FRANKSVILLE, Wis.—For Engineered Products and Services Inc., creating a great place to work is simple: Follow the company's core values.
When the company established these seminal values five years ago, the very first one was all about its employees.
"What we explain to people is that we really believe our first customers are our team members—the people who work with us," said Armen Sarajian, president of EPSI, a Franksville-based firm that specializes in the design and manufacture of standard and custom masking solutions.
The theory is that if the company takes care of its team, they will take care of the customers, he added. Shifting this mindset was the biggest impetus to creating a better work culture.
"We like to think that we can demonstrate on an individual basis that this is a place that actually backs up what it says," Sarajian said.
One way EPSI follows through with its goals is regularly checking in with team members.
"We give an anonymous core value survey every month," Sarajian said. "We get, on average, a 91-percent participation rate.
"At the end of the day, no matter what position you are in, you want to believe you can effect change. You want to believe you can be part of a system of improvement and that you're not just a cog in the wheel."
Overcoming a global pandemic
Feeling like a valued part of a company is always important. This is especially true in 2020, as a global pandemic challenges every company in some way.
Sarajian said the second and third core values helped guide them through the year.
The second core value is: keep it simple. EPSI prepared early on for the pandemic.
"We have a lot of operations overseas and in the Asia region, so we had kind of a head's up that something was coming," Sarajian said. "So I think we took it a little more seriously earlier on than most people did."
His overall goal throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been for people to look back and feel like the company did a better job than ever before, Sarajian said. To do that, the company made safety the top priority and backed that goal with action, he said.
"We had already started a pretty aggressive work-from-home policy for anybody who could about two years prior (to this year)," Sarajian said.
While other companies may have worried about productivity, the EPSI management team did not. Sarajian said this is where the third core value comes in: "trust plus respect."
While hands-on training in the current environment can be challenging, Sarajian said that office training, such as product or leadership training, now runs virtually.
"You can get the instructor who you might want, that in other times you couldn't because they were on the other side of the country," Sarajian said. "But now you do it virtually, and as long as you have the tools, as long as people are paying attention, you're going to get some amount of success."
Training is not the only part of the business that shifts during a pandemic. In total, EPSI has 112 employees, and 25 of them are sales representatives spread across the country.
"We've had to consider things we never would have considered before," Sarajian said.
EPSI created its own system for the team to follow, he added, marking states as red, yellow and green to determine the amount of activity and engagement team members could have. For a red state, employees just hunker down, whereas for yellow they could meet with people in full PPE gear. A green state would be operating close to normal conditions.
Caring for others
It's not just the company that is affected by the pandemic, the employees are as well.
Sarajian recalled entrepreneur Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team, who said employees are going to remember how you treated them through the pandemic.
"That really was a constant message for the management team," he said.
The archaic idea of people being happy simply because they have a job is no longer relevant, Sarajian said. His team believes that every paid employee is volunteering their time. They are choosing to spend a big portion of their lives working at the company.
"Nowadays, you are competing with a whole litany of different things that people can do for gainful employment," Sarajian said.
Focusing on the employee means that the company is creating a good experience for them.
And when that happens, they create positive experiences for customers.