Michelle Roccia is VP of Engagement at Winter Wyman, a leadign staffign and recruiting firm, and talks to us about how to create a good company culture. Winter Wyman has lots of great engagement initiatives, and helps companies hire top talent every day.
Jacob: Hello everyone, I’m Jacob Shriar, Growth Manager at Officevibe and today I’m joined by Michelle Roccia who is Executive VP of Employee Engagement at WinterWyman, a staffing agency. So, Michelle, thanks so much for taking some time to chat with me and welcome.
Michelle: Thank you, good to be here.
Jacob: Great, so first let’s just jump right into it. Tell us a little bit more about WinterWyman, what you guys do, maybe just a bit of background, if that’s okay.
Michelle: Sure, WinterWyman, we’re located right outside of Boston. We have have a Boston office and we’re located in Waltham is our headquarters, Massachusetts. We’ve been around for over 40 years in the staffing business, staffing industry. We place folks on both the permanent side or search side, direct hires, as well as on the contract side. The disciplines that we focus on are technology, accounting and finance, and human resources. So, on both sides. The search and the contract side.
Jacob: Great, thanks for that. So, obviously you deal with employment all day long so you probably get employee engagement and what both job seekers should be doing and looking for, what companies should potentially be looking for, so we’re going to go into detail about all that stuff but I guess before we start talking about what everyone else should be looking for, let’s talk a bit about the culture at WinterWyman itself. Tell me a bit more about what it’s like to work there, what the culture’s like there and go into as much detail as you’d like.
Michelle: Sure, I’d be happy to. I love to talk about WinterWyman. It’s a great culture here. Like I said, we’ve been around for 42 years which is unusual for a staffing firm and what I love about WinterWyman, and I was a client of WinterWyman’s for over 20 years before I joined them six and a half years ago.
One of the things that you’ll here our clients and candidates say about us is the consistency. We have employees that have been here, some of them, for 20 something, 30 years which is unusual that high retention rate in the staffing industry. We have a nice mixture now of what we call veterans, folks that have been here for a long time, as well as newer employees. Some new college grads, a couple of years out, you know, just out of school. So we have a nice range of employees. We are focused from the top down, up, down, sideways, on employee engagement.
That’s a relatively new term but it is something that we’ve been doing for, I would say, for the 40 years we’ve been in business. But really about that, employee engagement being the discretionary effort that employees give versus employees just being satisfied. We really do care about employees and employees get that when they interview with us and then when they become part of our family. It really is a WinterWyman family. We take care of each other. It’s great to work here. I mean, we’re really focused on not only employee engagement but also the developmental learning and development of our employees.
You don’t get a degree in staffing so a lot of college folks don’t necessarily know what staffing is but it’s a sales role. So whether it’s from the client’s side or the candidate’s side, it really is a sales role. So we have commission based sales people and it’s a tough business, too, because you are dealing with people and to some degree it’s a matchmaking business. You’re matching the clients and the candidate.
So, that’s what our business is primarily externally, but internally I’m a firm believer in you really have to have your house in order to be able, and that will show with both the candidates and the clients, and I always say, you know, especially being a client of WinterWyman’s for 20 years when I was on the other side, the corporate side, and then coming inside I wish I could turn WinterWyman inside out so people could see all of the wonderful things that we do in here. I mean, I’m in Heaven you know, to be an employee engagement professional and being able to implement some of the initiatives that we have here is really almost like a dream job. And again, that comes from Dave Melville, our founder, and Bob Boudreau, our CEO, throughout the executive team, management and throughout the organization.
Jacob: That’s great, thanks for sharing that and it’s such a pleasure, I guess, when you love your job. I recently was fortunate enough to find myself a job that I’m really, really loving so I totally get what you mean about loving where you work. Talk to us a little bit more about some of the initiatives that you have going on there in terms of employee engagement. We spoke a little bit offline but I really want to hear more about what you guys are doing, you guys are doing so really incredible stuff for your employees.
Michelle: Sure. We think employee engagement starts before you actually even get into WinterWyman, so it’s really about the experience that you have whether you’re a potential employee of WinterWyman, a candidate, or a client. But let’s focus on the WinterWyman employee, the internal employee. So going through a hiring process, it’s a very thorough hiring process and we say to candidates you are interviewing us as much as we are interviewing you.
