Listen to music, grab a drink and make a friend—that may not sound like a day at work, but for the folks working for Simplus, it totally qualifies.
Each time the tech firm acquires a new company, they fly in new employees to Utah for a “Welcome Week” and pay for their travel costs. The employees attend group dinners and unwind at happy hour events while getting to know coworkers. During the last event, everyone saw The Killers in concert.
Simplus hopes putting adults in one room with a variety of activities translates to engaged employees who know what Simplus is: a company that cares about them.
“How do we make sure they get familiar and comfy? One of the things we do is we fly them out—no matter where they are in the world—for a Welcome Week,” says Isaac Westwood, chief operating officer at Simplus.
Investing in culture
Making your employees feel part of a team’s culture isn’t a new concept in the business world. It’s a no-brainer. Among other benefits, it usually leads to higher retention among employees. Simplus consistently stands out amongst tech companies because the company begins so early in the process—and planners deliberately make sure the week isn’t about typical work stuff.
Westwood says the company added 80 people during the past 13 months, and that number reflects five recent acquisitions. Simplus isn’t shy about introducing themselves right after signing the paperwork. They challenge themselves to bring new people on board in the most effective and fun way possible.
You can see them jumping in from the start: Once Simplus announces an acquisition, Westwood’s team sets up a call during the first 24 hours to speak to the new employees.
“It’s down to a science at this point,” he says.
Westwood and his team use a video conference tool called Zoom so they can see and interact with people in a virtual face-to-face. That first meeting is crucial. Introductions take place to make sure the employees know they are “incredibly important.” Then Simplus passes out an FAQ document that address questions such as, “What’s my role going forward?” and “How does this acquisition change my work life right now?”
“We address that immediately,” says Westwood.
That document keeps growing in length based on feedback Simplus gets from people who’ve gone through the initial meeting.
Creating trust and engagement
About five days later, the employees fly to the Salt Lake City headquarters. While people often tell him it’s tough to fly so soon, they also say the trip’s value is high.
Westwood is careful not to call this work trip a “training” or an “onboarding,” because it’s isn’t.
“It’s a Welcome Week,” he says. “What we want to accomplish is get to know the people we’re going to work with face-to-face. It takes away the fear of the unknown. It’s usually fine when you can sit down face-to-face and show someone you have good intentions—and it’s important you do that quickly.”
During a recent Welcome Week, the Utah employees welcomed the new employees by making a line and cheering, hollering and hitting Simplus swag sticks together to make some noise.
“We welcome them to our team, to our family, right from the get-go,” he says.
Simplus even assigns new employees a mentor at a different office location. The mentor usually works a similar role and they can provide connection and help.
That all sounds great, you think. But what about the cost? After all, Simplus pays for everything. Westwood says he understands some businesses don’t have enough resources. The important thing is to do what you can.
“Cost is substantial because we’re taking a team of people whose responsibility is providing service to customers and billing hourly for it—we’re shutting that down for three to five days,” he says. “The investment is substantial but the feedback is incredible. They’ve said, ‘The most important thing you did was showed us you cared.'”
Trust, high retention and productivity. Those are the ultimate goals from Welcome Week. Building quick, authentic connection improves trust levels with coworkers. And when people like and trust who they work with, productivity increases.
Even the introverted workers tend to open up and find value, says Westwood. Out of the 40 employees Simplus just acquired, around 30 of them are developers, and Westwood says developers are traditionally more introverted.
“It goes down to individual conversations and interactions, and they can take it at the speed they want. We don’t force situations where they have to engage 15 people,” he says.
One specific employee was quiet and unengaged during the first Simplus phone call. Even when Westwood reached out in an email to ask how the employee was doing, Westwood received a somewhat passive response saying things were fine. When the employee came to Welcome Week, Westwood reached out again. They talked for a while and he found out the employee felt unengaged because they were going through a rough time. The employee was also exploring another job opportunity.
“They had all this weight on their shoulders,” Westwood says. “Trying to figure out a career path, what was the next move, who could they trust. That conversation translated into open discussion across all those things that could never be adequately managed over a phone or conference call.”
Today, that employee still works for Simplus. Westwood says not only are they more engaged, but they’ve been promoted.
“It’s a good example of someone we may have lost and never known why, and it would have been a huge, missed opportunity for Simplus and the team here,” he says.
That’s just another reason why in-person contact and relationship building matters, and just another reason why Simplus creates a week of work for their employees that doesn’t really feel like work. The value truly pays off.
“The return on investment on putting thought and care into it will give you exponential returns,” says Westwood. “There’s a high likelihood these people will be more productive happier, retained longer, and your company will benefit from it.”