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How Cobec Won SHRM’s ‘When Work Works’ Award for the 2nd Consecutive Year [Hint: It Starts With the People]

Thursday March 28, 2019

The quote in my high school yearbook was about my passion for human resources.  People are the most important asset of a company and I wanted to work in a company that truly believed in the same philosophy that people come first.

So imagine my huge smile when as Director of Human Resources of Cobec Consulting, I have the privilege to announce we’ve been selected as a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Award winner for the second year in a row!

Winning this award shows the world why I love working at Cobec.  And because two-thirds of the scoring comes from an employee survey, it means the people working here agree too.

The award takes flexibility, healthcare, work-life balance, educational programs, and most importantly, employees real-life experiences into consideration.  Makes you want to work for us, doesn’t it?

I wanted to work at Cobec even before we won this award because the foundation was always there. Also, because it was the coolest internship ever. I mean, how many places in this country offer their interns SEP IRA matching?!?! 

In the summer of 2010, I joined Cobec as a college intern focusing on Human Resources. Coming from a small town in Pennsylvania, I was a little bit like a fish out of water in the corporate DC setting.  There were only 10 employees at the time, and when I left at the end of the summer, I left with 10 new family members. I remember thinking, “Wow, this is a place I would love to work for after I graduate!”  The loyalty, passion, and camaraderie that Cobec provides should be a part of every workplace.  

At the end of my internship, I told leadership I would be back as their Director of HR after I graduated and they politely laughed it off. “Maybe in 10-12 years after you get some more experience,” they said. 

In January 2016, after 5+ years of acquiring much needed HR experience and working with some great leaders from previous organizations, I came back and joined the 41-person company as their HR Manager.  And today, I am the proud Director of Human Resources of a continually growing company. Cobec is starting 2019 with 78 great people!

“I wanted to work at Cobec even before we won this award because the foundation was always there.”

So, what does it take to be a two-time SHRM When Work Works award-winning company?

You might not have an HR department in place, or an HR Director who has been living and breathing human resources since they were a teen.  That’s okay.  It helps, but it isn’t what you need. 

Cobec already has a family-focused environment based on the needs and growth of the employees, so building upon that and taking Cobec to the next level was something I couldn’t wait to tackle when I joined the company.  

And it starts with the leadership.

“Cobec leadership looked at every single facet of a corporation from the employee perspective.”

Leadership must be transparent, communicative, understanding, approachable, and most important—put themselves in the shoes of employees.  That is exactly what Cobec leadership has done because they have been in their shoes once before.

Cobec leadership looked at every single facet of a corporation from an employee perspective (from benefits, to culture, to growth, right down to dress code) and then looked at how they can make that better.

What kind of company would they want to work at? What would make them feel valued?  What are some innovative concepts that typical DC companies refuse to implement and why?  What would make them want to come to work every day?

Let’s dive into the specific features & benefits that have been built into Cobec.

  • Flexibility is our middle name, work-life balance is the game! If you need to rearrange your schedule for a doctor’s appointment and work later, no problem.  We want our employees to use their vacation days for actual vacation, so they come to work refreshed and ready to tackle anything. Need to take care of a sick child or elderly parent or relative? No problem, you can work from home! In fact, if your client allows, you can work remotely from whatever state you need to.  Currently, Cobec has employees in over 10 states.  We believe that if we place enough trust in an employee to hire them, we can trust them to accomplish work from wherever they choose.
  • Employee Retention continues to be 95+%.  We’ve had four employees return to Cobec after leaving.
  • PTO and Vacation Days rank pretty high for benefits that employees value.  That’s why we give our employees four weeks to start, and five weeks of PTO after they’ve been with us for five years.  Oh, and did we mention you can flex your schedule, so these are pure vacation days?  Pretty sweet. You can also donate PTO to another employee if you wanted to.  Spread the love!
  • Communication rules. Even if an employee works in another state or from home mostly, Zoom video teleconferencing is implemented so there is face-to-face interaction. Microsoft Teams is used as an office-wide chat, so even if you’re in Texas, you will know there are donuts in the kitchen and who won trivia night. And don’t feel left out, there are several events per year that include the whole company for those that don’t live nearby. Aside from water cooler verbiage, Teams is a great tool for each department to communicate and share files. It almost eliminates the need for email. Almost.
  • Culture is everything.   Cobec takes pride in the family environment that surrounds the office.  Whether it’s a group gathering for lunch in the communal café, or a trip down the Shenandoah River, the Cobec family genuinely enjoys hanging out together and you can tell just by visiting the office for an afternoon.
  • Healthcare is good.   A large portion of employees’ plans is paid for by Cobec. Medical, dental, and vision are all made available to each employee.  PS. We even have pet insurance!
  • Transition to Parenthood is made easy.  If you’re a new Mom at Cobec, consider yourself lucky.  With the work from home policy in effect, it is easier for new Mom’s to transition into motherhood by controlling their own schedule.  There is also a private nursing room in the office. Bonus: New Dad’s also benefited too!
  • Snacks on Snacks.  Cobec believes that healthy (and sometimes not so healthy) snacks are a must.  You don’t always have time to run out and grab lunch between meetings, so there is always a pantry stocked with goodies, a fresh popcorn machine, and an in-office café complete with unlimited espresso, coffee, soda, and water.
  • Constant Performance Feedback. Most companies wait until the end of the year to complete annual performance assessments and discuss goals, but why wait until the end of the year to hear how things are going or what you can be doing professionally to grow within your organization? Cobec provides real 1-on-1 feedback to employees every other month to nurture/build interpersonal relationships, discuss current performance, discuss how you can develop and move up in the company, as well as have the opportunity to give your manager some real feedback on things they can do better!
  • Outings and Events. From the Nationals baseball game, to a family and teambuilding weekend at Wintergreen Resort, to trivia night, to themed happy hour, to scavenger hunts around DC, Cobec does not skimp on events that bring Cobec employees and families together.
  • Employee Growth & Recognition is key. Cobec wants to make sure employees feel valued and are recognized for their work.  Every other month there is a staff-wide meeting where Spot Awards are issued to Cobec employees for their accomplishments.  Not to mention, Cobec will assist in continuing education, supporting professional development through conferences & training, and helping elevate each employee to get them to the next step in their career.
Cobec gathered to wrap gifts this season for families at Horton's Kids
  • Cobec cares about the Community.  Almost exactly one year ago, Cobec leadership established a goal to dedicate a formal team that would coordinate, participate and lead Cobec’s volunteer and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts. Not only that, they challenged the team to get directly involved with the local community and partner up with a local charity. Using collaboration and teamwork, Cobec decided that the newly created CSR team would focus on partnering with an organization that supported disadvantaged/at-risk youth – Horton’s Kids. This past year we’ve had successful monetary-giving campaigns, built community relationships, and had our best perishable food, toiletries and baby needs drive ever.
  • Awesomeness.  To celebrate Cobec’s 10 Year Anniversary two years ago, leadership decided to do something awesome every month, for 10 months straight. Some examples of awesomeness included: catered lunches once a week, two free in-office massages from Cobec’s wellness masseuse, work from home Monday’s, and an office cafe unveiling , just to name a few. Awesomeness has now been pegged a Cobec term for all of the amazing things this company does and continues to do. 

“I can’t wait to continue to make each year even better for my Cobec Family.” Kevin Orlandi, Director, Human Resources