This is a business that you may have not heard much about so we really want you to get a great idea of what the job is. So, the hiring process, the interview process, could be rather lengthy. You may spend a day here shadowing people. Talking to six, seven people, you know, in the course of a day or a couple of days. So then once we determine you’d be a good fit here, you think that this would be a great company for you, and you decide to join the company, that’s when your learning starts. I think I mentioned to you too, one of things that we do is for all employees that join us we send them cookies and it has their business card on it, the WinterWyman logo, it also has a cookie with our mission statement and values and it just welcomes employees to the company. That’s the first impression after they’ve signed their offer letter and said yes, I’m coming on board. That’s what we do, we send that out.
Then that doesn’t stop in terms of our attention. You’ll see in my office a bunch of things. I’m the inspiration office. I have these bubbles on my walls with different inspirational quotes and then I have another wall that says do what you love and love what you do. And then I have lots of toys that people can play with but you know, when an employee starts they have an onboarding program.
We’re ready for them when they start. They come on board, they have their computer, they have their two weeks, three weeks, our training never stops. Learning development never stops here but they know where they’re going to be, they feel like they’re taken care of, we’re ready for them and that is so important when somebody starts. Then, everybody meets with the CEO. The CEO actually does one on one meetings with everybody in the company and he has done that for years so it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been here, you’ll always sit down with Bob. You’ll have a one on one at some point during the year.
For new employees within the first couple of weeks Bob, and usually I join him, we’ll sit down and have a lunch with them and we’ll just talk about, we just get to know employees and it’s an open, interaction forum. Ask Bob anything, or myself, and so it’s a great get to know you opportunity. Then, again, you’re learning and development continues.
We have great recognition programs. Some of the things that I’m really proud of, we have a community development program, we really, really feel strongly about giving back to the community. Bob Boudreau and Ruthie Dufresne who works on my team, started the community development initiative about nine years ago. We have over 90 percent participation by employees. So that means at some point, you know, over 90 percent of the people are participating in any given community development event. So it might be doing birthday wishes for homeless kids where we go and throw birthday parties, we buy gifts for all of the kids, we do, serve dinner at the Hope Lodge for families and cancer patients downtown Boston. We work with junior achievement kids, we’re going to be doing this big initiative that’s coming up on helping them, preparing them for the working world. Franciscan Hospital’s another hospital we go to and we sit and play games with the kids. So, there’s many, many of those. Cradles to Crayons, etc. It could go on and on.
We also, about two or three years ago, started a wellness committee, a wellness initiative and we actually, I’m proud to say, were just nominated as one of Boston’s healthiest companies because of our wellness program. So, we work, for instance, we partner with a nutritionist who comes in and talks about nutrition, we send out healthy tips, we just did a purification program which all of us participated in it. We have biggest loser contests, we have book clubs, we have yoga, gosh, a whole bunch of initiatives through the wellness program. They meet, so new employees can join the committees, community development, wellness, and then we also have a fun committee where a group of folks get together and they plan some fun initiatives for us to socialize or maybe they partake in some fun skits during our quarterly meeting or they break up the week, or on Friday we’ll have Trivia Friday. A couple years ago we had the Summer Olympics, Office Olympics which were really fun. So it’s a way for people that may not, you know, different division that may not see each other, or communicate, or socialize, it’s an opportunity for them to do that on a regular basis and get to know each other. So, I think it’s things like that that really bring us together.
Sales is stressful so anything that we can do to bring the employees together, the staff together on a more regular basis, we like to do.
Jacob: That’s incredible. Sounds like you have so many amazing initiatives going on there. That is just beautiful. everything you just said is just amazing. I think another thing that really sets you apart, in my opinion, I don’t know too many staffing firms but what I think sets you apart from some of your competitors is the premium support that you offer job seekers. You mentioned to me offline that you really, you know, when you work with placing someone in a job, you do a lot of follow up with them, you really make sure that they’re happy, that they were given a good service. It’s not really just a hand off it really is just a gentle, you know, progression through. So, the first part of my question, I guess, is if you could talk a little more about that, that would be cool.
Jacob: Then the second thing I’d love to learn more about is, because you help job seekers, you know, all day everyday, what are some things that job seekers who might be watching this should be doing? Or tips, maybe some advice and tips that you might want to give them.
Michelle: Sure. So, I’ll start with the first part. So, we do have relationships with candidates that we’ve worked with for years and years. Those relationships are really important. It’s also important to note that we cannot help everybody and I know that’s difficult because, you know, maybe they’re not in the disciplines that we work with. So, what we’ve done is on our website we’ve created a whole section for job seekers to give them, and we’re actually refreshing that on a regular basis, where we give them tips for job interviewing, resume writing, different advice that we can give those folks. So, whether we can help you or not, we want to provide some sort of resource.
