At Hodges-Mace LLC in Atlanta, the daily mission is to provide employee benefits communication and custom enrollment services to large U.S. employers. So it’s somewhat heartening to co-CEOs Greg Hodges and Peter Mace that their firm recently landed on a best workplace list. EBA asked them about their business philosophy, benefits package, community-service commitments and egalitarian relationship with more than 250 employees.
EBA: How would you both generally describe the secret sauce that led your firm to be named one of the best places to work in Georgia in 2016?
Mace: We were always committed to hiring people with a great attitude and a great aptitude. It’s easy to hire quickly, but it takes a lot of discipline to make sure you’re hiring the right folks for the team. We think our teams like working together and they respect each other. It’s not terribly complicated, and we think the attributes of a good attitude and smarts is a good combination to start with – the rising-tide-lifts-all-boats approach.
Hodges: I would compare it to a professional sports clubhouse. You hear people who are the best athletes on the team and the superstars, but if they’re not clubhouse leaders and good teammates, the best organizations cull them out. And, on the flipside of that, I think the people who bring a lot of the intangibles and a great attitude to the clubhouse are the ones you want to build your organization around.
EBA: What is it about your high-energy culture that new hires find contagious and allow them to feel like they can make a difference at work?
Hodges: As a growing organization, I think we benefit from our existing team and how they understand the importance of investing in new team members. The better everyone is at their jobs, the easier it makes their own jobs. I think it has not been ultra-difficult to perpetuate our culture because everybody appreciates how important it is.
EBA: With employees viewing the two of you more as colleagues, how do you remain approachable and affable in a way that doesn’t undermine your authority or efforts to hold employees accountable for their decisions or actions?
Mace: I’d say everyone on the leadership team is hands-on and has a common passion about serving our clients. We are very much, for better or worse, a roll-up-your-sleeves type of organization. If we’re here late one night or on the weekend during the busy season helping a team member with a project, I think it also shows that we care and that we’re all in this together. And so I’d say the other part about this, from day one we put our names on the door because we wanted our customers and our employees to know that we’re accountable. When our team sees that work ethic and focus on creating that great experience for clients, we believe it serves as an example of what’s expected by everyone, leading by example.
EBA: To what extent does offering massages on paydays, cornhole tournaments, or popcorn and pot-luck meals help your employees feel pampered or appreciated and make it fun to come to work?
Hodges: I think each of these little perks, if you will, is a way of saying thank you and creating goodwill. We have a talented group of individuals, and we know they have choices in where they work and where they want to build their careers. We want them to know that they’re very appreciated. There are also great opportunities to bring people together from different departments who don’t see each other on a daily basis. So it helps us remove the silos, if you will, of particular departments and provide a healthy reminder that we’re all on one team.
EBA: How important is it to your workforce to allow everyone an opportunity for two days of community service and what sort of projects are your employees getting involved with?
Mace: I’d think it’s absolutely vital to our culture. We’re all lucky to be a part of what we consider to be a great team. But sometimes we’re also really busy in our daily lives, and we think it’s important for all of us to take a moment and help others. This year the company has given over 2,500 hours of community service, which obviously has a phenomenal impact on organizations like Meals on Wheels in Atlanta, Camp Twin Lakes, Georgia Special Olympics and Atlanta Youth Academy, to name just a few. We did a lot of that through a concerted effort in the month of June, which we call the Summer of Service, where we had over 70% of our employees donate their time. We’re all extremely proud to be part of a chain that we believe thinks beyond ourselves and believes in helping the community. We believe absolutely it’s vital for our culture.
EBA: What are the key takeaways from this honor for employee benefit brokers and advisers, not only in terms of the messaging or strategies they can help foster on behalf of their employer clients, but also within their own practices?
Hodges: We acquired two companies in the last 18 months, and we also grew our headcount by 60%, which is significant. When you think about the fact that the combined organization came together in a relatively short period of time and responded in such a way to earn this honor, it really is humbling for us. We’d like to believe that we do a lot of simple things well, and we keep our success in perspective. We continue to commit to hiring great people, and we make sure that we take the time to take care of each other and our community – basic things. At no point in time did we lose sight of what makes us different, and that’s our people. It’s putting your money where your mouth is and showing the actions that we all know are important relative to continuing that theme of we’re all in this together. We’re one team helping our customers, and that just pervades everything we do around here.
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