence, Teamwork and the Golden Rule.
Generous health and welfare benefits
Argus employees have the option of a zero-cost benefits package covering health, dental, vision, life and long-term care. All they have to do is get an annual physical with labs and attest to being tobacco-free or participating in a tobacco cessation program. Almost 80% of employees on the health plan participated last year, so just 20% are paying a very modest amount for their benefits.
Employees who don’t meet the targets on three or more of the five lab values receive six health coaching sessions. This program has been well received, too; about a quarter of employees participated in the health coaching.
Wendee’s plans for the future include growing the program with efforts to further educate and engage employees. The company is looking for programming and education options that take a more holistic approach, focusing on the four pillars of wellbeing:
- Diet and nutrition
- Health and exercise
- Emotional and mental wellbeing
With employees spread out over multiple locations and many working remotely, Wendee says it’s challenging to get everyone engaged. She’s looking at ways to reach them at multiple levels, from online cooking classes to apps and social-media-style wellness challenges. She wants to make it easy and inspiring to get involved. She also wants programs that meet employees where they are – with more advanced opportunities for those who are already fit and easier opportunities for those who are less active. Argus execs are leading by example, which is a great boost for their program.
Building an ownership mindset
While employee stock ownership programs (ESOP) are common in the architecture, engineering and construction industry, the Argus program is incredibly generous. The company contributes an amount equal to a percentage of each employee’s pay to the ESOP each year based on profitability. It also contributes 3% of pay to the 401(k), regardless of the employee’s contributions.
Wendee plans to draw more attention to the exceptional nature of these benefits and build an ownership mindset through greater transparency and education. She and the president work closely with their internal communications expert to ensure intentional, proactive communication. Today, they have well-attended regular all-hands meetings, and they plan to expand on those to allow for more two-way dialogue. They’re considering beefing up the annual ESOP valuation announcement, too, so it feels more celebratory.
Wellbeing efforts are tied into the ownership mindset, as well.
“As employee-owners see what the company is spending on benefits claims, they’re more likely to become smarter health care consumers and encourage their colleagues to do the same,” Wendee said.
Outcomes affect recruiting, retention and the bottom line
These strong wellbeing and ESOP programs can’t help but affect the company’s success in recruiting and retaining employees – more important now than ever. And they improve the bottom line:
“When people are knowledgeable and engaged, they will be more productive, make better decisions and expend more discretionary effort toward the company’s goals,” said Wendee. “They act differently when they have skin in the game. A successful ESOP is simply designed to improve the lives of its shareholders in retirement. And we all want to ensure that we are enjoying the journey to get there!”
By Erin Tucker, Director of Service, Benefits