But the folks that we do place, we do prepare them, we do speak to them on a regular basis, obviously, as they are looking for a job whether it’s on a contract or on the search side, you know, about the company. We prepare them for the company, the information about the company, they have to do their own research as well but give them as much information as possible. We’re also honest with them. Sometimes it’s not the right company for them and we’ll talk to them about that. You know, we don’t think this is the right company for you and this is why. And we’ll say that to the clients as well, you know, where it may or may not be the right fit. So I think the important thing, the message here is that we have deep, good relationships with our candidates and our clients because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. We have to be a trusted adviser to both so that’s what our job is and we take a lot of pride in that.
Some of the tips that we may give job seekers is really, as I said, practice what you preach. You need to interview the company as much as they need to interview you. So, things to look for, you know, what type of environment are you looking for and don’t be afraid to ask those questions.
Talk about if you are looking for a culture that provides a flexible environment, you want to make sure that you’re asking that because if you go into an environment and you need flexibility, maybe you have young children at home or maybe you’re involved in some community service initiatives or whatever it might be, you do have a life outside of work so you want to make sure that the company is supportive of that. Ask those questions because if you get into an environment that doesn’t support that, you’re not going to be happy. So, you know, we’ll provide that career in terms of what’s the next step or, you know, does this job lead to what you ultimately want to do? Our consultants, staffing managers are really great at these relationships with job seekers with their candidates, and those candidates sometimes become our clients. So it’s important to have those strong relationships.
Jacob: Yeah, that’s great. It makes a lot of sense. My next question for you is again, we spoke off line and you talked to me a bit about how you’ve always had a good culture there at WinterWyman. Over the years, naturally, things have needed to evolve. Of course. And it’s not that you’ve gotten, well, I guess you’ve gotten better but it’s not like you had a bad culture and then you made it good, it’s more that you just evolved with the times, I guess. I’d love for you to go into more detail on that, into that evolution. What do you mean, exactly, by evolve.
Michelle: Sure. Well, the market changes, right? I mean, look at what has evolved. Years and years ago when I first got into human resources, or actually, way back then it was called personnel, but way back then when you were looking for employees you did that with an ad in the paper, right? Or you mailed a resume to a client. OK? So, now can you imagine that? You’re probably too young to imagine that. [laughs] There were fax machines back then, there wasn’t email like there is now so from a technology standpoint, things have changed. With Monster coming on board, when Monster came to the market it was thought that, you know, that’s how everybody was going to find their job and clients were going to find their candidates. But, in actuality, it was a huge tool for staffing firms. So technology has been a big change and a transition for us.
We have had to be agile enough to change with technology and what the demands are of both our clients and our candidates. We have to be able to adapt to that. So, from a technology standpoint and then also, we’re placing people with different skills, where are we going to find those folks, networking, you know, if you put your resume up on a job board you may be inundated with companies that call you so it’s important to have good relationships so that we’re finding the jobs that you may not have access to and finding the candidates for clients that they may not have access to. So I think that that’s important.
And then also, internally what we need to do is provide an environment where you understand the value of what we do. Staffing is really important. We put people to work. That’s what we do. So that’s a really important business to be in and sure, there’s fees attached to that but there’s fees attached to a lot of things. What we do and the value that we add is super important. So it’s important for our employees to understand that. That that’s what we do. So developing those relationships that we talked about a little while ago and the importance of that. Internally, we have to attract and retain top talent. This job is hard and how do we do that? Well, we have to provide a culture that people want to be here, want to be able to do. So, some of those programs that we have in place that makes you proud to work here, you know, to be part of WinterWyman.
Because you watch us day in and day out placing people, working with clients, but you’re also doing other things. You’re still working on your health, we have a family first policy here. It’s family first. If you need to do something, you need to go to a kid’s game or a kindergarten graduation, you know, family comes first. You need some flexibility, you got it because you do work hard here. So we had to be able to continue to evolve and adapt to what the market demands are but also to what the people demands are. Whether it’s, you know, we’ll probably get into the conversation of the multi-generational workforce which we have here too. What the expectations are for say, new grads versus folks that have been in the working world for 15, 20 years. You know, what’s the difference there? But we need to be able to accommodate all of those.
Jacob: Perfect, yeah that was actually going to be my next question so you segued beautifully into that. Just for everyone watching, we were speaking off line and WinterWyman has 170 employees and all the different age ranges from millennials all the way up. So, I’d love to learn more about how you make that work. I mean, just how you’re able to engage everyone.
Michelle: That’s been really fun. I did this initiative with some team leaders. It’s a group of newer managers that we provide training for and we did a session on multi-generational workforce. So, I put up the characteristics of what, you know, I kind of Googled millennials, Googled Baby Boomers and gen Xs and all that and I put up the characteristics and I said, okay, how many of you think that, I didn’t name them, I didn’t put the labels up, how many of you think you have these characteristics? And a lot of them raised their hands. A lot of them, you know, for each of the buckets, if you will. So, we had Gen Ys raising their hands that they had characteristics that you would see in a Baby Boomer and we had Baby Boomers raising their hands that they had characteristics of Gen Ys. Which was really fascinating to me, right?
Because I don’t want to, we hear all of this and there’s so much written about Gen Y, I don’t want to stereotype because when I was in my 20s and just starting out, I was ambitious, I was impatient to get ahead, I worked hard but I like to be out with my friends. There were so many of the characteristics that I had because I was in my 20s and just starting out, right? So, yes, we have technology that they say Gen Ys are more dependent on and whatnot but what we have found here at WinterWyman is the mesh well because we have our veterans, our Baby Boomers or Gen Xs teaching the Gen Ys the business and we have Gen Ys, maybe, teaching the other generations technology.
So, it’s really, you know, we want to make sure that we, and part of our onboarding program we have buddies so we partner somebody, you know, we give them a buddy of someone that’s been here for a while so that’s that person that they can go off and have lunch with once a month or go to at any time to say I should know this but I don’t. More of their confidant, more of their mentor, if you will, you know? So, we may buddy them up with somebody that has been here for a while and we have a beautiful story of somebody that, you know, is a Baby Boomer and wasn’t very technical and we saw a beautiful partnership with a Gen Y so they taught him how to develop, create his Facebook page and the Baby Boomer taught him how to do staffing, and they’re great friends.
So we have that all over the company. You know, the staffing business and our core values are super important to us. Those haven’t changed in 40 something years. So, the importance of that is where our, you know, the folks that have been in this business for a long time can teach the new people coming into it the importance of relationships and some things that you just don’t, that foundation piece that you just don’t move.
I always say attention is the best form of retention and I think that is across any topic. So when you’re dealing with the multi-generations, it’s about attention. You know, for example, the fun committee. It’s like, you know, with our Gen Xs and Baby Boomers, they were in a different part of their lives. Maybe had young children at home, or they weren’t going out on Friday night or a Thirsty Thursday night or whatever. But, how can we get the newer folks to socialize more? And also, these are, so I’m the mother of Gen Ys, we planned everything for our kids. There was nothing that they did on their own. I can speak personally about that. We planned play dates, we planned the parties, the birthday parties. Anything that we did we were right there. Call us snow plow moms or helicopter moms, whatever you want to call us but so the fun committee really came together to say okay, let’s get these people together and let’s socialize more and make sure that we’re grabbing the veterans to come out with us as well as the newer folks and really get that, you know, like I said before, folks that maybe normally wouldn’t socialize as much. It’s beautiful to see, we do quarterly meetings where so many people know each other. You know? So, you know, you look at it and the other thing is you ask the questions. What are you looking for in a company? You know, it’s interesting when we do our lunch meetings, Bob and I, with the new hires and I say what drew you to WinterWyman?
Most of the time, in fact, I can’t remember, you know, there’s many answers but one thing that’s consistent is the tenure of our staff. And I’ll say well, that’s really funny because you know, according to the news, Gen Ys aren’t going to stay with the company three to five years but yet that’s a really important thing for you to know that there’s stability in a company. That people have been here for a long time. So I find that really interesting. And we’re okay if they want to move on in three to five, we’re okay with that. Our job is to help you be successful whether it’s here or some place else. And we work really hard with our team here to say this may or may not be the job for you. If it is, that’s great. You’ll get all the tools that you need to be successful here but if it’s not, let’s help you with that. We have done that successfully whether it’s another role in the company, whether it’s a role with a client, or even some place else. So, long winded answer on multi-generational but it’s been fun.
Jacob: I appreciate you going into that much detail. That was amazing, honestly. WinterWyman sounds like an incredible company. I didn’t realize it was that amazing. You guys have some amazing initiatives going on, you guys really get, you definitely, really get it. Michelle, I guess we’ll just end it here but we want to thank you so much for taking some time to chat with me. It was a lot of fun, I mean, I think this was, you gave a lot of great content, really good advice. So, just again, want to thank you and hopefully we’ll see you again soon.
Michelle: Thank you, I enjoyed it. Thanks so much, Jacob.
Jacob: Take care.
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